Basic color theory - Concept C, Agence Web

Basic color theory

Do you want to impress the paint consultant with your knowledge of the chromatic circle?

Not really? Okay.

Well, there are other uses in learning about color theory. There are concepts that your business can benefit from when trying to understand your designer‘s creative process or when you need to provide your business color code.

We all know the names of colors: red, blue, yellow… Sometimes even their variations: ocher, rust, silver. Some painting companies are very creative: dead salmon, tornado season, mayonnaise, etc. (those are actual color names by the way, we promise). The basics of color theory that we will explore in this article will tell you how these colors work and how they are connected.


WHAT is color?

In theory, color is a perception of our brain when our eye picks up certain waves reflected by light. In practice, color communicates emotions and is a fundamental part of a company’s brand identity. It makes you stand out, it imprints itself more easily in your audience’s memory, it defines your message and it simply beautifies it.

At Concept C, we love color...

...and this is why we think it's important to share basics:


The chromatic circle:

“Chroma” = color

Basically, you have to be able to design colors in space. The chromatic circle is used to logically place each color (primary, secondary and tertiary) in order to build relationships between them and to be able to characterize them respectively. We therefore find there:

1. Primary colors

(🔴red, 🔵blue et 🟡yellow) or magenta, cyan and yellow.

These colors cannot be replicated by other colors. All other colors are derived from these three primary colors.

2. Secondary colors:

Mix between two primary colors:
🔴 red + 🔵 blue = 🟣 purple;
🔴 red + 🟡 yellow = 🟠 orange;
🔵 blue + 🟡 yellow = 🟢 green.

3. Tertiary colors :

Mix of primary and secondary colors to create these nuances :

🟢 green + 🔵 blue = turquoise; 🧤
🔴 red + 🟠 orange = vermillon; 🧶
🟡 yellow + 🟠 orange = ocre; 🧀
🟢 vert + 🟡 yellow = chartreuse; 🍐
🔵 blue + 🟣 purple = indigo; 🍆
🔴 red + 🟣 purple = mauve 🍇

Just for your general knowledge: the colors of the rainbow are 🔴 red, 🟠 orange, 🟡 yellow, 🟢 green, 🔵 blue, 🍆 indigo and 🟣 purple.

Complementary colors:

Opposite colors on a chromatic circle. These are the colors that harmonize best with each other.



A color that is not saturated with white, gray, or black is called pure.


Tint: Add white


Tone: Add grey


Shade: Add black

Agencements :


Monochrome: several nuances of the same color


Triad: 3 colors selected equilaterally △


Duotone: image composed of only two colors

More vocabulary:


Cold colors


Warm colors

couleur-analogues_Plan de travail 1

Analogous colors

Color harmonies:

A harmony is a pleasant arrangement of different complementary elements.
It becomes important, when the company arranges its identity, to take into account the location and the context in which the colors are going to be presented.
For example, a fitness center may want their identity surrounded by accents designed to energize the audience. If her image is too bland, she may disappear among the neon leotards. Pure nuances and bright applications would then be a priority.

People love colorful things, but don’t always know how to repeat the feeling a color palette has left on them. Many people, for example, make the mistake of creating a clean effect by leaving it all blank. Rather, it looks like the rendering is incomplete, cold, or empty.

The best basis that we can give you for selecting your corporate colors is to take  harmonies from nature. Keep the same type of saturation and use a chromatic circle to organize your complementarities. If this sounds complex to you (and it is), you can ask your graphic designer to guide you. After all, the rainbow has 7 colors while our screens have more than 16 million.

Color codes:

You’ve probably already been asked for your logo color, your brand guide or your website. There are millions of reds out there, so getting your company color right in you need to be very specific. If only there was a universal code for colors… Ha! It exists! These are the color modes or color codes. There are four main types and they act like an address, allowing you to find your color on any device. They all have a custom application to the media on which your image will be displayed.

RGB (red, green, blue) :

It’s for the web. This is how we receive colors on the screen. A screen creates its image with three superimposed nuances: red, blue and green. The addition of all three results in white. It is possible to create millions combinaisons from those three colors.


CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, black):

This is the print mode. It corresponds to the ink cartridges present in the printer. Not all colors on the screen can be printed. This is why it is sometimes frustrating to print a beautiful orange and find that it looks more like leftover “hot chicken” when it comes out of the printer. We cannot print fluorescent or metallic except with Pantones which we will talk about shortly.


#HEX (hexadecimal number):

This is a code of 6 (hexa) digits or letters (decimal) that is used to insert your color in web code. The code looks like # 13bbd3.


Pantone Colors:

These colors are for print only and only work on certain specialized machines (offset printers). The code corresponds to a precise pint of ink (which may contain fluorescent or metallic ink) which ensures that no matter where in the world and by which printer you output your document, the color is guaranteed to be the same . But, cha-ching $$$!


For all those who are color lovers like us, this article must have seemed quite simplified. We would have liked to tell you everything, but color theory is so vast and complex that we would need a 70 page article to cover it all. Don’t hesitate to give us a quick call if you want to talk about colors for 6 hours heures. This is what concludes this conclusive conclusion.

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