Graphic Design Elements: Color Theory and Application
4.4 (146 ratings)
Course Ratings are calculated from individual students’ ratings and a variety of other signals, like age of rating and reliability, to ensure that they reflect course quality fairly and accurately.
15,927 students enrolled

Graphic Design Elements: Color Theory and Application

Learn how to use color fundamentals like a professional graphic designer.
4.4 (146 ratings)
Course Ratings are calculated from individual students’ ratings and a variety of other signals, like age of rating and reliability, to ensure that they reflect course quality fairly and accurately.
15,927 students enrolled
Created by Chraibi Adam
Last updated 4/2020
English [Auto]
Current price: $58.99 Original price: $84.99 Discount: 31% off
23 hours left at this price!
30-Day Money-Back Guarantee
This course includes
  • 2.5 hours on-demand video
  • 17 downloadable resources
  • Full lifetime access
  • Access on mobile and TV
  • Assignments
  • Certificate of Completion
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What you'll learn
  • To apply color fundamentals and theory to your projects
  • Color Combinations
  • Color Interactions
  • To Create Professional Color Palettes
  • Color Harmony
  • To work with Color and Imagery
  • To work with Color and Typography
  • To work with Color and Data Visualization
  • Color Basics for Branding
  • Rules to Work With Color
  • Color and Proximity
  • Color and Cultural Connotations
  • Laptop
  • Adobe Photoshop CC
  • Adobe Illustrator CC

Hello I am Adam Chraibi a professional graphic designer and animator. This course is about color theory and how to get the most use of it and apply it as a fundamental to your graphic design projects.

Color is one of the most Important and tricky elements of graphic design because it is always a shifting course. But it is also one of the most powerful tools a designer can use and effectively  communicate with clients and invoke meaning. With Successful color combinations you can attract the right customers to buy your services or products and easily increase your sells.

As much as color can help. The designer can face a lot of difficulties and challenges working with colors, part of those challenges are:

• The subjective nature of color, it may cause a designer to be afraid of using bold combinations or from experimenting new things, using always the same color combination may get in the way of the approval process with the client.

• Cultural connotations may lead the viewers to misunderstand the information.

• The technical difficulties of representing a color on a screen in print and other media.

Fortunately, this is what this course is all about. You will learn how to use the right hues for any given design project by studying color relationships such as which color work the best with one another and how to create a successful tonal relationships. Learning this will help you as a designer save time and money and most importantly help you elicit the correct response from an audience and produce successful color solutions.

Who this course is for:
  • Graphic Designers
  • Colorists
  • Illustrators
  • Data visualization designers
Course content
Expand all 67 lectures 02:43:50
+ Introduction
5 lectures 15:31


Are pretty much the variation of a hue by adding black progressively


Is the same thing as shades but adding white instead of black


also called chroma it’s the purity of a color as it neutralizes toward grey


refers to how much a specific hue is bright or dark. Graphic designers use value as a tool in their composition to add emphasis and establish visual hierarchy. We are going to see examples on how to do that in a moment.

It’s important to note that Color is stronger and independent from value.

In this example, we have multiple shapes with same gray tones and it’s blending perfectly. If I go ahead and change a gray tone to a color, notice how it really stands out from the rest; your eyes are automatically drawn to this color. The effect of a value in a composition is affected by the element and background around it. The greater the difference in value between these compositional elements, the more the contrast will be apparent. Therefore, this is an amazing way to achieve contrast and contrast is very important if you are into product design for ads.

Also If we take this image or any image, turn it to black and white, you lose its hue but you maintain its tonal relationships.

Which brings us to how intense a value can be? These are the maximum variations to the human eyes. Since the viewer’s perception to color is relative, a designer can make colors seems brighter by putting them against duller tones.

Next step, let’s design using just value.

Preview 03:11

Use Value to establish Hierarchy in Photoshop CC 2020

Preview 04:18

Class Project – Value and contrast

  1. Exercise Files > Dragon Value>Dragon sama poster

  2. Open swatches> Gray-scale

  3. Apply value to establish hierarchy and contrast

  4. Save & Share

Class exercise: value
Value is very important when it comes to establishing contrast. This assignment will help you familiarize with value.
Use value to establish hierarchy and contrast.
1 question

Now this lecture I'm going to be explaining the famous color wheel.

So we have artists and designers and scientists all have developed numerous models to visually compare

colors and how the interact with one another.

These models and diagrams are commonly used to show the relationship between different colors on the

color wheel designers and other visual artists often use these subtracted color model when mixing colors

because it's most closely mimics when pigment is put on a reflective surface.

We will talk more about different color systems and how to use them in later lectures.

But for now I'm going to be using the classic red yellow blue color spectrum as discovered by Sir Isaac

Newton in sixteen sixty five.

