Layering colors for a Powerful Effect

Consider your color palette – you do this every day when you get dressed, you do it when your ponder how to decorate your home – and you do it for your graphic design. Often we don’t take into account the power of layering colors in graphic design – to do that, we have to get into a 3D mindset.

We hear a lot about a ‘pop’ of color. This is usually bright or contrasting color to create a focus to the design. But you don’t need bright colors to get your pop – depth is all about how colors ‘pop’ and layer and draw the eye.

White Flowers

Nature gives us a wonderful understanding of how to create layering and depth that gives us harmony and focal point. The more muted colors from this dogwood tree each give something to the whole picture. The green leaves give a deep and rich background, with the spines adding movement and moving our eye along. The shape of the petals reflect the shape of the leaves, while giving a pleasing and comforting roundness to our middle ground, above the slightly more streamlined leaf shape. The petals have a particular shade or white, a muted gray-white bone shade that harmonizes with the green of the leaves while standing out. Imagine if the petals were a brighter white – too stark! or a yellow white – too sallow! Shade of color is vital. The stamens and pistils at the center of the flower give fuzzy texture in a light browny beige. This is our pop in the foreground – the different texture and round shape anchor the whole effect.

As we create a graphic design, it helps to think of the color scheme as a landscape – we have our background, middle ground and foreground. Choosing our colors to layer and texture, to anchor and give focus, will create a riot of harmony. We can do this with any color scheme – monochrome, bright colors, a mix of bright and subdued colors – or muted colors as we did here. Let’s get our hands dirty and play around with different colors and shades, interpose them over each other, mess about with all sorts of shapes and watch as our own color palette takes shape.