While I woke up to a beautiful Sunday morning, the memories from yesterday’s art exhibition were still fresh in my mind. The different color shades and combinations used by the artists to bring an unusual and unique blend of colors to create a magic through the paintings is truly stunning. While in the gallery, my eyes met with a very interesting quote which read – “Colors speak louder than words”, I stayed there for a moment to read it again and I felt how relevant  but understated this statement is specially when it comes to e-learning design.

Drawing inspiration from the art gallery and with the urge to know more about the world of colors I decided to explore a little deeper into understanding the fundamentals of how colors work. In this post (part-1), I will delve into the fundamentals of colors and in my second post (a continuation of this one). I will explain as to how to choose colors for e-learning design. While I was doing my research, one topic that caught my attention was color theory which discusses about the fundamentals of colors. Color theory is not a new word or neither a new concept especially to the designers and art community , but let me just revisit the fundamentals.

Hence let us first see what is color theory?

Color theory is a body of practical guidance to color mixing and the visual effects of a specific color combination(Wikipedia).

Color theory addresses the full range of the possible colors by grouping them together in ways that help designers to better understand how different colors are related. The color theory also describes about color wheel or color circle as the basic tool for combining colors.


As you may be all aware the color wheels are categorized into three main types of colors as-

Primary colors: Primary colors are red, yellow and blue , these colors cannot be created by combining any other colors and hence are called as primary colors.

Secondary colors: Green Purple and Orange are the secondary colors and they are formed by combining the primary colors.

Tertiary colors: They are obtained by mixing the primary colors with secondary colors. Thus there are twelve basic colors

A thorough understanding of the color wheel and the relationship between colors enables designers to understand color better and know how to choose colors for their designs.


Let us now explore other fundamentals of understanding the world of colors.

1.Warm and Cool Colors

Draw a line through the center of the color wheel, and you’ll separate the warm colors (reds, oranges, yellows) from cool colors (blues, greens, purples).

(source: tes)

2.Adding and Subtracting Color

This is another way of creating colors or color combinations used mostly in color printing.

CMYK -CMYK stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Key (Black).

CMYK is the subtractive color model. It’s called this because you have to subtract colors to get to white. In this each additional and unique color means more light is removed to create colors.


RGB-RGB stands for Red Green and Blue

It is an additive type of color mode that combines the primary colors, red, green and blue, in various degrees to create a variety of different colors.This model is common for TV and video displays i.e  for the electronic displays.


3.Color schemes

Color scheme is the choice of colors used in design for a range of media. Some of the very popular color scheme options are

Monochromatic Scheme

The monochromatic scheme is based on the colors created from two or three colors from the same color family on the color wheel. It is commonly used in minimalistic designs.


Analogous Color Scheme

The analogous scheme is based on three colors located next to each other on the color wheel (e.g., red, red-orange, and red-violet).
In an analogous color scheme, one color will be dominating, one will support and other will accentuate.


Complementary Schemes

Complementary colors are opposites on the color wheel.
When you put two complementary colors next to each other, they show the greatest contrast.



The triadic scheme is based on using three colors which are at equal distances from each other on the color wheel. I suggest an easier way to find a triadic scheme by putting an equilateral triangle on the wheel so that each corner touches one individual color.



Tetradic schemes utilize two sets of complementary pairs: four colors. These can create very interesting visual experiences.


While In this blog, I have mentioned about the fundamentals of color, choosing the best color depends on understanding the objectives and requirements.
With technological advancements, there are various tools and websites which helps in easily formulating the colors and color combinations.