This is pretty much how he organized colors around a wheel.

So let's explore the relationship between colors by understanding how colors are mixed and combined

and the color wheel so wood mixing the colors.

First we have primary colors.

These are pure colors like red yellow and blue.

They can't be mixed from other colors all the other colors on the wheel are created by mixing Primary

Colors secondary colors are purple green orange.

Each consists of two primaries mixed together in equal amounts Tertiary Colors.

These are located between primary and secondary hues on the color wheel and have more often primary

color than the other.

How a tertiary color appears will depend on which primary color is dominance and mixture like yellow

green for example has more dominant yellow than green and the mixture that it's for how colors are mixed.

And now let's move on to the universal basic color combinations.

Preview 02:21

First we have analogous colors refer to a primary hue like orange right.

Green and two adjacent hues next to each other on the color wheel analogous combinations tend to be

more harmonious.


Because they reflect similar wavelengths of lights monochromatic.

These refers to variations of a single hue that include things like the color of blood spiders and shades

like the color plus black like analogous colors monochromatic color combinations are considered to be


This may be the reason.

That's one color palettes are often so successful in design solutions

try and harmonize these are any three hues spaced equidistant fleet around the color wheel because primary

and secondary colors are equidistant from each other on the color wheel.

They combine to create triad of color combinations.

It's always a good idea to draw a triangle inside the color wheel to find try it colors and how you

do that is that you find Primary Colors.

Ray the yellow and blue and then you draw your triangle.

Once you have it you can rotate it for different trial combinations

complementary hues.

These are any two colors located directly opposite from each other on the color wheel.

There are a total of six pairs of complementary colors complementary is to have like a contradictory

relationship with each other so a color is both attracted and repelled by its complements.

So I guess that's this push and pull effect of the complementary is can be used as a way to attract

a viewer's attention.

Splits complementary hues refers to a primary colors and two secondary colors that's allocated a Jason

to diffuse complements like here for example instead of going directly to the green color.

We're going to take a left and the right hand turn to the Jason colors of green

Tetra combinations these are made up of four hues which are sets of complements or splits complements.

So we draw like a sort of a line between all the complementary colors and color wheel or display complementary

if you want to you will end up with something like this and then you can choose from here like maybe

yellow with violets and then green with red

Okay so these are the basic rules of color relationships.

Next I want to introduce you to your harness.

Ethan's color wheel.

But first who is your harness eaten

your harness Ethan is considered like the GDI or you can call him maybe like the Super sand got off


He was a master at the bathhouse in very much Germany in the 90s twenties.

His theory was since color relations shapes and outcomes are somehow predictable.

Much of how artists and designers use all the uses perceive color is subjective and determined by context

for Eton stuff.

The relationship between colors and how they work in context will allow designer as an artist to hone

their understanding of colors and therefore make more meaningful color choices.

In his book The Elements of color he suggested that anyone can achieve successful color solutions and

three different ways.

The first is visually which he called impression.

The second is emotionally which he called expression and the third is symbolically which he called lose

traction Ethan's color wheel includes primaries in the middle as an indicator of how colors can be mixed

to produce new hues.

And it's also shows the interaction between colors on the outside next.

We're going to be designing using the color wheel and color combinations in Adobe Illustrator.

Preview 05:12
+ How to work with colors in Adobe Illustrator CC 2020
11 lectures 21:27

In this tutorial you will learn how to check or change the document color mode in Adobe Illustrator CC 2020.

CMYK—Cyan, magenta, yellow, and black are the colors of ink used in four- color process

printing. These four colors are combined and overlapped in a pattern of dots to create a

multitude of other colors.

RGB—Red, green, and blue light are added together in various ways to create an array of

colors. Select this mode if you are using images for on-screen presentations, the Internet, or

mobile apps.

Color modes in Adobe Illustrator CC

Adobe Illustrator CC has a lot of default colors built-in that you can work with,their are located in the swatch libraries.

Swatch libraries are collections of preset colors, such as Pantone and TOYO, and thematic

libraries, such as Earthtone and Ice Cream. Illustrator has default swatch libraries that appear as

separate panels when you open them, and they cannot be edited. When you apply color from a

library to artwork, the color in the library becomes a swatch that is saved in that document only

and appears in the Swatches panel. Libraries are a great starting point for creating colors.

Working with existing colors

Now that we have talked about default colors in adobe illustrator let see how you can customize those colors using different tools available.

Customizing colors

Learn how to save colors inside your color swatches panel once you customize them.

You can name and save different types of colors, gradients, and patterns in the document as

swatches so that you can apply and edit them later. Swatches are initially listed in the Swatches

panel in the order in which they were created, but you can reorder or organize the swatches into

groups to suit your needs.

