In uniform design, colour is usually very clearly defined by the company branding. However, a company’s main brand colours are often strong colours. How do you create a colour scheme that works with your brand colours without making your staff look like a rainbow?
In 1666 Sir Isaac Newton drew the first colour wheel. Although this has been amended through the years, the basic structure has remained the same. He designed it so that almost any colour picked from the wheel will look good with any other colour also chosen from the wheel. Below we will go over colour harmonies – these are particularly pleasing ways in which the colour wheel can be used to make colour schemes.
Hues, Tints, Shade & Tones
These are terms that are often used incorrectly or even interchangeably whereas they are distinctly different things. Hues make up the colour wheel and they are a pure colour, i.e. one with the absence of any added black or white pigment. A tint is a colour that has been made lighter by adding white. A colour made darker by adding black is called a shade. Once grey is added the colour is a tone.
Your brand colours may be made up of bright hues and you may not wish to use these for your entire uniform. Tints, shades and tones can all be used to create a base colour for your garments that will go very well with your corporate colours.
Complementary Colour Schemes
This is created by using the colours opposite each other on the wheel – e.g. yellow and purple. This is a very vibrant look, especially when the colours are used at full saturation and must be carefully implemented to ensure that it is not too harsh.
Analogous Colour Scheme
An analogous colour scheme is one where consecutive colours on the wheel are used together. The challenge here is ensuring that you have enough contrast. This colour scheme is often found in nature and is very soft on the eye. It is a good idea to have one dominant colour with one supportive colour, using the third colour along with black and white as an accent.
Triadic Colour Scheme
This colour scheme is created by using every fourth colour on the colour wheel. This is a vibrant option, even when using shades or tints of the colours. When using the triadic colour scheme allowing one colour to be the dominant colour can dramatically change the overall effect and feeling of your uniform colour scheme.
This is not an exhaustive list of colour schemes by any means but it gives an idea of the way the colour wheel can be used to complement and further the success of your uniform. Try the split complementary colour scheme, the rectangular tetrad or the square tetrad colour schemes for further ideas of how much you can play with colour!