Color Theory for Motion Design

Color Theory for Motion Design

Andrew Kozik
Founder of Lemons

Color plays a pivotal role in creating motion design that sells. The use of different color palettes triggers certain emotions and impacts people’s mood and behavior. Eye-catching color combinations can work wonders for grabbing your prospects’ attention and turning your business into success.

So understanding the basics of color theory not only allows you to create aesthetically pleasing content but also opens up endless opportunities for producing desired effects and increasing sales. Let’s delve into color motion fundamentals and explore how this powerful visual communication tool can help you reinforce your motion design projects and conquer the hearts and minds of your audience.

A quick guide to color theory

So what is color theory? It’s actually a mix of science and art that helps to ascertain what colors work well together. It encompasses a number of rules for using colors to create refined visuals that make an impact. Knowing color theory basics is a valuable expertise that can enable you to create and apply color palettes more strategically as well as evoke emotions in your customers.

Motion color theory is a pretty wide subject area that is intertwined with cultural aspects, color psychology, color relationships, etc. Even a small amount of knowledge applied to your color theory projects can significantly improve customer experience and scale up your sales. So it’s time to go through some useful concepts and reap the utmost benefits from them.

The color wheel

The color wheel is a visual representation of the relationships between colors. There are 12 main divisions of the color spectrum. All of them are arranged in a rainbow color order and are sorted into primary colors, secondary colors and tertiary colors.

  • Primary colors

These colors are those that can’t be produced by combining any other colors together. Actually, they are the backbone of the color wheel and are represented by such colors as yellow, red and blue.

  • Secondary colors

They can be created by combining the primary colors mentioned above. There are three secondary colors  - orange, green and  purple. And here’s how they are formed:

Blue + yellow = green

Yellow + red = orange

Red + blue = purple

  • Tertiary colors

These are produced by mixing primary and secondary colors. There are some rules of tertiary color creation as not every primary color can be combined with a secondary color ( e. g., you can't mix blue and orange unless you want to achieve a dirty brown color).

Tertiary colors are made by combining colors that are next to each other on the color wheel. Here are six ways to create aesthetically pleasing tertiary colors:

Green + yellow = chartreuse 

Purple + red= magenta

Purple + blue = violet

Orange + red = vermillion

Orange + yellow = amber

Green + blue = teal

As you can see, the color wheel is a great tool that can help you discover beautiful and effective color motion combinations.

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Hue, value and saturation

 Each color consists of three key constituents such as hue, value and saturation. Let’s dig deeper into these notions.

  • Hue means the color itself. For example, all primary and secondary colors can be referred to as hues. 
  • Value shows how light or dark a color is.
  • Saturation represents the intensity of a color (how dull or bright it is).

All of these color components are of great importance since they can affect the feel of your motion design, highlight some elements and determine the reaction of your target audience.

Tints, tones and shades

There are also such terms as tints, tones and shades. They represent various color subtypes  created by mixing a hue with black, white or gray. Using tints, tones and shades can help you diversify your visuals and achieve interesting effects.

  • Tint boosts lightness. It’s a color with white added to it. Tints create a very relaxing and gentle impression, that’s why they are often used in women’s products.
  • Shades are just the opposite of tints or pastels. They represent hues with black added to them. Shades often produce a strong and mysterious effect. Therefore, they are used in products aimed towards men.
  • Tone is created by adding gray to a hue. The majority of motion designers prefer tones to shades as they preserve more color properties.

Color harmonies 

Motion color harmonies stand for good color combinations that can be identified with the help of the color wheel. While there exist a wide variety of color harmonies, let’s take a look at the most popular ones:

  • Monochromatic

A monochromatic color harmony is the simplest color palette in terms of its creation. It consists of only one hue, and you can make changes only in the saturation and value of this hue. 

  • Analogous

This color harmony is based on three colors that are located next to each other on the color wheel. There is usually one main color and two accents.

  • Complementary

A complementary color harmony consists of two colors that are opposites on the color wheel. Such hues are absolutely different from one another and have a clear contrast. You can enhance complementary motion colors by changing their value and saturation.

  • Triadic

A triadic color scheme is made up of three hues that are equally spaced on the color wheel and contrast each other. This color harmony is pleasing to the eye and can easily catch your customers’ attention.

How to choose great color combinations

And now a logical question arises: what should you do to pick the right color combinations? Let’s get a clearer vision on how to do this.

  •  Keep in mind color harmonies

If you don’t know what steps to take in order to build a color palette from zero, make use of the above-mentioned information on the color harmonies. All you need to do is just choose the first hue and then stick to a particular color harmony pattern when deciding what other colors to pick. There are also some online tools (e.g., Adobe’s Color Wheel) that can help you choose hues on the basis of your preferred color harmony.

