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We have an exercise for you: think about the colour red. What comes to mind? Perhaps feelings like anger, passion, energy simmer to the surface. Or maybe visions of flushed cheeks, a cherry lipstick shade, a stop sign, blood, or a heart float through your head.



Colour Theory may turn usueful in any circustances, especially if you need to design your invention and submit the Call for Maker Faire Rome!

While those might not have been the exact thoughts and feelings red evoked in you, it’s likely you associated the colour with certain emotions, ideas, and objects. You’re not alone: This is a universal human experience—and it’s a powerful tool you can use as a designer. Understanding that choice goes beyond personal preferences can help you not only improve a product’s usability—but even psychologically impact your users.

Unleash their power

Firstly, you have to start by understanding colour theory, thewheel, how to use complementary colours to create an impactful colour scheme, and the psychological effects  Whether you’re first diving into the topic (or are just looking for a refresher), here’s how to begin:

Understanding colour theory

It  can help designers determine which look good together. The theory goes beyond just “eyeing” combinations, though, which is where the science part comes in.

At its heart  there is the wheel, which was created in the late 17th century by Sir Isaac Newton. Best known for his physics breakthroughs, Newton mapped the spectrum into a circle.

Find harmonious  combinations

Today, the wheel can help artists, makers and designers find harmonious  combinations based on the geometric relationships represented on the wheel. As an example, a triadic scheme involves three evenly-spaced colours on the wheel and that will yield a bold combination. Meanwhile, a tetradic scheme involves four colours evenly spaced out on thewheel, and can work if you want to use a dominant  with supporting accent colours.


If you are looking to experiment with colours use  palette generators like Muzli’s, or even consult Pinterest boards.Our biggest recommendation would be go back to the basics and look at a colour wheel.Our recommended reading? Josef Albers’ Interaction of Colour, an art education book breaking down complex colour theory principles.

Colour wheel

It is a visual representation of colours, with hues arranged according to wavelength. These  wheels allow colour relationships to be represented geometrically, and show the relationship between primary , secondar and tertiary colours.

In the traditional RYB wheel, the primary colours are red, yellow and blue. You can create secondary—orange, green, and purple—by mixing primary . Red and yellow create orange. Yellow and blue creates green. Red and blue creates purple. You remember this from elementary school, right?

Then, mixing secondary colours and primary colours creates tertiary colours.

Many different iterations of the colour wheel exist, but many involving these three relationship types show a dozen colours.



Modern colour theory

Digital designers may be more familiar with an RGB  model with red, green and blue to mix light. Cyan Magenta Yellow Black, or CMYK, are the four basic  for print images, and, as subtractive them, get darker when blended.

Principles of colour theory

You were probably first introduced to the most basic theory concept back in elementary school when you were given a palette of primary  to paint with. Red, blue, and yellow are primary colours— and they can’t be created through mixing colours. Mix them all together and you get brown. But mix them and you can create all other colours.

The theory also involves a colour’s darkness or lightness, or colour values. You can change a hue by adding white for tint, which will give you lighter pastel colours, and black for shade to darken and dull colour. When grey is added to a primary, secondary or tertiary colour, it creates a tone. If a colour is toned down, its brightness and intensity is lessened.

Once you add tints, shades, and tones, you get an expanded colour wheel.

Also, this theory involves how you arrange them  together to create schemes. For example, a monochromatic  scheme is one with one of them in various tints and shades. Or, an analogous  scheme involves neighbouring them on the wheel, like red, orange and yellow.

Complementary colours

When you’re pairing them, you can find harmony through choosing complementary colours. In this case, opposites attract. This particular colour scheme draws from two colours on the opposite side of the colour wheel. When you do this, the result is a high-contrast colour combo that’s bright and that pops.

Examples of complementary combinations are: Red and green; yellow and purple; orange and blue; green and magenta. Complementary colour combos tend to be bold, which is why sports teams often use this formula for their colours.

To throw in a third on, and make thescheme less intense, you can use a split complementary scheme. It uses one colour as a base and two colours adjacent to its complement.

Additional considerations for the theory

Now let’s dive into how you can use the theory to enhance your projects. Think about the last time you filled out a contact form on a website. Miss a field, and a red error message likely pops up. On the contrary, if you need to re-enter a password for verification, and you enter everything correctly, a green message signals you to proceed. In this case, not only does green communicate how to use your product, but also draws on psychology to evoke emotional responses (green = good, red = bad).


  • Red and green aren’t the only colours with psychological power: The wheel can also be sliced into warm and cool colours. People associate cooler colours like blue with peace and calm. Warm colours like red are more energetic and associated with passion.
  • And they  have an effect on products themselves. Research suggests people make a subconscious judgment about a product within 90 seconds, and 62% to 90% of that assessment is based on colour alone, according to CCICOLOR – Institute for Colour Research. Another  study published in the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science found colour was an important factor in how consumers perceive brands.

According to a 2003 study by Joe Hallock for a thesis at the University of Washington, 34% of study participants associated the colour blue with trust; 28% associated blue with security; 75% associated red with speed; 42% associated black with high-quality; and 26% associated orange with being cheap or inexpensive.

When it comes to favourite colours, a research says males prefer bolder colours while females like softer colours.



Designers’ colour theory challenges

But designers can face challenges when landing on a consistent colour scheme.

Everyone has their preferences in colours, whether it’s a specific colour or a grouping of colours, like warmer or cooler colours. Looping in branding experts will help remove preferences from the equation and help meet brand specifications. There’s also a chance that your colour palette will be included in your team’s design system.


Readability is also important  and needs to be a first consideration. In facts, A color scheme can be beautiful and innovative, but if it causes users to strain their eyes while deciphering text, then head back to the drawing board. Also consider that 4 to 5 percent of the population is colour-blind. With this in mind, you can use alternatives to colour to help guide your user. For example, you can rely on an asterisk, not colour, to signal required fields.

How to choose

Just like fashion, colour schemes can be trendy, with “it” colours popping up every season. Designers should consider trendier colour’s staying power. Ask yourself: Will it date the brand in a year? Also, know that colour can be interpreted differently across cultures. Depending where your clients are located, red could symbolize passion, love, luck, prosperity, aggression, or death.


In the end, though, if you aim to please everyone, you ultimately please no one. We suggest finding your target audience and testing your colour schemes with your audience.

Maker Faire Rome – The European Edition has been committed since eight editions to make innovation accessible and usable to all, with the aim of not leaving anyone behind. Its blog is always updated and full of opportunities and inspiration for makers, makers, startups, SMEs and all the curious ones who wish to enrich their knowledge and expand their business, in Italy and abroad.

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