COVER DESIGN TIPS: Colour Part 3 of 4



Leonardo da Vinci knew how to use colour. He knew how it worked in relation to object, light and surroundings. He made a point of understanding it. Take a look at how colour gradually developed in his work along with some explanations of colour within his paintings


“Colour is probably the most powerful non-verbal form of communication we can use as designers. Our minds are programmed to respond to colour. The subliminal messages we get from colour shape our thoughts. As humans our very survival is hung on the identification of colour. We stop our cars for red lights and go on green, we look at the colour of certain plants and animals to determine whether or not they are safe for us to eat or touch, the bottom line is that colour is a very important part of our daily lives. It’s important for us as designers to use colour appropriately and understand the meaning behind the colours we choose.”
Erik Peterson


I love colour. Life would be rather dull without it. Just think of how television and movies started. In black and white. Perhaps life was simpler without colour – even if it seemed duller.

This post is based on many resources I use and found while writing this post. It’s a little here and a little there. A bit like colour – it’s everywhere.

Just as typefaces, colour has the ability to change a cover dramatically. As every other element on a cover, colour plays a unique and vital role. The art in book cover design is creating a balance between all the different elements from typeface, colour, negative space, mood, and genre to telling the story at a single, split second glance. First get the basic structure right as a black and white piece before you start applying colour.

Try Googling ‘colour psychology’. There are loads of websites on this topic. Such as Red is seen as vibrant, one of the warmer colours, also portraying excitement and power. Take a look at MacDonald’s, RedBull and Coca-Cola. If you look into the history behind their branding you may see why they use the colour red. It’s no accident and it wasn’t just because it looked ‘nice’. So make informed decisions about the message you’d like to send out. Be intentional. Be informed.


Screen Shot 2014-04-09 at 8.57.07 PMA handy resource to have when working with colour is ADOBE KULER. An excellent resource and place to get your colour inspiration from.


Color Wheel - comp_Page_1This colour wheel above I found from Art projects for kids website. What better way to explain something than explaining it to a child! The colour wheel is the foundation of how colour works; how colour is formed; which colours work best together; and which don’t.

And then for a bit of colour theory for those who need a refresher 🙂

PRIMARY COLOURS: RED • YELLOW • BLUE  These are colours that cannot be created through the mixing of other colours. They are colours in their own right.

SECONDARY COLOURS: primary colours can be mixed together to produce Secondary Colours.

TERTIARY COLOURS: is a colour made by mixing either one primary colour with one secondary colour, or two secondary colours.


Please feel free to share any other resources in the comments below. There are so many facts and resources on colour that it’s almost impossible to cover in a single post. Perhaps it needs a follow up. Perhaps in the future.

My last post on COVER DESIGN TIPS will follow soon.

Stay tuned. Stay curious 😉


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