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Webucator's Free Color Theory Tutorial

Lesson: Building an Efficient Color Theme

Welcome to our free Color Theory tutorial. This tutorial is based on Webucator's Color Theory course.

A color scheme is a set of colors, properly labeled and made available to all designers in order to ensure a cohesive look and feel for all aspects of the project. Knowing the scope, purpose, and target audience of your project will make it easier to build a color scheme. The medium is also useful to know as each medium has certain color requirements.

Lesson Goals

  • Work with triadic colors.
  • Work with split colors.
  • Work with analogous colors.
  • Learn how color can change the "mood" of a project.

Medium Types

Examples of the medium types are as follows:

  • Graphic Design
    • Print
      • Publishing (CMYK color mode)
    • Web
      • CSS (RGB color mode)
  • Marketing
    • Logo Design
    • Interior Design
    • Graphical user interface (Software)
  • Art Projects
    • Paint/Physical
    • Digital

One set of color direction would help any project that is undertaking more than one medium as each one has strict rules and choices.

Triadic Colors

Triadic colors are defined as colors that are spaced out in even increments on the color wheel.

Examples include: Blue, Yellow, and Red... Blue-Green, Yellow- Orange, and Red-Violet.

Triadic Color Wheel

These type of color schemes tend to choose one prominent color and then the other two are carefully balanced and used as accents.

Complementary Colors

Complementary colors are defined as are opposite increments on the color wheel. Example: Blue-Green and Red-Orange.Complementary Color Wheel

These type of color schemes tend to choose either a predominant/accent, or can be nicely balanced as equals. Mixing in neutrals can extend the variety in a very pleasing way.

Split Colors

Split colors are defined as a base color and two colors that would be balanced on the opposite side of the color wheel. Example: Blue, Yellow-Orange, and Red-Orange.Split Color Wheel

These type of color schemes tend to choose the base color and then the other two opposite are carefully balanced and used as accents.

Analogous Colors

Analogous colors are defined as colors that share space on the color wheel. Example: Blue, Blue-Green, Green.Analogous Color Wheel

These type of color schemes tend to be easy to apply as everything is easy to match. The lack of contrast can be an asset here creating a monotone feeling. Mixing in neutrals can extend the variety in a very pleasing way.

Here are a few online options to work with these types of color schemes.

Color "Feeling" Mood

Color choice has a dramatic effect on the "mood" of a project as each culture attaches a feeling or mood with various colors. Depending on where you were raised, the color Red for example may have happy references such as people from China who feel red is lucky. If you were of a Celtic background, you may associate the color red with death.

Notice how the pig, which is pink looks familiar.Pink Pig2013 Tracy Berry

Now notice how the pig in neon green looks very unnatural as pigs are not green.Neon Green Pig2013 Tracy Berry

Cultural Reference

As every color has a different meaning to many cultures, it is always a good ideas to analyze the target audience of the project and if you are not familiar with the culture, do some research and find out all you can about use of color in their culture.

The following derived from the following site: http://webdesign.about.com/od/colorcharts/l/bl_colorculture.htm. This a great resource and there are many other like it as well.


  • Eastern: Worn by brides, happiness and prosperity
  • Western: Excitement, danger, love, passion, stop, Christmas (with green), Valentines Day


  • Eastern: Marriage
  • Western: Love, babies, especially female babies, Valentines Day


  • Western: Halloween (with black), creativity, autumn


  • Eastern: Wealth, strength
  • Western: Wealth


  • Eastern: Proof against evil, for the dead, sacred, imperial
  • Western: Hope, hazards, coward, weakness, taxis


  • Eastern: Eternity, family, health, prosperity, peace
  • Western: Spring, new birth, go, money, Saint Patricks Day, Christmas (with red)


  • Eastern: Wealth, self-cultivation
  • Western: Depression, sadness, conservative, corporate, "something blue" bridal tradition

Powder Blue or Baby Blue

  • Western: babies, especially male babies


  • Eastern: Wealth
  • Western: Royalty


  • Eastern: Funerals, helpful people, children, marriage, mourning, peace, travel
  • Western: Brides, angels, good guys, hospitals, doctors, peace (white dove)


  • Eastern: Career, evil, knowledge, mourning, penance
  • Western: Funerals, death, Halloween (with orange), bad guys, rebellion


  • Eastern: Helpers, travel
  • Western: Boring, dull, plain, sad


  • Western: Stylish, money


  • Western: Wholesome, earthy, dependable, steadfast, health

Work with Client Color Plans

Duration: 15 to 25 minutes.

In this exercise, you will create a color plan for two different client projects. Each one will have different needs. Read the summaries below and build a color plan for each. Use the forms provided to build your color plan. Later in the course you will use software, such as Photoshop, to build the interactive color palettes. The forms are located in the class files as a word file, you also have a PDF print and E-Form version to work with.




For each of the case studies, create color options and prepare them in a manner in which they may be shared and approved by the client.

Case Study 1: You have received a request from an existing daycare facility named ABC Childcare. They are interested in promoting to gain new clients and keep existing clients as well. They have mini trips throughout the year that encourage education. Their needs are Public facing website and a set of marketing materials (brochure, business cards, billing forms). they already have a logo to work with and have sent you a copy (located below). ABC Childcare Logo

Case Study 2: You have received a request from a new high end ladies clothing store that specializes in vintage clothing. They will have a store front that will also need a look and feel. They have requested store front decor, public website and business cards. They have provided their logo.Lovely Lace Logo


Case Study 1: See the form below to see one possible solution.ABC Childcare Project Form Case Study 2: See the form below to see one possible solution.Lovely Lace Project Form