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Webucator's Free Color Theory Tutorial

Lesson: Color Context

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

Context is almost as important to color use as culture is. If we choose the wrong context to use a color, it could render it inappropriate. Context is key. Do your research and make sure you are aware of all context rules that may be appropriate.

Lesson Goals

  • Switch and use various color modes.
  • Alter setting based on print or screen.
  • Define audience types.
  • Define the scope of a project.


Color modes differ for print and on-screen type mediums. The ways in which the colors are mixed are very different; therefore, they produce distinctly different choices.

RGB Mode

RGB stands for red, green, blue color channels that are used by screens to build a light-based color system.Red, Green, and Blue CirclesRed | Green | Blue

RGB Sliders in Color PanelRGB color mode in Illustrator.


CMYK stands for cyan, magenta, yellow, and black color inks that when mixed in various ratios create a wide variety of colors. This is often referred to as process color.Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black CirclesCyan | Magenta | Yellow | Black

CMYK Sliders in Color PanelCMYK mode in Illustrator.

Print or Screen

Other than color differences, size, measurement, and layout also can be affected by print or screen display.

Print Features

  • Print projects are measured in physical forms (inches, picas, points).
  • Print projects tend to use CMYK and are processed or use premixed inks called spot colors.

Screen Features

  • Screen projects are measured in pixels, ems, and other nonphysical forms of measurement.
  • Screen projects tend to use RGB and are processed using "light" on a screen.

Audience Type

The target audience can be described as the primary group or groups that a marketing message or website is intended to attract. When the results of design projects are displayed in world markets, it is harder to define the target audience, as, in theory, anyone with an internet connection could be a potential viewer of the message. The question is, with so many potential individuals, how do we direct a message?

The audience can impact the choices that you should be making in a project. The number of audience types is diverse as the world itself, however. We will list a few basic characteristics of audience types.

  • Demographics: Data gathered and then parsed out into basic categories for easy retrieval. These categories may include:
    • Age
    • Gender
    • Lifestyle
    • Economic
    • Product consumption
  • Cultural background: The diverse cultures that we are all raised in do sway our opinions of what others may or may not think/feel.

As we face a global market, the categories above are one way we can try to target an audience based on the types and services that we are offering. As the amount of detailed data that is gathered is growing exponentially as more people join various online resources that collect and track their every move, the number of services that can help you make sense of it all are growing as well.

Before you tackle a new design project, electronic or physical, do some research and find out the current trends.

Choose Colors for Different Audience Types

Duration: 15 to 25 minutes.

In this exercise, you will think about and choose what colors you think the following audiences would prefer if we were rolling out a new clothing line.

  1. Males, age 6 to 12
  2. Females, age 6 to 12
  3. Males, age 12 to 21
  4. Females, age 12 to 21
  5. Males, age 25 to 35
  6. Females, age 25 to 35
  7. Males, age 40 to 60
  8. Females, age 40 to 60
  9. Males, age 60+
  10. Females, age 60+


Fill in the blanks and try to choose the color types each audience would prefer for marketing materials of a new clothing line.
Audience Color Choices
Males, age 6 to 12
Females, age 6 to 12
Males, age 12 to 21
Females, age 12 to 21
Males, age 25 to 35
Females, age 25 to 35
Males, age 40 to 60
Females, age 40 to 60
Males, age 60+
Females, age 60+

Please note there are no true correct answers - each person will come up with different answers based on their preconceived ideas.

Scope of Project

Scope can be defined as the tasks and effort that will be needed to bring a product or service to market. A scope statement should be drafted and stored as part of the rollout documentation. Its goal is to make you think of all details, aspects, angles, and possible roadblocks that we may encounter during the life cycle of the project.

As scope pertains to the color choice, we need to make a list of all mediums we plan to have developed in the life of the project. This may include screen formats such as websites, online intranet materials, physical print materials, to physical decor.

We then need to develop lists of needs, reports of status, and color themes for each medium in order to have the smoothest project experience possible. A well-planned project is a happy project!

Sample project scope statements:

Project Scope Statement for ABC ChildcareScope Statement for ABC Childcare - file location ClassFiles\color-context\Demos\ProjectScope_ABC.docx

Project Scope Statement for Lovely LaceScope Statement for Lovely Lace Clothing - file location ClassFiles\color-context\Demos\ProjectScope_LovelyLace.docx