Muted Colors

  Many graphic designs contain muted (desaturated) colors to dull them down a bit.  Colors that are too bright can be loud and difficult on the eyes.  Look at the image on the left.  Which colors are easier and more pleasant to view?(Note: Occasionally you might consider using bright colors for content intended for children’s themes, corporate logos, and other applications.  Most often, brochures, billboards, magazine ads, and other printed materials use the muted version of the colors they choose).

Analogous Colors

Analogous colors are commonly used in graphic design- light red on maroon, light green on green, etc.  This is a good color scheme to use when placing type on a background or title bar.

Themes and schemes

Here are some popular color schemes that are commonly used. Study your surroundings to get a pulse on what is popular in regard to color. When you are getting a tire fixed, or at a restaurant, or Lowe’s, gas station, or wherever, grab a free brochure. Continue to collect them and study what you see.

  You’ve probably seen this type of style with womens’ apparel, including shirts, purses, home decor, and so on.  Would be a good one to use for a JC Penny ad if you were targeting women as your primary audience.
  Here is the same type of style (for the same audience, of course) that also contains some pink to the mix.  With the exception of the blue, this color scheme was probably inspired by neopolitan ice cream.
  This color scheme uses maroon and olive green, and is popular in home decor.  You may see it on a home and gardening TV show, on rugs, furniture, and so on.  This color scheme communicates sophistication.
  Analogous shades of maroon-sophistication, home decor & some advertisements.  These colors generate a sense of quality associated with the product of focus.  Typically used with high priced items- furniture, automobiles, homes (think about the color of brick as it relates to this color scheme), and so on.
  This color scheme is popular among food vendors.  It is an inviting color that communicates freshness, energy, vibrance, newness, life, etc.
  This color scheme is broadly used with a variety of advertisements- chocolates, coffees, furniture, rugs, and the list could go on.  Great colors to use if you want a subtle attention getter.
  Not so subtle color scheme.  Does it remind you of a particular restaurant?  In addition to McD’s, you’ll also notice that Raising Canes, Burger King, Sonic, and several others use the same colors.  The “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter!” product also uses the loud red and yellow color scheme in their logo, which seems to fit well with the loud phrase they use for their title as well (which they also end with an exclamation point!). One final note- it seems that the yellow and red runs closely with the colors of common foods that go well together, such as cheese and tomato, ketchup and fries, ketchup and mustard, etc. Interesting….
  This color scheme is good for indicating  sophistication, and is often seen in advertisements involving fine furniture, home decor, fancy artwork, bed spreads, pillows, etc.
This color scheme is used often in generic sports graphics (ESPN, for example).  By generic I mean no specific team is highlighted, but if you are designing for a specific team, of course you will want to use the team colors.
This gender specific color scheme is exciting and geared toward females, particularly within the younger age group.  This used for clothes, purses, hair ties/bows, shoes, room decorations, etc…..
This color scheme is used in a similar context as the above pink and green scheme, and is also very vibrant and exciting.  This color scheme can easily be used interchangeably with the pink and green scheme.
Also an exciting color scheme that shouts for the viewer’s attention.  Popular in fashion sales (not so much for the clothing itself but the designwork on the ad, such as font, overlays, etc).
Used in clothing and fashion ads also, similar to the orange and blue color scheme above, and is also a high contrast color scheme used for getting one’s attention.
Once again, another color scheme used with young females for purses, T-shirt designs, or any type of female apparel.  You could probably choose any of these two colors (brown and pink, pink and blue, green and blue, etc) and come up with a good color scheme for an ad targeting females.
This one is a bit more subtle and good for more of a professional design- insurance, college/university, doctor’s office, non-profit organization, etc.  It doesn’t shout “Look at me!”, but rather gives a more subtle “Our mission is quality”.
  These are complementary colors and work well together for ads like this.
  These colors are certainly attention getters, and provide a bit more excitement- they tend to appeal more to the younger crowd, and are seen in school supply ads.
  Another good color scheme when color contrast is desired- definitely draws attention.
  You can almost never go wrong with analogous colors.  When you choose the right shades, they will always provide a clean look.

More to be added later.

Using Gradients Wisely

When using gradients, be careful of the color scheme you use. (make sure you actually HAVE a color scheme in mind). Analogous colors, as demonstrated above, are the best option for gradients. Here are some good and bad examples of the use of gradients.

Look at the gradients on the examples shown below, one from a frozen dinner entree, and the other from a brochure. The food package contains a linear gradient for the steam and the background for the steam, and a radial gradient for the round overlay below it. The brochure also uses a Radial gradient for the yellow background, and a linear gradient for the blue ‘swoosh’. Minimal amount of color for each gradient, but a clean effect.

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