Oversimplified: Color Theory

November 10, 2018

Our in-store design wall and the online builder here at Mission Bicycle are where our customers are encouraged to lend their sense of personal style to their soon-to-be steeds. Design choices range from component selection to riding style and (often the most challenging decision) color selection.

Sometimes this process can take 5-10 minutes, other times it can take hours, days, or even months of contemplation before a customer is fully satisfied with their final color combination.

And you know what? It makes sense. Colors are admittedly tricky to work with, so finding the right hues to live alongside eachother can be a daunting task for some, a simple task for others, and a different process altogether for each and every one of us. That's why we're back with another installment of the oversimplified series for all you information famished cyclists.

This month we're focusing on the color wheel, how it works, and how you can use it to your advantage when dreaming up new color combinations for a bike (or really anything you want).

A Bit of History:

Many know him only for his work with gravity, which collectively as cyclists most of us will admit we have a love/hate relationship with.

We're talking, of course, about Sir Isaac Newton, who in the mid 1600's was conducting experiments involving white light. In 1666 his work would lead him to the groundbreaking discovery of the visible spectrum of light when he allowed light to pass through a glass prism.

In his original depiciton of the color wheel, Newton displayed the colors in the order they were output via the prism: Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet, or ROY G BIV as many of us learned in primary school.


The Color Wheel Today:

The color wheel is a tool that we often use as artists and designers to understand the ways in which colors interact with eachother. 

Primary Colors:

Red, blue and yellow are primary colors. They serve as the bases and building blocks for which all other colors on the wheel are created. 

Secondary Colors:

Secondary colors are what result when you mix any two primary colors together in equal parts. If you mix red and yellow, you get orange; mix blue and yellow, you get green; mix red and blue, you get violet. Orange, green and violet. What happens if you mix all three primary colors? That's right, you get a muddy brown.

Tertiary Colors:

Tertiary colors are what results when mixing a primary color with a secondary color. There are six tertiary colors; red-orange, yellow-orange, yellow-green, blue-green, blue-violet, and red-violet.

Warm and Cool Colors:

Color temperature, just like the weather, can be described as either warm or cool. This is best illustrated by dividing the wheel down the middle to separate the warm from the cool. Warm colors are said to exhibit emotions like energy and joy, while cool colors are said to envoke calmness and peace. 

Color Harmony:

Color harmony occurs through the juxtaposition of two or more colors in a way that is pleasing to the eye. It envokes a sense of order, and visual balance. When something is not harmonious, however, it has a tendency to read as either boring or chaotic. The former reads as bland and therefore not visually engaging to the viewer, while the latter reads as so unhinged that it can often be too much for the viewer to handle or understand. Color harmony sits happily in the middle of these two extremes to deliver visual interest and a sense of order.


Creating Color Harmony:

Ok, so truth be told there are actually tons of techniques for creating color harmony, but we'll start small (with 4 basics) and encourage you to explore further on your own...

Analogous Colors- Any colors which are side by side on a 12-part color wheel, such as yellow-green, yellow, and yellow-orange, or in this case violet and red-violet. Typically one of the colors predominates.


Complementary Colors- Any two colors which are directly opposite each other, such as red and green or the orange and blue color combination shown above. These opposing colors are known to create maximum contrast for a look that's sure to be a real eye-catcher.


Triadic Colors- Any three colors that are equally apart on the color wheel. For an easy example we've chosen the primary colors, red, yellow and blue. The Triadic scheme is another high-contrast color combo, but more balanced than complementary colors. Pro tip: Let one color dominate and accent with the other two.


Color Scheme Based on Nature- The world around us can often times provide a perfect reference point for naturally occuring color harmony. In the photos above, yellow, white, and green create a harmonious design, regardless of whether this combination fits into a technical formula for color harmony.


Using your knowledge:

So now you're all jazzed to try out your new skills on our online builder, but remember one thing: this was just a guide – when it comes to your own personal style, there are no rules. So have fun, play around, and create something that's inherently you.


...and as a little incentive to get you going on the builder this month, we'll be discounting our bikes for a very VERY limited time.

We'll be automatically applying a discount ( $150 off single speed bikes and $200 off 8-speeds) on all bikes purchased from 12:00am on Nov 23 (Black Friday) to 11:59pm on Nov 26th (Cyber Monday).

Discount is available to all and not limited to one per person, etc. so if you've been waiting to buy a bike...

Now would be a great time to start designing.