Module 4: Colour & Pattern

Colour is very subjective, so to be as comprehensive as possible I have outlined the various theories and rules applied to colour use, as well as sharing my process and the resources I use for every project I work on.

4.1 - Colour Psychology

Different colours mean different things to different people. This is why it is impossible to attach a universally accepted meaning or feeling to a specific colour. However each colour does have it’s own unique attributes and qualities, so in order to help you choose which colours to consider using for your branding, I have compiled a brief list.


Warm & Cool Colours

The colour circle can be divided into warm and cool colors. Warm colors are vivid and energetic, and tend to advance in space. Cool colors give an impression of calm, and create a soothing impression. White, black and grey are considered to be neutral.

Complementary Colours

Colours that are opposite each other on the colour wheel are considered to be complementary colors (example: red and green). The high contrast of complementary colors creates a vibrant look especially when used at full saturation, but must be managed well so it is not jarring.

Analogous colours

Analogous colour schemes use colors that are next to each other on the colour wheel. They usually match well and create serene and comfortable designs. Analogous colour schemes are often found in nature and are harmonious and pleasing to the eye.

Make sure you have enough contrast when choosing an analogous colour scheme. Choose one colour to dominate, a second to support. The third colour is used (along with black, white or grey) as an accent.

Triad Colours

A triadic colour scheme uses colors that are evenly spaced around the colour wheel. Triadic colour harmonies tend to be quite vibrant, even if you use pale or unsaturated versions of your hues.

To use a triadic harmony successfully, the colors should be carefully balanced - let one colour dominate and use the two others for accent.


The split-complementary colour scheme is a variation of the complementary colour scheme. In addition to the base colour, it uses the two colors adjacent to its complement.

This colour scheme has the same strong visual contrast as the complementary colour scheme, but has less tension. The split-complimentary colour scheme is often a good choice for beginners, because it is difficult to mess up.

4.3 - patterns

As well as using colours in your branding, using a pattern can really help make it stand out. A distinctive style and type of pattern can really elevate it beyond any rivals. Here are a few examples:

4.4 - Textures

I love using textures to give a design more authenticity. This is especially true if you want to make your designs feel aged. I find they key is to be very subtle and take your time to build up the textures.

 Textures from the excellent  RetroSupply .

Textures from the excellent RetroSupply.

4.5 - Finishes

Foils, glitter, watercolours can really enhance a design by giving it a handcrafted and luxurious feel. Fortunately there are many excellent digital renders that look great and cost next to nothing.

4.6 - My Process

Choosing a distinctive colour pallet can play a key role in making your brand recognisable. Some brands even trademark their colour such as UPS brown and Post-It-Note yellow. When deciding on colours, I like to pick one main overall colour theme that will suit the brand and then choose what I call a ‘Hot Colour’ that will break it up, provide some friction and bring it to life.

Here are some examples below:

The ‘Hot Colour’ is there is provide energy and breathe life into a more subdued colour palette. It can be used aggressively, but often it’s a case of less is more. Here you can see how the teal / white combination is instantly lifted with a Burnt Orange drop shadow. You don’t have to always use a Hot Colour, but try to include one to give you more flexibilty.

Colour Inspiration

I personally don't pay much attention to the rules and theories behind colour combinations. Having studied Art and History of Art to a fairly high level (I was offered University places to study History of Art and have a Foundation Degree in Fine Art) I choose to take my inspiration from other areas such as Art, Film, Nature and Interior Design.

 Polaroid Artwork of  Grant Hamilton

Polaroid Artwork of Grant Hamilton



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