Course Content

Total learning: 27 lessons / 4 quizzes Time: 6 weeks

Introduction to Colour Theory

When approaching colour theory in Graphic Design it’s as simple as understanding colour rules, and once you understand colour rules for colour pairing to create a colour palette for your business, you’re halfway to beautiful design!

Colour is a branch of design, and with an understanding of the principles of colour theory you can apply it to design with confidence, knowing you have applied theory of colour to strengthen your colour selection for your design to suit impact, environment, and application use.

Design principles are: harmony, unity, balance, rhythm, pattern, repetition, contrast, proximity, and space. When you use objects like a square, circle, logo, line, image, and text you will want to incorporate these elements of design in the arrangement of such objects on your canvas. You will likely want to incorporate colour to shapes, typography, and images in your design to communicate a message, what is meant behind the name, text, concept to evoke feeling to give assistance to the understanding of the idea in the design. The Graphic Design application of a business card, sign, postcard, newspaper ad is where you will communicate your message using the mixing of colour combinations, otherwise known as colour theory.

Colour adapts the same principles of design, because like shapes, lines, and images, it is another element of your design, and another object that makes up your design.

The secret sauce of working with colour is knowing there are a large number of colour options, and instead of being intimidated by this, understand that you will enhance your brand experience with the richness of colour.  

Once you understand the theory of colour you can then apply it to your unique business situation. Think of it like a checklist where you tick off each parts to be considered as you do your design colour research. Once you have completed the list, covering all aspects of each, you will have completed the necessary parts of colour theory.

This checklist will be part of this learning module to progress to the next sections. We will also have show and reveal and quizzes to help reinforce your understanding of colour theory.

Module Topics

Here’s what you will learn about colour theory and how it can be used with graphic design:

  • What each colour signifies, and how to use it to communicate the meaning behind your ideas
  • Understanding of colour rules: analog, complementary, monochromatic, triadic, greyscale, split complementary, and contrast complementary
  • How to consider and apply colour gamuts for web and print applications: RGB, CMYK, HEX, Pantone

Module Topic Learning Objectives

After completing this module and participating in the online discussion, you will be able to:  

  1. Research examples of graphic design colour theory
  2. Prepare a validation of colour theory applied to design


Adobe Color Wheel:

Analogous Color Schemes:

Colour Semiotics:

Recommended Readings

Creative, Inc. The Ultimate Guide to Running a Successful Freelance Business, Meg Mateo Ilasco and Joy Deangdeelert Cho