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Palettes & Systems

Lesson 25 from: Graphic Design Fundamentals

Timothy Samara

Palettes & Systems

Lesson 25 from: Graphic Design Fundamentals

Timothy Samara

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Lesson Info

25. Palettes & Systems

Lesson Info

Palettes & Systems

So then we can talk about bringing colors together and using those kinds of relationships to define palettes for projects. And a palette is a selection of colors that have some relationship to each other, to be applied to the various elements in a design. Whether it's image material or typography. And we can also talk a little bit about how a palette can be used as a kind of a system for material. So these all show a kind of very specific kind of a palette. And really what you want to try to do is to try to focus your palette into one sort of hue area in general, or one really strong sort of relationship of hue, initially. The more hues that are present, the more confusing the color experience is. The fewer hues there are, and the closer their other relationships are, of value, of intensity, of temperature, the clearer and more compelling the color experience will be. The more memorable it will be. When you see a lot of different hues simultaneously in the world, in a design, it's very...

hard to recall the color relationships that exist in that space. When we see a focused number of hues together it becomes much easier. So here's a palette for a book that uses a hue drawn from the photography which employs an analogous system, that is elements that are in the blue to violet range. this is a poster that used the compliments red and green, and you can see that the density of red changes, which produces different intensities of red and changes in the complementary experience. On the right you have two adds from a system in which in one add you have a complementary relationship that is more or less blue to yellow. Not a true complementary relationship, which would be blue to orange, but close. Here you have essentially an analogous set of relationships or analogous hues. So you can also apply this thinking to how you're looking at color in photographic images. You can adjust the color of components or areas within a photographic image in order to accentuate or clarify a color relationship, that is that you don't have to use a photograph's color the way it comes to you. Unless the photographer is telling you no, I don't want you to change the color. Which very often they will do, especially if it's art work. So in going about choosing a palette, you can start pretty much anywhere and I typically do this and also advocate on behalf of this strategy, and that is to start with a complementary pair, because a complement gives you the great contrast possible in color. It gives you more flexibility for how you might use those colors. Because you can always mess with those two hues' temperature by shifting them slightly, or their saturation by dulling one out and using another one more intensely. And you can also always add additional colors that might play off of those and still bring a little bit more richness or a little bit more interest in case that complementary relationship is feeling a little bit too monotonous. So this is just a kind of a process in which, it's starting out with the pure complements of kind of a yellow-orange and a blue-violet, and then thinking, well, okay, that's sort of basic. Adjusting the saturation and also the temperature of each, adjusting the temperature so that the yellow becomes a little bit more red, a little bit warmer, but so that the blue-violet is actually kind of decreased in saturation, and then again desaturating the blue violet even more so that it's only a whisper of its former intensity. But still in combination or in juxtaposition with that orange, the blue-violet, or the yellow-orange, the blue-violet is still present. So it's a much more complex, a much more kind of layered or subtle relationship that calls to mind sort of the ultimate power of the complement. 'Cause the brain is still reading the complements there. But then the brain gets to kind of think about that a little bit. In this case, I've paired then, for added interest with that desaturated complement pair two neutrals of sort of corresponding lightness and darkness, darker and lighter, I'm not really sure why they're flipped, but that's okay. And with a slight temperature change that is that this neutral is a little bit warmer and this neutral is a little bit cooler having a little bit of a green cast to it. And last as kind of a set, in order to kind of liven things up, is to introduce yet another kind of very neutral or desaturated element, but that actually exists more or less between these two pairs, which is kind of a red or a red violet, also desaturated. That is really just to study, it's not related to the projects down here. But this is a website in which all the elements are essentially, its an analogous relationship. The elements are either yellow or green it's just that the yellow is either intense or lighter in value, or desaturated and darker in value. Which makes brown. And the green is relatively intense. And then there are some other, you know, the photography is full color, but in terms of the overall sort of color, the color experience for that flight layout its' essentially a yellow-green analogous combination. So, you know, keeping the colors analogous causes or creates a tremendous amount of kind of rich dialogue between them, but simply by varying the relative intensity or value of those two hues, those analogous hues. You get a tremendous amount of variation in it. So the limitation is actually kind of deceptive. So you think, oh, it's yellow and green. Well, what am I gonna do with that? I can't do anything with that? Well of course you can, you can do this with it. And over here is another palette for some cells sheets, a cell sheet and a software user's manual for a former client in which there is, first off, there's a basic analogous relationship between a violet-blue and a green-blue that is cooler and warmer. And that is accented by a secondary color that is either a yellow or an orange. So a warm color. Colors can be used in systems to create kind of variations among say products in a line or from section to section in a book. So you might define a very, very specific kind of selection of hues, and then just sort of alter their relationships to each other. Like how much of each one appears in each chapter? So you can think about color palettes as a way to develop a system to differentiate parts of information or products in a line, but that will still yield an overall relationship between them. And this is a set of systems in which only one variable is changing while the others remain the same. So for example in this system, the hues are changing as well as the extension, but the saturation, value saturation and temperature of those colors is remaining analogous. So the only thing that changes is hue. Here, on the other hand, value is what changes, but hue, saturation, temperature remain analogous, and so on. You can kind of kick it up a notch if you start to mess with multiple variables that is changing the hue and saturation or changing the hue, the saturation, and the temperature. And then you get greater complexity, and these are just a set of those that can ber very interesting. So you can kind of think about palettes in a very, very kind of systematic way, is just choose some, almost at random, and then just simply by varying some aspect or a couple of aspects of them is to increase complexity and also in the variation, and also at the same time kind of maintain a kind of a unified experience, a totality among those colors as you're using them for different purposes. Limiting the palette is something that is important not only for creating a specific color impression and being specific about things in order to differentiate, in order to imprint on the audiences mind is very important so that the color experience can also add to other kinds of graphical gestures or other strategies you're using in order to make that communication not confusable with any other communication or that client confusable with any other client. Whether it's photographic material, images, or graphical things, typography, is that you can very often run a job, print a job, using only one color. When you print a job using one color of ink that ink color does not have to be black. It doesn't cost any more to print the same monochromatic layout in a color that is not black. It's the same press, it's one plate, it's the same amount of ink, it's the same amount of paper, but sometimes taking something that is basically black and white, or a range of grays, gray scale, and printing it in a color that is not black creates a whole new kind of experience. Now, you can also use a very, very limited palette, a selection of only two inks at a time in order to create a vast array of sort of intermediary hues because printing inks are transparent and when you print them on top of each other they create new colors by mixing together, much like mixing paint. So this is an example of an orange and a blue. They happen to be complements. But you can see printing on top of each other at different levels of tonality or opacity, and all of these individual colors are made up of, what appear to be different colors, are made up of the same two ink colors. So, from a cost standpoint, you can achieve a tremendously colorful experience in a very economical way by printing a project using only two colors, two ink colors, it means a smaller press, it means only two plates, it means less set-up time, and less ink, but you can still inquire kind of a vast palette out of only those two. And as a result the color experience becomes that much more specific and memorable and recognizable. This is a media kit folder that was printed in two colors, an intense yellow and a cool gray. And you see that as those colors mix with each other, and in different densities, is that they create the appearance of different kinds of neutrals in between. Yup? I have a question. How do they achieve the lightness of, orange, for example, and the intense of orange, is this because of the layering, like, let's say 10 times layer the same amount of orange? Uh-huh, so an ink color is the darkest that it will ever be when it is solid. And then what's happening is that the ink is being broken up by a pattern of dots, what is called tinting, or you're changing the opacity of it. So as the color becomes more transparent, or less dense, it appears to change in value. These would be the same ink color if you were printing this sort of swatch transition on a piece of paper. It will be layered like, in one run? Yes, they would appear on the same plate, they would accept ink, it's just that different parts of the plate would be accepting more ink or less ink. Oh, thank you. And so you can play with photography by altering the color relationships either using one ink color or mixing two ink colors to reproduce the same, on top of each other, producing the same tonal value, but allowing them to mix. Software allows you to adjust how much of each ink color is actually present in different tonal areas of a photographic image. For example, in this case, it's a blue and a green. The blue is more present or is given greater density in the shadow areas. Here, both are at about equal density in the shadow areas, but the blue has been removed from the upper level tonal areas or the highlight areas. That's two colors of ink and then a third which is called a duotone and a tritone, respectively. And again you can adjust the relationships between the tonal areas and how each color ink is applied to those. So you get a lot of very, very interesting sort of mood effects using only a couple of inks even for photographic images. You can also play a similar game when you're printing with four color process, or CMYK inks, in which the image is made up of screens of cyan, magenta, yellow and black ink that mix together optically to create the illusion of an infinite continuous tone range of color as happens in magazines and billboards and so on. That, in that case, becomes known as a quadtone, and you can affect the density of the four process colors in different ways to achieve different kinds of color effects. Another way of kind of limiting a palette especially if you're using photography is to really sort of art-direct the components of that image and the lighting so that the color range, the range of hues and the range of other kinds of relationships that are present become very, very narrowly focused, so yOu get a very, very strong, specific color impression.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with RSVP

