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Navigating the Vibrant World of Colour Theory: A Spectrum of Art and Emotion

Higgins Partnerships and the City of London, Summer Islington Mural 2023.

When you think of your favourite artwork, brand logo, or even your closet, chances are, certain colours come to mind. But have you ever stopped to wonder why certain shades create specific emotions? Or why do some colours work harmoniously together while others clash? The answer lies in the fascinating domain of colour theory.

Higgins Partnerships and the City of London, Summer Islington Mural 2023.

What is Colour Theory?

At its core, colour theory is both an art and a science that delves into how we perceive, mix, and use colours. It provides a structured system, guiding artists, designers, and even marketers to create visual experiences with maximum impact.

The Colour Wheel

To get started with colour theory, we must become familiar with the colour wheel. It's a circular diagram of colours that showcases how different hues relate to each other.

  • Primary Colours: Red, blue, and yellow. These colours cannot be made by mixing other colours together.

  • Secondary Colours: Created by mixing two primary colours. They include green (blue + yellow), orange (red + yellow), and purple (red + blue).

  • Tertiary Colours: These are formed by mixing a primary and a secondary colour. Examples include red-orange and blue-green.

Colour Harmony

Ever wondered why certain colour combinations are naturally pleasing to the eye? This is due to colour harmony. When colours work well together, they create a harmonious palette that's balanced and appealing. Some popular harmonious combinations include:

  • Complementary Colours: These are colours located opposite each other on the colour wheel, such as red and green or blue and orange. They create high contrast and a vibrant look.

  • Analogous Colours: These are colours located next to each other on the colour wheel, like yellow, yellow-green, and green. They provide a serene and comfortable design.

  • Triadic Colours: A triadic colour scheme uses three evenly spaced colours around the colour wheel, for example, primary colours or secondary colours.

Higgins Partnerships and the City of London, Summer Islington Mural 2023.

Colour and Emotion

Colours have the incredible power to evoke emotions. This principle is widely employed in branding, art, and interior design.

  • Red: Often associated with passion, energy, and alertness. It’s attention-grabbing and can also signify danger.

  • Blue: Evokes feelings of calmness, trustworthiness, and stability.

  • Yellow: Represents happiness, optimism, and youthfulness.

  • Green: Associated with nature, tranquillity, and health.

  • Purple: Often linked to royalty, luxury, and mystery.

Populo Living and Newham Council, Stratford Mural 2023.

Warm vs. Cool Colours

The colour wheel can be split into two halves: warm and cool. Warm colours (reds, oranges, yellows) evoke feelings of warmth, comfort, and energy. In contrast, cool colours (blues, greens, purples) are soothing, calming, and often associated with nature and water.

Colour Context

The way a colour appears can change depending on its surrounding colours. For instance, a neutral grey might appear slightly yellowish when placed next to a violet shade but might seem bluish next to a yellow hue. This relativity in perception underscores the importance of context in colour theory.

So, the next time you find yourself instinctively drawn to a painting, an advertisement, or even a piece of clothing, take a moment to consider the colours at play. Behind those hues might just be the subtle science of colour theory at work!

At Co-Creative Connection we start by teaching colour theory to our participants, it helps unlock everyone's creativity and everyone is able to decide on the colours they would like to see in the Community Mural Project! Head over to our Whats on page to see the upcoming workshops.


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