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close this book Audio-Visual Communication Handbook
close this folder Basic production Techniques
View the document Illustrations
View the document Lettering
View the document Mounting and preserving pictures
View the document Coloring
View the document Design
View the document Duplication


Color Choice

Color adds significantly to many visual materials. Bright colors attract attention and add interest to signs, posters, bulletin boards, displays, transparencies and other materials. Properly used, color can improve, identify and relate specific elements of a visual. Color choices depend on several factors:

- Personal preferences. Color usage depends to a large extent on personal preferences, which vary with age, sex and culture. In general, young children seem to prefer bright colors, but this may not be universal. One can run a simple test to determine color preferences. Take swatches of a half-dozen different common colors and ask a sampling of the audience to arrange them in order of preference.

- Color meanings. Different colors mean different things to different people. Consider carefully what these meanings are when making color choices. In most Western cultures, dark colors such as dark blue, purple or black tend to be related to grief or doom. Red, orange or yellow tend to be related to happiness. These associations may or may not hold true in other cultures. Colors may also be associated with political parties, geographic regions or social groups. Careful observation and a few questions are helpful to determine what associations an audience makes to various colors.

Choose colors with positive associations for the positive parts of a message and colors with negative associations for the negative parts of a message. For example, when contrasting the right and wrong way of doing something, use colors with positive associations when showing the right way.

- Color contrast. When emphasizing a particular part of a visual, use colors that contrast with other colors in the visual. For example, should a display be composed largely of gray tones, use a bright red or blue to emphasize the center of interest. Consider a color wheel such as this one:


Any color on the wheel will contrast with its opposite - green will contrast with red, orange with blue, and violet with yellow. To heighten the contrast, one of the colors should be much lighter than the other. For example, light red will stand out against dark violet. Although a simplified approach to color contrasts, it is adequate for general use. Research has shown that the following color combinations provide good contrast and legibility:

- Color harmony. To relate parts of a visual to each other, use colors that harmonize. Colors that are near each other on the color wheel, such as blue and blue-green, or red, orange, and yellow, usually go together well. The lightness or darkness of each color, as well as its saturation, also affects harmony, but such complications are not important for most teaching materials.

In summary, when choosing colors, pay attention to the audience's likes and dislikes and to its color associations. To separate elements in a visual or to emphasize a particular item, choose colors that contrast. To relate several elements of a visual, choose colors that harmonize. Color combinations, like illustrations, should be kept simple. A few colors carefully used will be more effective than quantities of color used haphazardly.

Coloring Techniques

Coloring materials used in making visual materials fall into two major categories: those for transparencies and those to' presentation and display media

Transparencies on clear acetate can be colored with felt-point markers Some varieties work better than others See what is available and try these on the materials being used

Perhaps the easiest dyes to obtain are food colors: however. most transparent water colors in liquid or dry form can be used Some transparent colors in cake form like children's watercoloring sets. have tine particles of clay in them that do not show when put on paper or cardboard d but do show as tiny specks when used on transparencies

Colors can be diluted with water and applied with a brush or with a cotton-tipped applicator When using clear photographic film. work on the coated or emulsion side of the film. Use enough dye and allow sufficient time for it to penetrate the emulsion. To prevent uneven coloring excess dye should be blotted with a piece of soft paper. A wide variety of colorants can be used for opaque materials The best choice will depend primarily on what is available Powdered solid or liquid water colors, colored inks. dyes crayons and colored pencils - all can be used for coloring posters signs flannel board materials elements of display and many other articles When visuals will be subjected to the- weather use oil or plastic-base paints


If commercial coloring materials are not readily available, use dyes and pigments obtainable in the market. They will often work equally well at less cost. Some suggestions for making dyes and paints are included in Appendix 4.


Brushes are the best way to apply paint or ink, but a dauber made by stuffing a wad of cotton into the end of a bamboo rod also can be used. Brushes can be made from raffia, bamboo or chicken feathers. Spray cans are great, if available, but they are expensive. A sponge or a toothbrush can be used for textured effects. The sponge is dipped into the colors and then daubed on the surface to be colored. With a toothbrush, dip the brush into the color and then draw a piece of cardboard across the bristles so that the paint or ink flies off creating a textured pattern.