If you’ve finally made the decision and decided to design t-shirts for your specific purpose, then we understand that designing the t-shirts is certainly one of the nicest parts of the process. Although you probably already have certain ideas in mind, we are happy to offer you a very useful guide to ensure that you choose the right colours for your t-shirts. The last thing we want is that the expectations of your customers do not match the actual product of course. This guide will prevent your t-shirts from becoming a new example of the “expectations v.s reality” memes. Nevertheless, you always remain the designer in charge, this only serves for a small support.
The basics of the color theory
Let’s start from the beginning and that contains, in this case, understanding the basics of the colour theory. You may vaguely remember this from high school, but to refresh your memory, we start with the colours red, blue and yellow that serve as primary colours. These are the basic colours and with these particular colours you should be able to mix any colour. If you mix red and yellow, you get orange; when mixing blue and yellow, you get green; and if you mix red and blue, you get violet. Orange, green and violet are therefore called secondary colours.
You are now probably curious about the specific color combinations that you can use to design your t-shirts. These basic rules are actually very easy and we have listed them for you:
Complementary colours: these are colours that are exactly opposite each other such as red and green, or orange and blue. The contrast between these colours is big so use this combination if you want something to stand out.
Analogous colours: these are any three colours next to each other on the wheel. For example, red, orange and red-orange. Using these color scheme creates a rich, monochromatic look.
Triadic colours: triadic colours are any three colours that are equally apart on the color wheel. An example of this is blue, red and yellow. This scheme also contains a high contrast though the trick here is to let one color dominate and accent with the other two.
Split complementary and tetradic colours: this is considered the most difficult scheme because it uses four different colours. You should choose a color to be dominant or subdue the other colours. Avoid using pure colours in equal amounts.
Now that you have absorbed the basic rules of colour matching, it is also important to realise that colours can trigger emotions in people. Warm colours often bring energy and joy, and cold colours bring calmness and tranquility. If you are interested in more information about colour psychology, you should read this article “Colour Psychology: How Colour Meanings Affect Your Brand”
Before you get started we looked up some examples of t-shirts from previous campaigns to get you inspired.
As you can see in the first example, three different colours shades were used: light blue, turquoise and purple/pink-ish. These three colours lie side by side on the colour scheme and therefore it can be said that they used a analogous colours scheme.
This t-shirt model used four different but striking colours. These four colours all differ a lot from each other and therefore it can be said that they used the tetradic colours scheme.
When we look at the design of the logo, only two different colours are used. These colours are exactly opposite of each other on the colour scheme and therefore they used the complementary colours scheme.