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Basic color guide questions

May 4, 2012 6:01 PM

I'm pretty new to graphic design and am using the Color Guide to help me pick some harmonius colors. I found a color palette that I like (see attached image) and I sample the color in the rectangle under "Art Classes" to make it my base color.


1. The color guide displays a few swatches at the top based on the color rule selected and a bunch more at the bottom. Why are there only a certain number of swatches at the top, but so many more on the bottom? Are the swatches at the top the main harmonious colors to the base, and the ones at the bottom are not? What is the reason behind this?


2. How would you describe the color harmony rule for the colors in the image? I tried going through the different rules, though I can not figure it out. Is there a way to do this in AI or do you just have to have an understanding of color?


Thanks in advance for any help.Screen Shot 2012-05-04 at 5.46.08 PM.png

  • Currently Being Moderated
    May 4, 2012 8:08 PM   in reply to web.boards

    ..I sample the color in the rectangle under "Art Classes"...

    How, exactly did you do this? Are you saying that you simply sampled the blue color from an RGB raster image, by shiftClicking with the eyedropper?

    What version of Illustrator are you using?


    The color guide displays a few swatches at the top based on the color rule selected and a bunch more at the bottom. Why are there only a certain number of swatches at the top, but so many more on the bottom?

    The small handful of colors at the top are the colors associated according to the harmony rule you have chosen. The arrays below that are either tints and shades of those colors, warmer/cooler variations of those colors, or vivid/muted (i.e.; saturation variations) of those colors, depending on the setting you've selected in the palette's flyout menu. Have you read the documentation on this feature at all? All this is explained in the documentation.


    How would you describe the color harmony rule for the colors in the image? I tried going through the different rules, though I can not figure it out. Is there a way to do this in AI or do you just have to have an understanding of color?

    There are photos and graphics in the image you posted with hundreds of colors. Are you talking about the six colors used in the rectangular caption blocks?


    Why would you assume there was any formal textbook "color harmony rule" in play at all? The vast majority of graphic design is not deliberately done strictly according to any methodical colorimetric scheme. Designers just pick colors they think "look good" to their eye. The world is full of designers and illustrators who have never put any thought to the meanings of complementary, triad, tetrad, etc., etc. color schemes.


    I'm not dismissing color wheel features like Illustrator's Color Guide; they're fine and dandy things. Colorimetric principles attempt to put some measure of objective rationale behind why certain color combinations look good. But the existence and validity of such principles  doesn't mean that any and all random sets of colors that a designer happens to choose necessarily accurately conform to any of those principles.



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  • Currently Being Moderated
    May 4, 2012 10:34 PM   in reply to web.boards

    To answer yor question after you made your selection of colors you should make each one a color swatch then in the Swatch Panel shift select them and make them a color group from the flyout menu of the Swatches Panel.


    The in the Harmony panel ys you will see your group at the top an then the break up of shades and tints below.


    But if you wwant to work with harmonies based on these color there is a wheel icon at the bottom right of the Harmony Panel


    it will bring up the assign and edit colors dialog, assign allows you the options to view harmonies in different preset arrangements for your group and edit colors allows you to in harmony select other harmonies based on similar values.


    Or you can change any of the colors individual and retain other and then on that bases also experiment with colors with similar values.\


    Here look:


    Screen Shot 2012-05-05 at 12.58.41 AM.png


    Screen Shot 2012-05-05 at 12.59.20 AM.png


    Screen Shot 2012-05-05 at 12.59.43 AM.png


    Screen Shot 2012-05-05 at 12.59.57 AM.png


    Screen Shot 2012-05-05 at 1.00.35 AM.png


    You can also select harmonys based on presets and libraries


    Screen Shot 2012-05-05 at 12.57.08 AM.png


    Read about color harmonies and edit color features also you can go to the window menu and select to connect to the Kuler panel which are collections of swatches created and uploaded to an Adobe web server to be shared
    by users like yourself.


    Here look


    Screen Shot 2012-05-05 at 1.27.56 AM.png




    Screen Shot 2012-05-05 at 1.28.18 AM.png


    Screen Shot 2012-05-05 at 1.28.33 AM.png


    Once you settle on your color harmony if you like you can share it with others and and upload it to the Kuler server and other user will see it and perhaps wish to use your inspiration for their own projects many designers
    and artist do it this way to make sure that there is not something that already exist which is exactly what they are looking for. You might find it useful as well.

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  • Currently Being Moderated
    May 4, 2012 10:38 PM   in reply to JETalmage

    It is not necessary to Shift click a raster image in order to sample the color of the image with the eye dropper tool?

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  • Currently Being Moderated
    May 5, 2012 5:58 AM   in reply to web.boards

    I was always under the impression that designers ALWAYS used a color wheel, whether digital like the Color Guide or some traditional one to pick color.

    In the over 40 years I've been working in commerical graphics, I could count the number of times I've seen a designer actually use a color wheel on my fingers. The reason why is; in most disciplines, they are working with a fixed set of colors in a physical trade. They might refer to a color wheel in art classes to learn general principles of color theory, but in their day jobs, they simply pick "pleasing" colors from a swatch book, mix them from small set of paints, etc., etc. Sure, as they do so, they either deliberately or just intuitively (unknowingly) apply very basic principles of the color wheel they may or may not rememeber from a book or class (complementary colors heighten contrast; cool colors recede; warm colors advance; etc., etc.), but I've never seen a designer pick up a color wheel and actually carefully measure to try to determine six colors to comprise a numerically-correct "Left Complement" color scheme.


