How To Use Color: The Basics

What is color theory? Why do your colors look awful? How do you use color? And why is it so difficult?

Color. Approaching it in your design work can either be intimidating or really, really fun, depending on how you look at it. If you do it right, you can create something really beautiful. Do it wrong, though, well, let’s just put it this way: it won’t be beautiful. Lucky for you, Greg Gunn, the guy who’s going to teach you all about color, loves it.

In this video, Greg will teach you the basics of how color works and provide some easy tips and tricks for using it. Once you understand how to use them your graphic design, your digital art and illustration work will take on a whole new life. Literally.

Let’s start with the basics. Every color breaks down into three main ingredients: hue, saturation, and value. These are the building blocks of color.

First off, hue is the color that you see and can recognize right off the bat. Red, green, violet; these are all hues. The second attribute of a color is saturation, AKA the intensity of a hue. Finally, value is basically the brightness of a color. You might hear the words “tint” and “shade” associated with value.

So how do colors and all of their attributes work together? Well, let’s find out why you might run into trouble with color in the first place.

Yes, colorful expression is wonderful, but use too many colors, and your design becomes hard to look at. A little goes a long way, and the same case applies to saturation. If you’re saturating colors too much, chances are you won’t be able to look at your work without uncomfortably squinting. Ouch.

When you’re pairing colors together, make sure there’s enough contrast between them. A quick and easy trick to determine how much contrast you have between colors is to turn your image black and white. When you take the hue out of the equation, you can see the value of the color, and make adjustments to hit that contrast sweet-spot.

Want to see Greg put this trick to the test? Check out the video above, then put your newly-acquired color skills to work.