A Complete Guide to Colour Theory in Sign Design
Effective signage remains to be an essential tool for businesses to promote their products and services. Colour is among the first things that people notice when looking at a signage. A good colour combination makes a signage more visually appealing. Along with a well thought out colour scheme, it can grab the attention of the audience and make your brand appear more credible.
To ensure that your sign engages your customers, you need to think about how you use colour and an understanding of what colour theory is will help you develop an effective design..
Before going to the nitty gritty of applying colour psychology in sign design, you need to know the basics of colour. This all starts with the colour wheel, which is used for bringing colours together. Its most basic version comprises of 12 colours that can be broken down into primary, secondary, and tertiary.
Here are the other terms that you should know so you won’t get lost in the sea of colour-related jargons:
Basic Glossary of Colour Terms
- Chroma - refers to the pureness of a colour in reference to white. You may opt to add white, black, or gray to lessen it.
- Contrast - is the difference between colours. Note that the higher the contrast between the colour of the background and the text, the better. This makes the text more readable, therefore hooking the attention of the viewer.
- Hue - refers to pure colours. Every colour on the basic 12-part colour wheel are considered hues.
- Saturation - refers to the range from 100% colour (pure) to 0% (gray) at a fixed lightness. Knowing which colours have comparable saturation will keep your design’s colour palette well-coordinated.
- Shade - created through adding black to any colour. Use sparingly as it can ruin the hues of your colour palette. If you must find a darker colour to create contrast in your signage, use the darker shade of your chosen colour instead.
- Tint - produced through adding white to hues. One good example of tints are pastel colours. Typically used to add volume to a colour palette.
- Tone - created by adding both black and white, to deepen the colour. It is also referred to as “grayed down” variety of a colour.
Colours and Human Emotions
Colour draws out certain emotions in people. “Knowing that humans might be hardwired for certain hues could be a gateway into understanding the neural properties of emotion,” according to colour neuroscience expert Bevil Conway.Food for thought certainly.
Here are some ways colour inspires feelings in people:
- Red indicates danger and commands attention. It is typically used in safety signs like stop, no parking, and fire hazard. It is also identified with power and passion and used to convey romance.
- Orange relates to energy and warmth. It is commonly used in food establishments because studies found that it can boost appetite.
- Yellow inspires the feeling of happiness and also conveys intelligence. However, it must be used in moderation as too much can cause visual disturbance.
- Green, brown, and beige inspire a sense of nature. These colours are best used as packaging and for advertising of organic and natural products.
- Blue and purple are referred to as cold colours.Their shades can be categorized into cold dark and cold light. The former is often used in poster designs because it evokes positive emotions.
- Cold dark shades such as navy and royal purples are often used to signify luxury.
- Cold light shades such as periwinkle and turquoise are used to evoke light hearted emotions.
- Neutrals like black, gray and white are often used as placeholders in designs. But each colour may be used on its own to achieve a certain mood. Black and gray can also be used for an industrial appeal or to evoke the feeling of the night. White, on the other hand, is used to inspire the feeling of cleanliness and freshness.
Colour Combinations to Try
- Gold and purple. Using this combination will allow you to give off a royal and opulent vibe with your sign design.
- Black and white. This combination is often used to give your design a vintage vibe.
- Red and green. A word of warning: be careful in using these colours together as people are often reminded of Christmas when this colour scheme is seen together.
As with all elements of design, it’s important to consider proper proportion when combining colours. This can make or break the message you are trying to convey, so be careful.
Pro tip: Use orange and blue to amplify contrast in a certain design, as these colours have the most contrast between their values.
Deciding on a Colour Scheme for Your Sign Design
Now that you know the basics of colour theory. It’s time to decide on the colour scheme. There are seven palettes you can choose from: monochromatic, analogous, complementary, split complementary, triadic, tetradic and flat.
- Monochromatic colour schemes are best if your logo is in a single colour, as it comprises of a single colour and its derivatives as well. All you have to do is select lighter and darker shades and hues of your main colour. Monochromatic colour schemes are great for showcasing content in your design.
- Analogous colour schemes make use of three colours that come after each other on the colour wheel. This scheme works best when you choose one dominant colour out of the three and use the other two as accents.
- Complementary colour palettes typically comprise of two colours from opposite side of the wheel. But the scheme may be expanded using tones, tints, and shades of the main colours you have chosen.
- Split complementary This colour scheme is formed by picking four colours: one main colour, the hue directly across it on the well, and the two hues adjacent to it.
- Triadic This is done by choosing three colours of the same spacing on the wheel. It is best used in more subdued design schemes.
- Tetradic uses four colours to create a palette. The colours are derived from the points that results from forming an imaginary rectangle on a 12-part colour wheel.
Now that you know the possible colour schemes you can draw inspiration from, you may now choose one that is most appropriate for the project you are working on. Just remember to keep your audience in mind when doing so, as this can greatly affect which colours you can choose and how they will be perceived. Cultural differences may also come into play, so if it does, don’t forget to consider that as well.
After choosing all the necessary elements to make up your design, all that is left for you to do is execute, and test to see which study will work best towards your target market. This will also allow you to make necessary changes while you still can before the signage goes live for all of the world to see.