NCERT Class 12 Graphics Design Colors

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Colour is the most essential component of visual experience. It is the specific perceptual characteristic of visual experience that we refer by a colour name like ‘red colour’, ‘green colour’ and so on. In the XI standard textbook on Graphic Design, basic concepts of colour such as colour hue, colour intensity, colour value, colour saturation etc. have been already introduced. This chapter will try to provide more a comprehensive view on colour and its applications in graphic design. Colour is studied and used by graphic designers, artists, architects, and by many other design professionals. Colours are used in various situations such as coloured lights in a dramatic performance, printing multicolour calendars, transparent water colours in landscape painting, and powder colours during festival of Holi. Holi is considered as the festival of colours.

It is interesting to note that in each of these events properties of colours are different. In a theatre, coloured lights are mixed to get the desired effect. In a water colour landscape painting, layers of transparent colours are put over one another. While printing a calendar coloured printing inks are layered on each other. Apart from the above mentioned situations one realises that colours are everywhere. Few more examples of such situations will demonstrate that colours have varied properties — physical properties apart from perceptual properties. Experience of colours, therefore is governed by these properties. While painting on canvas, oil paints are mixed with each other to get the expected shade of colours.

In this case colour pigments are mixed with each other. Even during the festival of Holi, we mix different pigments of colours with each other. When we see a colourful image on the TV or computer we mix colour lights. In the entire above situation colours are used in varied ways. Sometimes pigments of colours are mixed, in some cases colour lights are mixed. Therefore, it can be said that at least there are two different ways by which we use colours. The first is mixing of colour pigments used in a painting, second is mixing of coloured lights in eyes when we watch TV or computer monitor.

Colour Theories

It is important to study colour theories because these theories give comprehensive perspective of colours that help understand different applications of colours. Colour is also studied by scientists to understand the phenomenon of colour experience. As an outcome of scientific studies, two major theories of colour have been developed. These are known as ‘Additive colour theory’ and ‘Subtractive colour theory’.

Additive Colour Theory

As per the additive colour theory there are three primary colour bands of wavelengths of light called Red, Blue and Green. When equal parts of each of the three bands are combined together, the white light is generated.

Subtractive Colour Theory

Light is the source of all colours. White light has all the colours according to Newton’s theory; from red to violet. The central concept of the subtractive colour theory is that pigments of paints or inks absorb certain rays of light and reflect other rays of light. Combination of these reflected rays create the  experience of colour that is perceived by eyes. When we seea white object, all the rays of light are reflected.



1. What is the difference between additive and subtractive colour theory?

2. Find out about the traditional symbolism of different colours in your surroundings especially in the socio-cultural context.

3. How does the use of appropriate colour scheme help in setting the mood of a design.

4. Discuss the universal associations of some colours.

5. How will you choose colour in your design if your target audience is international?

6. What do you understand by symbolism of colours? What colours would you choose while making an advertisement for some heavy machinery and why?


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