Practical guide to mixing colors

Written by
Marketing TKO
Published on
June 28, 2023 at 4:44:17 PM PDT June 28, 2023 at 4:44:17 PM PDTth, June 28, 2023 at 4:44:17 PM PDT

When it comes to any custom design, the color palette you decide to utilize can often make or break it. Choosing the right colors to mix and match can be a challenge if you are not familiar with what many would refer to as “Color Theory.” TKO Sales understand that not everyone is an expert on this topic, which is why we are here to help by presenting you with a practical guide to mixing colors! Read on to learn more.

Why is it important to know how to mix colors?

As previously stated, getting the colors right can make or break your design overall. When designing anything, the colors you choose have to work well together. 

Harmony or contrast created between certain tones is vital if you want to have an effective design. While harmony is often pleasing to the eyes, contrast is eye-catching and often aids in emphasizing certain details within a design. What works for one design, may not work for another. What you choose to utilize should be determined by what you wish to accomplish with your design. For example, harmony may be more useful for casual clothes, whereas contrast is often an asset in branding because it grabs attention.

Keep reading if you would like to learn more about what factors to keep in mind when choosing your color combinations.

The Color Wheel

You may have faint memories of learning about the color wheel in childhood art classes, but if not, no worries. Here is a little refresher on what a color wheel is and how it can help you with pairing colors.

The color wheel is a literal circle that visually illustrates the relationships between different tones of colors. In its most basic form, a color wheel contains red, orange, yellow, blue, green, and violet. This basic wheel example can ultimately show us complementary color combinations.

Complementary colors, in a nutshell, are the primary colors (red, yellow, blue) paired with their opposing colors on the wheel, the secondary colors (green, purple, orange). These pairings create strong contrast when paired together, making them complementary to one another due to the emphasis that can result. Though common in sports’ team logos, these color pairings in their most basic forms are not recommended to be used in most cases since they can be overwhelming on the eyes. It is also worth mentioning that some of these combinations, such as red and green, can be difficult to decipher for an individual affected by color-related seeing impairments.

Instead, to avoid such color choice mishaps, we recommend using a chromatic circle which consists of 12 divisions of colors that represent the spectrum of tones seen when light passes through a prism.

How to use the chromatic circle in your designs

In this circle, colors are divided into three categories: primary colors, secondary colors, and, last but not least, tertiary colors. We touched briefly on primary and secondary colors in the previous section, so now we will address tertiary colors. Tertiary colors are those shades on the chromatic circle that fall in between two of the main wheel colors. For example, between red and orange, we would find red-orange. Other tertiary colors would include yellow-orange, yellow-green, blue-green, blue-violet, and red-violet, found between those two colors respectively.

One way to combine colors for an effective design would be to utilize complementary color combinations, but as previously noted above, proceed with care as some individuals may have a hard time reading and deciphering your designs. You can also mix the colors by trios, tetradic color combinations, or analogous color combinations.

  • Trios → The pairing of three colors on the wheel that form a visual triangle based on their positioning.
  • Tetradic color combinations → These color pairings form a visual rectangle based on their positioning in the wheel.
  • Analogous color combinations → This color combination takes one color and pairs it with the two located on either side of itself within the wheel. 

Now that you have read through our crash course in colors, you are well on your way to choosing quality color pairings that are sure to take your custom designs to the next level!