  • Grab colors from a picture

Photography is an endless source of inspiration for creating perfect color motion combinations. Some online tools can help you automatically borrow colors from a photo. Note that nature photographs are the most useful ones for making eye-popping color palettes.

  •  Don’t underestimate color palette generators

These tools won’t require much of your energy to create aesthetically pleasing color combinations. You can use color palette generators to make a palette right off the bat or just to create initial colors and change them until you are satisfied with the result. Some tools offer the opportunity to see and get inspired by other users’ color palettes.

5 tips for using colors in motion design

1. Pay attention to color psychology 

Color psychology investigates how different colors impact people’s feelings. This knowledge can enable you to influence your viewers’ minds and trigger certain emotions.  

Each color has its own psychological meaning:

  • Red is associated with passion, power, love, anger, aggression.
  • Blue is the color of serenity, trust, wisdom.
  • Yellow represents optimism, energy, hope.
  • Green is associated with renewal, growth, harmony.
  • Orange stands for creativity, joy, compassion.
  • Brown means stability, intelligence, simplicity.
  • Purple symbolizes imagination, royalty, spirituality.
  • Black represents power, elegance, mystery.

 

2. Apply the 60-30-10 rule 

This technique is typical for interior design, but can be also used in motion design. According to this rule, you should devote 60% of your composition to a primary hue, 30% - to a secondary hue and only 10% to an accent hue.

The 60-30-10 rule is not strict and you don’t need to follow it for each of your color theory projects. Use it as a helpful tip to avoid visual confusion.

3. Maintain color consistency

When dealing with motion design, try to stick to a consistent color palette. In other words, when you use a certain color for some object in one frame, don’t forget to use the same hue in sequential frames. 

Though it sounds simple and obvious, keeping colors consistent may turn out to be quite challenging, especially when you have to work with a large number of color variations.

4. Use complementary colors in design and color discordance to highlight some elements

When you have many elements that come in similar hues, the resulting scene may seem dull and inexpressive. To fight the monotony, you should use contrasting colors that will help you turn the spotlight on a certain element. If you want to achieve contrast, choose colors that sit opposite to each other on the color wheel. Remember that you can also adjust the saturation and value of a hue.

Color discordance is another method to draw your customers’ attention to some important details. For this, you should pick a hue that is out of tune with the other colors. 

5. Use different hues of gray and black to make your animation unique

Using gray and black as background colors can make your animation truly stylish and one-of-a-kind. 


Best Color Palette Tools for Motion Design

There are a number of motion color palette tools that are widely used by designers. Here’s a sneak peek into some of the most popular ones.

ADOBE COLOR

It has an intuitive design that enables you to make your own color palettes and then save them to your Creative Cloud Library. It’s possible to create hues in four different color modes.

Adobe has an explore tab that's filled with design examples created by users around the globe. The palettes can be grouped in different ways. You can also use the option to extract colors from photographs or generate a color scheme from some images.

There’s also the trends tab where you can find various categories for trendy colors in  illustration, gaming, fashion, etc.

PALETTON

In addition to creating color palettes, Paletton offers a wide range of possibilities to visualize your color schemes. The user interface is divided into two sections where you can see a color wheel and a preview of the hues you’ve picked. There are more than 30 ways (vision simulations) to view your colors, which allows you to perceive how your colors will work in different situations. 

COOLORS.CO

This color generating web site can help you create amusing color schemes. It has an exclusive approach to making color palettes - it generates one for you and then gives you the keys to create your own color combinations.

Once you start using their site, they give a brief tutorial and provide you with a color palette. Then you can get down to creating the color scheme of your dreams with the help of some keystrokes.

Coolors offers an opportunity to make a color palette from uploaded images. It also has an Explore tab full of palettes created by other people. You can download any scheme you like! 

On top of that, Coolors has made an iOS app that helps to generate and improve your color combinations.

Bottom line

That’s more than mere words — whether you just need to create beautiful visuals, attract new customers, boost your business, increase sales or outshine your competitors, colors in motion come to the rescue. Understanding of color theory can enable you to reach new heights through aesthetically pleasing and efficient motion design. It should be noted that creating motion design projects from scratch can be time-consuming and requires deep expertise.

If you are not  ready to reinvent the wheel and spend a lot of effort, you are always welcome to use the services of professional animation studios that will make the best of your ideas turning them into top-notch motion graphics. For example, Lemons Digital offers impeccable quality, thinks out of the box, and makes each project unique. Followed once, this way of creating motion design will let you achieve business success.

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Andrew Kozik
Founder of Lemons

8 years experience in video production, video ads and building successful teams.

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Andrew Kozik and Vlad Gindin founded Lemons (ex Lemon Digital) in 2013 after graduation from the University. In 2019 the company is represented by 18 professionals. With clients: Google, Unicef, Voxbone, AppsFlyer, Band App, XYO Network, EnjinCoin, Rubicon project, Fiverr.

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