Save color Swatches

The little white triangle in the lower-right corner of the swatch indicates that it’s a global swatch.

Global swatches are colors that will be automatically updated throughout your artwork when you change them.

Global Colors

To edit a global swatch without updating the art where it is applied is to duplicate the global swatch and edit it.

Duplicate Global Colors

The Adobe Color Themes panel (Window > Color Themes) displays color themes you have created and synced with your account on the Adobe Color CC website.It also allows you to explore and save trending and popular color palettes available on the website.

Adobe Color Themes

The Color Guide panel can provide you with color inspiration as you create your artwork. You

can use it to pick color tints, analogous colors, and much more, and then apply them directly to

artwork, edit them using several methods, or save them as a group in the Swatches panel

Color guides

The options in the Recolor Artwork dialog box allow you to edit, reassign, or reduce the colors in your selected artwork and to create and edit color groups.

Recolor Artwork

Learn how to color complex arts in Adobe illustrator

Coloring the line art

Save as template to save time

Save as template
Apply everything we have learned so far about working with colors in Illustrator.
Color the doodle line work
1 question
+ Color Systems
4 lectures 04:45

CMYK is a four-color subtractive process, which includes the colors cyan, magenta, yellow, and black.The process is considered to be “ subtractive ” because the inks that are used for printing subtract, or mask, the background (which is usually the white of the paper) using a halftone dot pattern. Colors are produced by combining CMYK ink colors and partially, or fully, printing

them on a white background. CMYK is used in offset lithography.lithography is a printing process just Engraving

Woodcut digital printing now it s based on simple principle that grease and water resist each other and in most cases, you will be required to change all graphics and imagery to CMYK before sending files to a printer.

Standardized SWOP guides are used in the United States, Europe, and Asia. They show the percentage of CMYK values that are needed to create a particular hue to ensure that the colors specified will match the finished print product.

How color appears on print media will also be determined by the paper stock (whether it is coated, un-coated, or matte), and whether a varnish or aqueous coating has been applied over the ink.

CMYK color system

RGB Is an additive color system that uses the base colors red,green, and blue to produce a wide variety of colors. In the RGB palette,white is the additive combination of all the primary colors and black produced by the absence of light. Screen- and display-based design uses the RGB color system and even some large-format printers use RGB-based color interpretation systems or profiles that will then print with CMYK ink. TV’s video screens, monitors, mobile devices, and cameras all use the RGB system.

RGB Color System

Pantone is a color system that allows printers and designers to accurately communicate and produce specific color choices.

The Pantone Matching System allows a designer to select and specify a particular Pantone color that will be matched exactly by the ink used by a commercial printer. So why designers use pantone? DESGINERS AND PRINTERS USE PANTONE WHEN we need to ensure color consistency.

The most used pantone system, is the solid system we have other systems like CMYK metallics range and a bunch of other systems you can find everything if you go here to color switches color book in adobe illustrator.

The Pantone Formula Guide comes in two formats, printed on coated or uncoated stock I highly recommend you use pantone colors if you are designing for brands (Logo products business cards) because it will allow the color to show the same every time it printed and not be affected by the type of paper.

Pantone Color System

Learn different methods and techniques to develop beautiful color palettes.

Different techniques to create color palettes
+ Different techniques to develop successful color palettes.
12 lectures 20:36

The subordinate dominant and accent technique.

Color Technique 1

Meaning Based Technique For Harmonizing Colors.

Color Technique 2

This method is used when client requires a specific color or when a project requires you to choose a specific color to convey and adheres to the client message. So you will create a palette based on that specific color.

Ok let say the color i need is blue then ill add complement of the same value and intensity. Ill take these two colors and transform them into their opposites in value and intensity. This process is easy when working in a software programthat has a color picker or by using an online application.

The resultant colors will be harmonious, one can make slight alterations to the shade or tint and then choose which hues in the combination will be appropriate as dominant and accent colors.

Meaning Based Technique color exercise

In this method the designer starts with a pure hue then its tints and shades can be having like accent colors or subordinate colors this is a great way to reduce the cost of printing.

Color Technique 4

Two color combination allows a designer to choose two hues which have well known relationship complementary or analogous you can rely on one hue to be dominant and the other color to act like it accent or subordinate .......

Color Technique 5

Progressive color technique.

Color Technique 6


Color Technique 7

You want to apply the techniques we've talked about in this exercise.

Color progression and repitition exercise
Apply color progression and repetition technique to your work.
Color progression and repitition
1 question

Black and White color technique is also a bold combination that you can use in your design projects.

Color Technique 8

Color combinations that are used to provoke immediate response for a cause or a political matter.

