How to navigate the color wheel

Anna Guerrero
Anna Guerrero

Understanding color relationships is fundamental to great design. Knowing how to navigate the color wheel can help you understand why certain colors look good together but others don’t.

Visual marketers: did you know that  in the first 90 seconds someone forms an impression, up to 90% of the outcome is based on color alone? Learn how to navigate the color wheel and take advantage of thousands of color combinations!

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01. What is the color wheel?

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The color wheel is an incredible tool made up of over 16 million different colors – from black and white, to the deepest and brightest greens and blues.

Any designer can access this complete spectrum of colors, which can then be used to create countless combinations of unique color palettes.

02. Cool and warm colors

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Colors that are located to the right of the wheel are called warm colors, which include: reds, oranges and yellows. These colors are great to create energy and emotion in your designs – from a cheerful, rich yellow palette, to a bold, passion infused red.

Cool colors – greens, blues, pinks and purples – can be found to the left. Colors such as blue can help your designs appear calming and trustworthy, while cool greens are a great option for health or nature inspired designs.

03. The brightness slider

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The brightness slider is a tool which allows you to find lighter and darker versions of the same color. By moving it to the left, the color lightness will increase, while moving it to the right will make it decrease.

04. How to choose bright colors

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The most saturated colors can be found on the outside of the color wheel. These range from grapefruit pinks, to bahama blues and dewy greens. Bright colors go well with white, which makes them pop to create an eye catching effect.

05. How to choose pastel colors

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Pastel colors are found at the centre of the color wheel. These colors are soft and neutral, and are great for pleasant design subjects such as wedding invitation or recipe cards.

Color is a vital ingredient of beautiful designs! Want to learn how to use it like a pro? Try the interactive tutorial below to get familiar with the color wheel in Canva.