Designing Your Memories & Communicating with Color

“I found I could say things with colors and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way – things I had no words for.” – Georgia O’Keeffe

Color, an element of design, is a HUGE, scientifically based subject matter that could be studied for weeks! Color is a powerful design tool that can alter moods and silently communicate a thought or message. In this post, I will touch on the basics of color theory, but my main objective is to give you some color tools to refer to when creating your masterpieces!

The basics (click and print if you want!):

When creating a layout, it is important to use color combinations that are logical, harmonious, and clearly communicate the message of the photos & layout. By using color properly, you can set the mood for your layout, attract attention to specific areas of your layout, and communicate a unified message. “Color can be your most powerful design element if you use it effectively.” –

Let’s examine a few traditional color ideas, also known as color chords or color harmonies:

(All layouts are linked to galleries)

Monochromatic – One color in varying shades, tints, or tones.

Monochromatic color chords are calm and neutral feeling, but can speak volumes – like this beautiful layout created by zwyck:

Complementary – Colors that sit opposite from each other on the color wheel.

Complementary color chords are vibrant, but if used improperly they can be jarring and overwhelming. It is recommended that complementary colors not be used together when creating text. Amygren does a fabulous job of using complementary colors on her layout:

Triadic – Three hues evenly spaced around the color wheel.

Triadic color chords are energized and vibrant. To successfully use this color chord, try using one dominate color paired with two accent colors, like Amelia did in this layout:

Analogous – Colors that sit next to each other on the color wheel.

Analogous color chords are pleasing to the eye and are often found in nature. One way to use this color chord is by using a “gallon” of one color, a “pint” of another color, and a “teaspoon” of the accent color. SkrappyKathy’s layout is a beautiful example of this type of color scheme:

Want to read more about other traditional color chords? THIS is a great resource.

There are color tools all over the web that are great aides when designing a layout, but where does a person start? I like to start with my photos because #1 they are the whole reason I scrap and #2 they tend to make the color choices for me. (I have to admit that there are times when I start with a fabulous digi goodie and search my photo stash for the perfect photo!)

Big Hug Labs or Colorsuckr are great places to generate color swatches from a photo. Simply upload a photo, hit create, and you have tons of colors plucked from your photo. Chose one of the colors from your photo, and use the color wheel to create a color chord that coordinates with your photo and layout theme. Here is an example from Big Huge Labs:

Color Scheme Designer is another awesome color tool. With a click of the mouse, I can pick a color and create a monochromatic, complementary, triad, tetrad, etc. color chord! Here is the process I go through to use the Color Scheme Designer:

1. In my editing software I open the photo that I want to use.

2. I pick a color from the photo using the eyedropper tool.

3. Click on the color swatch icon in the left tools palette.

4. Copy the color number like this:

5. Click the RGB number in the Color Scheme Designer, paste the color number in the box & hit OK like this:

6. Across the top of the Color Scheme Designer page, there are icons to click on that will create a color chord (monochromatic, complementary, triadic, etc.) based on the color number that was entered. Pick the color chord that best fits the mood/message of the photo & layout:

7. Pick digi paper and elements based on the chosen color chord & start creating a fabulous layout!

Color, if applied properly, is a powerful design tool that will keep your layouts looking fabulous! Do you have a favorite color aide or strategy that you use when designing a layout? I would love to hear about it! Please link us up or tell us about it in the comments section of this blog post!

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