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Color Usage

Signs By Tomorrow not only helps you understand Color Usage for your signs but develops the best looking visual communication solution for you.

Color Frequency & Vibration  

The Color Wheel  

Color Temperature  

Color Schemes     

Color As A Medium Of Communication

Comparative Visibility Of Full Value Color Combinations

These 14 color combinations for lettering were tested using only primary and secondary colors of full hue and value. Tests for readability at a distance were conducted on different groups under the sponsorship of the Outdoor Advertising Association of America (OAAA). The results ranked in the sequence shown, with #1 the most legible and #14 as the least legible. Negative letters in 3, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12 and 14 appear to have a broader stroke than their positive counterparts.

Color Frequency and Vibration

Like sound waves, light rays have varying wavelengths, or frequencies: the lighter the color, the higher the frequency. These wavelengths determine perception of color. Some pigments absorb certain light frequencies and reflect others. We see the reflected frequencies as color. Complementary colors, such as red and green, are not readily legible. They have similar black and white value, so their wavelengths set up a vibration. Any combination of colors of similar value, even without vibrating, will have low visibility. Although yellow and purple are complementary colors, they have strong contrast in value and therefore, little vibration. They provide maximum visibility.

The Color Wheel

The color wheel is divided into three categories: primary, secondary, and tertiary. The three primary colors are red, yellow and blue. These three are the foundation of all colors because they are used to create each and every color. When you combine two of the primary colors, you create the three secondary colors. The secondary colors are orange, green and violet. The six tertiary colors are created by combining a primary and an adjacent secondary color. The six tertiary colors are red-orange, red-violet, yellow-green, yellow-orange, blue-green, and blue-violet.

Color Temperature

Colors are also divided into categories by temperature feel. These are considered cool and warm colors. The cool colors are green, blue and violet, while warm colors are red orange and yellow. Psychologically, the colors give the viewer the feeling of these temperatures.

Color Schemes

Related Schemes

Monochromatic – This color scheme uses a single hue. (Example: red and its varying tints and shades)

Analogous – The scheme uses adjacent hues. (Example: red, red-orange, and red-violet)

Contrasting Schemes

Complementary – If two hues are opposite each other on the color wheel, they are considered to be complementary colors. When used together in a design, they make each other seem brighter and more intense. This is not always a good thing, however, as colors, such as red and green, tend to make each other too intense and vibrate against each other. This can make for difficult reading.

Split Complementary – This color scheme uses three colors: any hue and the two adjacent to its complement.

Triadic – This scheme also uses three colors. They are evenly spaced from each other.

Discordant Schemes

Double Complement – This color scheme uses two pairs of complements.

Alternate Complement – This scheme uses four colors: a triad and a complement to one of the hues.

Tetrad – This scheme uses four colors evenly spaced on the color wheel. A primary, secondary and two tertiary colors are used.

 Color As A Medium Of Communication

One of the most important considerations in the creation of a sign revolves around the effective use of color. Color can convey emotions and elicit feelings. Red signifies life and passion. Blue gives the feelings of coolness and calm. Green connotes growth and springtime, and Yellow says warmth and vitality.

Color Choices

Black typically communicates authority and power. Black is a good choice for typefaces, because it contrasts nicely against most light backgrounds and therefore, can be read from long distances.

Red is a color of high emotion. Studies show it stimulates shoppers and appetite. That’s why red cars are known for their sex appeal. Red is a “hot” color that signifies low price.

Blue is the opposite of red. Blue is a “cool” color that communicates elegance and quality. Lowe’s (Hardware) decision to go with blue was a competitive move against Home Depot’s bright orange. Ridge says blue is the most popular color in the world, as it crosses cultures and nationality.

In the United States, blue can communicate freedom. It is also a calming color. Whether you live in the U.S. or in Africa, there are certain colors that play the same role in nature. On the other hand, there are cultural applications; in the U.S. we all go to funerals wearing black. In China, they wear white, because it is the color of death and mourning. 

Green is a color that is rarely used in retail settings except lawn and garden or food establishments. Green symbolizes health and nature.

Green is eternally associated with the environment, nature, and things that are good for you. Of course in different cultures, it may mean something different. In Europe, it has political ties to the Green Party and the Green Movement. In America, it often means recycled and environmentally-friendly.

Yellow is another attention-grabber, but experts say this color should only be used as a background. Yellow typefaces are difficult to read.

Purple signifies royalty, luxury and wealth and therefore isn’t appropriate for uses that promote value and savings.

Brown, on the other hand, is a good choice for industrial applications, because it is earthy and signifies reliability and genuineness. UPS has done well with its drab brown brand.  

Contact your local Signs By Tomorrow retailer for FREE quote on how color usage can boost your signs impact today!

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