As we mentioned last week, picking the right colors is the single most important decision you can make when designing an infographic. Most designers realize this, and for years they’ve been trying to answer one question: is there a science to picking colors that work well together or is it just subjective? Why do some colors match, while others look strange?
The internet has been debating this for a while without much consensus, but I believe the real answer is both: it’s an art and a science. Every design decision is heavily influenced by a designer’s intuition and sense of aesthetics, but there is also a strong scientific component that conveys if a color works well with another.
Expert designers use it to validate their intuition, but we are going to learn how to use color theory to pair beautiful colors together.
Remembering The Color Wheel
Last week we learned some super useful color theory, and how to use the color wheel to match colors together. We learned about monochromatic, complementary and analogous color combinations, but for the sake of simplicity, we left a few out.
Now, as we want to dive a bit deeper into color pairing, let’s remember what complementary and analogous combinations are all about, and then we’ll introduce triad and the square.
Colors that are opposite to each other in the color wheel are considered complementary. By combining these two colors, you are conveying contrast and interest. This are tricky to use in large doses, but they are specially good when you want to highlight something, like a call to action.
Colors that are next to each other on the color wheel feel comfortable working together. They are the perfect combination, as they are great for any use, including highlighting and giving contrast to a specific element without much disturbance.
A triad uses 3 different colors that are evenly spaced around the color wheel. This strategy creates vibrant and attractive combinations, but it’s a bit difficult to implement perfectly – to use a triad successfully, colors should be carefully balanced, letting one color dominate and use the two others for accent.
Square (or tetrad)
The square uses for colors spaced evenly across the color wheel. You have to be careful, because due to the nature of the square, all colors will tend to be different. To solve that, you should let one be the dominant color, and use the other 3 as highlighters.
Tools For Pairing Colors
Now that we know some color theory, it’s time to pick a few tools that will help you pair colors correctly. The good thing is that these aren’t just any tool – these 3 different tools are based upon the same color theory you just learned.
Yes, you’ve read correctly. You’ll be able to select a hue, and then pick between complimentary, monochromatic, analogous, square or triad combinations, and the tool will handle all the color pairing for you!
Adobe Color CC
Previously named Adobe Kuler, this fantastic free tool is our top choice in the business. You start by picking a color, and then a color rule – in this case, we picked complementary. Then, the software auto generates a 5-color pallette, which you can share, save or export.
It has a web-based tool, but if you are using the desktop version, you can even export the palette to Illustrator or Photoshop!
Paletton is even easier to use. It’s another free, web-based tool that allows you to create beautiful combinations by picking a primary hue, and then deciding between complementary, monochromatic, analogous, triad or square. It goes even further, as Paletton lets you customize your own color rules!
In this example, we picked a red and the monochromatic rule, and Paletton auto generated all the complementary tints, tones and shadows that work well with that hue. Simply amazing.
COPASO (or Color Palette Software) was created by ColourLovers as their palette generation tool. It’s an all-in one solution that offers a full range of color selection tools, including the ability to add notes, upload images, and export your creation.
It’s also a web-based tool, it’s free and it’s ridiculously easy to use.
Did you like the post? Do you have any other color pairing tools you use on a daily basis? We’d love to know! Drop us a comment below and start a conversation!