    Since long before commonplace computers, there have been textbooks and commerical art reference books on color wheel theory. In art supply shops, they more often took the form of non-formal color "guild books" or harmony "sample books" that tried to convey a few general principles; not to build any kind of strict mathematical formulae. Consider:


    Suppose you're working in, say, an embroidery shop in 1984 and really do want to sweat drops of color-theory blood with numerical precision when selecting a set of harmonious colors. So you pick up your beloved color theory art book, flip to the page that shows a color wheel, and try to "do the math," all the while totally unaware of the fact that the color wheel you're looking at is printed with a set of four inks that really can't match the thread colors that you actually have to work with anyway.


    Five years later you're working in this newfangled software called Photoshop and again spending hours sweating your sensitve artist blood over subtle nuances of color in a scanned photo that will be printed in the company's brochure after being processed by this new "output bureau" sweatshop that is killing the business of the "color house" that six months ago bought you hundred-dollar lunches each time you visited them to astound and amaze them with your stratospheric level of color discernment--all the while utterly oblivous to the ugly fact that the garish RGB phosphors of your uncalibrated Apple 13" Sony Trinitron monitor--really aren't showing you color anything close to what will even be possible in print.


    Again, I'm all for features like Illustrator's Color Guide. It's clever and fun and instructive (even if--in typical AI fashion--somewhat overdone). Years before it was added, there were innovative similar interactive colorimetric selection tools built in Flash. But in the real world, it's always been far more common for say, an interior designer to simply work with a relatively small palette of colors that are available in a particular paint product line, and pick by eyeball fabrics that she thinks "works well" with it; and for a watercolorist to think in terms of the "cobalt, cadmium, alizarin", etc. of his favorite brand of pigments; and for a print graphics designer to think in terms of Pantone spot inks and CMYK values; for a screen printer to think in terms of Nazdar color chips; for a sign painter to think in terms of One-Shot paint colors; for a post-digital sign shop to think in terms of 3M vinyl colors.


    Their thought process is more like "I think I'll use a warm orange and a corporate blue in this design" far, far more often than "I thnk I'll use pure orange and a highly desaturated variant of its colorimetric complement."


    And I dare say that even today the vast majority of Illustrator users, the vast majority of times, still simply pick colors by eye from the Pantone swatch palette and/or drag the sliders in the color palette--and never visit the Color Guide feature.


    So all I'm saying is, you can't just pick up any given set of colors that somone decided to use in a design and expect to find some exact match to it in Illustrator's Color Guide feature with a color-theoretical scheme label attached to it. You could do what I just did two paragraphs up: You can look at a small set of colors that seem pleasing to you and experiment with the Color Guide and maybe get a little theoretical insight as to why those colors look good to you--or not.



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  • Currently Being Moderated
    May 5, 2012 7:31 AM   in reply to web.boards

    Generally, are there times when you might want to use tints and shades VS. warmer/cooler VS. vivid/muted from the fly-out menu when using the Color Guide?


    Sure. You would use Tints and Shades when you--well--want to see tints and shades of the color(s) you are considering. Take the example I mentioned earlier:


    Suppose you're working on ideas for a corporate logo for a new customer. There's something about his business that makes you want to use an orange as the primary identity color. So you select an orange from one of the swatch libraries, or just build one with the color sliders; say 100Y, 60M.


    You decide that a two-color logo is not prohibitive for this project and decide to try a complimentary color scheme. You already know that blue is complementary to orange. So you select an object filled with the orange, making it the current color, click the Color Guide, select Complimentary, and the Color Guide presents that color next to its colorimetric complement, 88.63C, 27.45M. (Egads! CMYK values to the second decimal! Sure hope this will be printed on a dang accurate press!)


    You select another element of the design, and click the complimentary blue. But now looking at those two colors side-by-side in the design you think "Gee, that just looks kinda garish for this law firm. I better tone it down a bit," because you also know that "toned down" colors generally convey a more "corporate" feel.


    You already know that one way to "tone down" a color is to darken it (i.e. create a shade). So you switch to Show Tints / Shades and click some of the darker tints, say the third one from the left. You think, "Well, that's dark enough to contrast better with the orange, but it's just not blue enough; it's gone all gray, and there are already three competing law firms in the same office building that have gray logos."


    You already know that another way to "tone down" a color is to reduce its purity (saturation). So you switch the Color Guide palette to Show Vivid / Muted. You select a variant toward the  "muted" side; say the third one from the left. But now, again looking at your design, you say, "Well, dang! That retains the bluish, but it's not dark enough. I've lost contrast. This will all blur together when viewed on a billboard from a distance.  What I really want is a nice, dark, corporate-looking blue...something like Pantone 541."


    So you go to the Swatches Palette, click its Flyout Menu, slide down to Open Swatch Library, slide right to Color Books, slide right to its drop-down list, slide down to Pantone Solid Coated , and click. A separate Swatch palette finally opens up and you release your aching mouse finger and, panting heavily, stop for a rest.  After drinking some water and catching your breath, you click that palette's flyout menu to select Small List View so that the names in this color library display, curse Adobe under your breath, repeat this process to cause this stupidly-designed palette to display its Find field, curse Adobe again, this time through clenched teeth, key in 541, and finally, click the 541 swatch, making a copy of it jump into the current document's Swatch Palette. Then you close the Pantone palette and stop to calm yourself and try to remember what the heck you were doning in the first place.


    "Yeah. 541. That works."


    Six months later, the construction market takes another dive because Obama gets re-elected, the law firm needs to tighen its belt and one of the partners says "my ex-brother-in-law's nephew from a prevous marriage draws good and will work for peanuts." The nephew opens your file and says "Hey, that's not a bad color combination...wonder why I can't get Illustrator's Color Guide to tell me precisely what colorimetric schema the designer used?"


    Six months later, the law firm's controlling interest holder says, "I don't like orange. I like gray."



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  • Currently Being Moderated
    May 5, 2012 8:12 AM   in reply to JETalmage

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