Color as provocateur

For this color combination solution context is everything.

Excessive Color Solutions

Overlapping colors is a great technique to give a dynamic feeling to your composition.

Color overlap technique
+ Color Intercation and proximity
8 lectures 21:23

What do we mean by colors interacting with one another ?


To better pick a color palette it’s very important to understand how colors interact between each other’s using vivid colors is a great way to attract viewers attention but again this combination cant be used in every situation .

Designers should seek balance in color palettes for example Color palettes that include light and dark hues have optimum contrast and are easiest to see. Hues that reflect light should be used alongside those that absorb it. Rarely can two or more colors that reflect light be used together successfully.

For example, a palette that includes only bright orange and yellow tones is likely to seem overwhelming and even garish. On the other hand, using only hues that absorb color can lead to situations where there isn’t enough contrast.

In this section will study what are vivid colors light colors what are neutral colors and how light can affect colors understanding this will certainly help you create better color interactions for optimum color palettes.

Colors Interaction

The different type of colors.

Different Color types

Download the files and explore with different type of colors.

Class exercise colors interaction
Color the illustrator file using different type of colors.
1 question

Don't neglect light.

How light affect your colors

How placing colors next to each other can create different shapes.

Preview 01:20

Learn to use color proximity with this beautiful modular design.

Color proximity exercise
Use color proximity to creqte the illusion of different shapes withing this design.
Use color proximity
1 question

Just if you want to show off.

How to make that geometric grid design to practice your color
+ Color and Imagery
8 lectures 23:57

How can you choose the right colors for your images.

Color in Images, Illustrations and Type

Combining imagery and colors in graphic design is great way to immediately revoke an emotional response to a project or tell a story and it can be used as a way to quickly convey information.

Colors and and imagery

Dropping the best websites to download royalty free imagery.

Best royalty free images websites

Download the files and let apply some colors to our images.

Apply Color to your Images in Phtoshop CC

What do you do when you just wanna use image as part of the composition.

Images as element of the composition

Proofing colors for printing makes you look legit.

Proofing colors

Dealing with the printers.

Save for printing
Learn how to choose the right color for your photos.
1 question

Texture is often overlooked in graphic design.

Color and Texture
+ Colors and Illustration
2 lectures 04:10

When image is illustration.

Preview 01:50
Best Resources to get customizable illustrations
+ Color and Type
8 lectures 18:04

Designers combine color and type to produce successful visual design combination whether you use hand drawn type, an expressive font, or one of the tried and standards how this letter-forms will be perceived is determined by application or absence of color.

How to use colors and type

Using color and text to establish hierarchy

Color And Hierarchy

What colors to use with big display typefaces.

Display Text

Some fonts requires specific color solutions.

Specific Fonts

When to use colors with body text.

Body text and color

Learn how you can play with display texts and colors in Adobe Illustrator CC.

Apply effects to display text in Adobe Illusrator

Best Typeface resources on the internet FREE.

Best Fonts resources websites

Time to put everything we have learned about colors and typefaces in this basket.

Class Project magazine mock-up
Apply text and images to this magazine mock-up
Magazine mock-up
1 question
+ Colors in Data Visualization
4 lectures 17:01

When working on designing information graphics Intro...

Colors in data visualization Intro

When working on information graphics, it is Important to balance between using color to attract a

viewer’s attention and using it to differentiate and communicate information...

Colors in data visualization

Most of the time you gonna be dealing with graph chart in Excel or Google spreadsheets.

Learn how to import those in Illustrator you can start the elevating process.

Different ways to import charts

If  something is there and you don't know why it's there just remove it.

The process of decluttering
Make graph chart easy to read by the normal people.
Don't make me struggle.
1 question
+ Colors brand Identity Basics
5 lectures 16:56
Colors in branding Intro

Color choices should be made carefully and be based on the initial project brief, information about the client company and its competitors,and an analysis of what the client wants to convey to its customers or to the intended audience.

Colors in brand identity part 1

A designer should identify the unique characteristics of the company and learn as much as possible about what it sells or is trying to communicate to consumers. Find everything you can about the targeted audience. Are they Young or old? Male or female? Will they be likely to take risks? Are they interested in trying new things, or do they just want to be reassured and made to feel at ease with the company? these questions will provide good indications about which colors might be appropriate to associate with the company or brand.

If you can't run this poll yourself make sure you ask the company or hire a specialist, these steps are very important when designing for big brands.

Colors in brand identity part 2

Apply what we have learned about colors and branding for this black and white coffee logo.

Class project: Logo
You want to choose the colors that will help the brand communicate it's message.
Use the right colors for the logo
1 question

Congrats and don't forget to download the PDF file about 10 commandments to work with colors.