[Module 2] Capsule Design | 5. Colour Theory

Updated: Jul 13, 2018

The theory of colour is rather complex and there are a number of contradicting opinions on what to appreciate in this subject. I will try to break it down simply as I see it, and I am in no way an expert in this field.

Colour is an essential element in the mix of what we are doing because not all colours will suit all people and it is important that we have clothing that we look good in.

Another other option of course is to go to a colour consultant expert and pay for a service to outline what colours may suit you, but if you do decide to go down this route then ensure you get a referral and go to someone who really knows what they are doing and considers all aspects of dressing with colour and what that means specifically for you, as it can cost a few hundred dollars.

Basic Theory

Starting at the basics here is a little background information just to set the scene on how we get all of the colours we have to choose from.

Primary Colours

There are three Primary colours that cannot be created by mixing any colours together – Red, Blue and Yellow.

Secondary Colours

Secondary colours are created by mixing 2 primary colours.



Tertiary Colours

Tertiary colours are made by mixing 1 Primary with 1 Secondary colour.


All of these pure colours can be mixed in varying degrees with White to create Tints, or with Grey to create a Tone or with Black to create a Shade. You can also mix pure colours together and another step further mix those resulting colours with White, Grey or Black, mind-blowing!

I have an app on my phone that I like to play called Blendoku that tests my colour blending skills, it’s highly addictive and I might add that I am rather good at it. Have a go and test your colour blending skills!

Now we can see there are an infinite range of colours to be made and therefore a large range of contrast in the colour too as Tints are brighter colours to the Tones for example. Have a look at this example (all of the paintwork has been done by my beautiful daughter by the way, she draws portraits on commission when she is not painting for me – thank you darling!);

Here you can see a pure colour that is blue in the middle with white, grey, black added then mixed with another colour green. Just consider the difference between the lightest colour and the darkest colour i.e. the colour contrast and all the shades in between.

Given that we have identified the range of colours available then we can start to look at how all of the colours can work together and the following principles help to define some ways of looking at a standard wheel of colour.

  • Monochromatic colours are shades tints and tones derived from the same colour, as we saw above.

  • Analogous colours - are groups of three colours next to each other on the colour wheel, these colours go very well with each other as they would in nature and they tend to create a serene feel for a design.

  • Complementary colours - are colours that are opposite each other on the colour wheel and although opposite do complement each other and can create a vibrant look.

  • Triadic are colours on the colour wheel that are equally spaced and form a triangle, these colours harmonise together to create a vibrant look.

Just to complicate things a little bit further any colour (or Hue) can be defined as either light or dark, bright or dull, warm or cool.

  • Colour Value – is the lightness or darkness of the colour.

  • Chroma – is the intensity of the colour i.e. bright versus dull.

  • Undertone - defines how warm or cool the colour is (warm colours have more yellow in them, while cool seem to have more blue undertones).

So when we are thinking about an outfit and we are blending colours together you would usually mix colours that have similar properties to create the harmony. So for example you may choose a light, bright and cool combination, or a dark, dull and warm combination. © 2017 Threadelicious. All Rights Reserved.

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