A color scheme for your game is important. Of course, you’re saying, “Well, duh.” But let’s look into how colors are used, why they match, and why they are important.
How colors are used in video games is what helps to make a great game. Color theory is the understanding of colors to human interaction and is an important part of video game design. Colors set off certain moods, feelings, reactions, and combinations of colors to take a person from one feeling to another in a smooth or drastic way, depending on what emotion you are trying to get. Understanding how to do this, and how to do it well starts with understanding colors and how they work and affect people. Let’s talk about how to work with colors as well as how colors work for people.
- Primary Colors
- Secondary Colors
- Tertiary Colors
A color wheel is a great tool. This tool helps you know how to mix colors perfectly with paint, colored pencils, markers, and Photoshop. The basic color wheel will contain just primary, secondary, and tertiary colors. More advanced color wheels will contain the hues, tints, shades, and sometimes more specific details about how to use the colors.
Having a color wheel handy at all times is essential for a game designer working on a color scheme. Eventually, when a game designer becomes proficient with colors, he or she won’t need the wheel, except as a reference to look at when he or she is having artist’s block. However, a color wheel is definitely a mandatory tool for help with finding your game’s color scheme.
The primary colors are red, blue, and yellow. They are called primary because they cannot be made by mixing other colors together.
Secondary colors are the color formed when 2 primary colors are mixed together. These colors are green, orange, and purple.
Tertiary Colors or Intermediate Colors
Tertiary or intermediate colors are made by mixing one primary and one secondary color together. These are your yellow-oranges, red-oranges, indigos, aqua, and yellow-greens.
Matching Color Scheme on the Color Wheel
Now you have your color wheel. What do you do with these colors? Well, you need to match some together to give your game a color scheme. There are lots of color schemes that can be created. Below is a list of some of the major color schemes to help you get started.
- Complementary Colors
- Split Complementary Colors
- Diad Colors
- Triad Colors
- Tetrad Colors
- Analogous Colors
- Rainbow Colors
Complimentary colors are sometimes called opposite colors because on the color wheel, they are the colors opposite of one another. Blue and orange, yellow and purple, and red and green are some examples of these colors.
Split Complementary Colors
Split complementary colors are one color on the color wheel with the two colors that are next to the first color’s opposite. Above, you can see one color on top of the two colors that are next to it on the color wheel. I’m sure any of these would make a cool color scheme!
Diad colors are two colors that are two colors from each other on the color wheel. There are a lot of interesting duo color schemes you could make. Above, we have some examples side by side.
On the color wheel, triad colors are three colors that are equally spaced from each other. This is a great way to come up with a triple color scheme. Above, we have four examples of triad color schemes.
Tetrad colors are defined as four or more colors on the color wheel. Now we are getting crazy, but let’s face it. There are lots of colors to be used in a game. Using a four-color scheme can be very useful.
Analogous colors are colors that are next to each other on the color wheel. Typically, these colors are either one primary or one secondary color and two tertiary colors.
Rainbow colors are all six primary and secondary colors. They are also the colors we as humans can see from our color spectrum. Rainbows remind us of the sunshine after a storm. Feel the love! It also reminds us of The Wall, by Pink Floyd. Peace out.
Colors with a Sense of Feel
Within the color scheme, are colors that can give you a sense of being warm or cold. They are typically colors associated with things we see in the world, like icy blue, or fire red. The next color scheme list is of your feeling colors.
- Warm Colors
- Cool Colors
Warm Color Scheme
Warm colors, sometimes called aggressive colors are the colors on one half of the color wheel that will normally be more attention-grabbing. They are the reds, yellows, and oranges.
Cool Color Scheme
Cool colors, sometimes called recessive colors are the colors on one half of the color wheel that normally give off a calm feeling. They are the blues, violets, and greens. Ever heard the phrase ‘cool as a cucumber’? Well, not only are cucumbers typically cold, they are green, which is a cool color. Cool, right?
Breaking Your Brown Color Scheme Down
Brown is a pretty dull color. But it is everywhere in the world, from wood houses to the dirt under our feet. Because browns are everywhere, understanding how to use them is a good way to create a unique color scheme. Brown isn’t so dull after all.
- Neutral Colors
Neutral colors are brown and tan colors. These colors are called neutral because it is the mixture of all three primary colors. There are lots of different browns in the world. From red browns for clay-like desserts to green browns in a forest, you have a lot of options to make a beautiful brown color scheme. Spice up your browns and try adding some black or white and you’ll have a crazy neutral time.
Intensity Color Scheme
Intensity or chroma is the brightness or dullness of colors. Adding brown to colors will bring the intensity down. To make less intense colors you must mix any color with browns or tans. This can cause earthy-looking scenes, or maybe your game is based on the Hippy Generation? I’ve heard they had a lot of mud at Woodstock.
Color Scheme and Saturation
Color saturation is how much or little of the color we can see. To bring down the intensity of a color you would normally ad grays, whites, blacks, or a combination of them.
Your color scheme could be bright like a cartoon, soft like Easter at church, or dark like the underworld. Below we have a list of how you can do this with your colors, and what those actions are.
- Tint Colors
- Tone Colors
- Shade Colors
- Grayscale Colors
Tint colors are colors by adding white to them. These colors remind us of Easter, weddings, spring, and other happy moments in our lives.
Tone colors are colors that have gray added to them. Colors with gray in them tend to give a sad feeling. The scene could be a rainy day, or about someone crying over the loss of a loved one. Grays bring on the sad.
Shade colors are colors that have black added to them. By adding black to a color, you can give a dark tone to your game. Whether your game is a night, or just based on something evil, the darkness is a fun one.
Can’t forget the absences of colors! Grayscales are important, too. Above, we have a gradient of a black to white grayscale.
Color Scheme Me Wild
Because there are lots of ways to make colors, there is likely an infinite amount of variety of colors. How much you mix, black or white; your options are endless.
What is your favorite game color scheme? Tell us in the comments below!