Color Theory 101: Understanding Color Terminology

When exploring graphic design and branding, knowledge of basic color theory terminology is needed.  While creating color palettes, logos, and branded material, terms like color harmony, value, and tint come up.  Understanding these can make a drastic difference on how your project comes out.  It also ensures nothing is getting lost in translation if you are working with a graphic designer.  Knowing the lingo is important.  We will go over the basics of the color wheel, color harmony, primary colors, hue, and many more! Part two discusses how to create a color palette once you properly understand color. 

Color Theory 101: Understanding Color Terminology - Nakia Jones Creative BY NAKIA JONES

Color Wheel

The color wheel is a visual representation of the primary, secondary, and tertiary colors arranged according to their relationship with each other. 

Primary Colors

Red, yellow, and blue

Primary colors are colors that cannot be made up by the combination of other colors.  All other colors are a combination of these colors.

Secondary Colors

Green, orange and purple

Secondary colors are the result of mixing two primary colors. 

Tertiary Colors

Yellow-orange, red-orange, red-purple, blue-purple, blue-green & yellow-green

Tertiary colors are the result of mixing primary and secondary colors. 

Color Harmony

Color harmony is based on the color wheel concept.  It is the theory of combining colors in the most harmonious way to please the eye.   Said simplistically, it is picking colors that go together well.


Hue is a traditional color name such as yellow.


Color value is the relative degree of lightness or darkness of a given color. 


Tint is a mixture of color with white, which increases lightness.


Shade is a mixture of color with black, which increases darkness.


Chroma refers to the purity of a color.  A color has high purity if it has no white, black or gray mixed in.


Tones are created by making it duller than the original by adding gray.


Saturation refers to the intensity of the hue.

The Bloom Theory

How has understanding the color wheel effected how you chose colors for your brand?