This refers to how bright or dull a color appears. Highly saturated colors are pure and vivid, while less saturated colors are more muted and neutral, which happens when you mix black or white to a base color (also referred to as "tints" and "shades"). Going back to that color wheel (yeah, I guess it does come in handy) mixing a hue with its complement (or a color that appears across from it) will also make a color more neutral. Having similar levels of saturation throughout your palette can help create harmony. That being said, you'll probably still want to reserve the brightest, most saturated colors to add "pops" of color and accents, since bombarding the eye with too many saturated colors throughout your piece can cause visual fatigue (this goes back to the idea of contrast). That's not to say you can't have all bright or all soft colors in your design. There's mood and purpose to consider as well...
3. Mood and Purpose
When you start a piece, do you ask yourself why you're creating it? For example, if you're designing a surface pattern, what is the end purpose—fabric for quilting, wallpaper, clothing? Who are you making this for? The answers to these questions should be directing your decisions throughout the entire process, including color choices. There are a few key points to consider regarding mood:
Psychology of Color
There are deep connections between color and emotions. They can spark feelings of excitement, peace, fun, anger, happiness... you get the picture. You can also use color to convey moods, such as rustic, natural, or urban. People have written loads about the psychology of color, and it is interesting to research. When you approach your design, step back and look at your colors and focus on the emotions and images they evoke. Are those the same ideas you want your overall design to present?
Holidays and seasons
People make automatic associations between specific colors and holidays and seasons. One obvious example is pairing Christmas with red and green. It's good to keep this in mind if you're designing a seasonal piece.
Evaluate who your design needs to appeal to and let that guide your color decisions as well. For example, soft pastels are often used in feminine or baby designs. Darks and neutrals are more masculine. Designs aimed at toddlers and kids are usually full of bright, saturated colors.
4. Finally, there are always exceptions.
When it comes to color, there are no solid rules. Use your intuition and do what looks and feels right to you. Perhaps take these guidelines, and turn them upside down to create something unexpected. Sometimes breaking the rules makes the most impact!
I hope you find these guidelines helpful. As always, enjoy the process. Art—and color—is fun!
This Month's Theme is...COLOR