O'Reilly logo

Best Practices for Graphic Designers, Color Works by John Cantwell, Eddie Opara

Stay ahead with the world's most comprehensive technology and business learning platform.

With Safari, you learn the way you learn best. Get unlimited access to videos, live online training, learning paths, books, tutorials, and more.

Start Free Trial

No credit card required

To clearly understand how color combinations work,
designers must use a color wheel that has primary,
secondary, and tertiary (or more) colors. Looking at
the wheel illustrates that these relationships are often
not linear, but annular.
Relativity &
Reactivity of
Color
182 Color Works The Foundation
6.5
Relaltivity & Reactivity of Color
Analogous combinations are adjacent colors on the color spectrum or
wheel. Visually, they emit a sense of balance and brilliance of color to
the eye. This combination can also exist as a split analogous combina-
tion, in which three hues are positioned one step away from one another
on the color wheel. Triadic or triad combinations are terms that speak
for themselves. These allow a designer to select a combination of three
hues that are in equidistant positions from one another on the color
wheel. Primary color combinations are incredibly harsh in tone. If a
triadic combination consists of two related primary hues, the results
are less harsh. But as secondary and tertiary hues, and those beyond,
are combined, the results are much less assertive.
Complementary combinations can be defined in three distinct levels:
the basic complementary combination, double complementary, and
split complementary. Complementary combinations include two con-
trasting, polar hues in opposing positions on the color wheel; for example,
red and green or orange and blue. This type of combination, through
contrasting attributes, creates a reactivity rather than a relativity of
color. The resultant combinations give the perception that the colors
are in movement. Double complementary combinations are a simple
concept in which creating a pair of combinations increases a comple-
mentary combination’s intensity; this is often known as a tetradic
combination. Split complementary combinations consist of three hues,
with two of the hues selected from adjacent sides of the complementary
color of the third hue.
The State of Contrast
The power of relativity and reactivity is shown at its strongest with the
idea of contrasting, where contrast is the juxtaposition of different hues.
Contrast is commonly used within graphic design to provide more
dominance, suspense, and clarity over form, image, and typography.
Johannes Itten experimented extensively with contrast. He observed
differing levels of contrast, from light to dark, with achromatic and
complementary hues that contrast with analogous, warm or cool hues.
He devised seven clear methods of how to juxtapose hues:
1
Contrast of
hues;
2
Contrast complements;
3
Contrast of proportions;
4
Contrast
of light and dark;
5
Contrast of saturation;
6
Simultaneous contrast;
and
7
Contrast of warm and cool.
The greater the distance between hues on the color wheel, the greater
the difference in intensity. Juxtaposing hues from opposing sides of the
color wheel creates complementary color contrasts. Proportional con-
trasts are made up of different opposing proportional regions. Itten
states that the relationships between “large–small, long–short, wide–
narrow, thick–thin” in turn create relationships to the perceptive weight
of each hue, allowing the contrast to be observed. Juxtaposing mono-
chromatic and achromatic hues produces the contrast of light–dark.
Saturation contrast is between saturated and desaturated juxtaposed
hues.Simultaneous contrast occurs when the borderline between jux-
taposed hues begins to oscillate, creating an optical illusion.
Diagram showing selection of
Analogous, Triadic, Complementary,
and Split-Complementary colors.
Analogous Selection
Complementary Selection
Triadic Selection
Split-Complementary Selection
fig. 001

With Safari, you learn the way you learn best. Get unlimited access to videos, live online training, learning paths, books, interactive tutorials, and more.

Start Free Trial

No credit card required