Syllabus - Graphic Design Fundamentals.pdf

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Ad+Poster-Timothy Samara Presentation.pdf
Book+Web--Timothy Samara Presentation.pdf
Color-Timothy Samara Presentation.pdf
Form+Image-Timothy Samara Presentation.pdf
Identity-Timothy Samara Presentation.pdf
Intro-Timothy Samara Presentation.pdf
Layout-Timothy Samara Presentation.pdf
Typography-Timothy Samara Presentation.pdf

Ratings and Reviews


This is more about all of your courses - It would be really nice for instructors to answer questions during break times or even after the class. There a lot a fabulous questions that I see that never get answered. I would like to go back even the next day and see a short note for at least some of those questions. Just an idea to help out this wonderful format that you have going. I am sure to make use of the promote question when I see an interesting one.


I LOVED this class! I learned so much and since I had the foresight to purchase it, I can go back for a refresher anytime I want. Plus, the downloads are spectacular! Almost a book's worth and so helpful! Thank you Timothy, you are great teacher!

a Creativelive Student

This was an outstanding course, would love to see a more in depth typography course from this guy. I'm a proffesional photographer with a formal education in design, I hardly ever use it, so I forget things, this was great both as a review, and to pinpoint things I didn't know or thought I knew. thanks once again! well done!!

Student Work