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26 Pairing Colors

Take seriously the potential for aesthetic beauty and thematic intrigue even when working with as few as two colors of ink.

Generate connotations of visual energy by combining a pair of saturated hues (just be wary of pairing bright hues with similar values since this can cause the unpleasant visual buzz mentioned on page 78). Also convey visual charisma through strong levels of contrast between the hue, value, and/or saturation of any two colors that you use together.

Lessen projections of aesthetic vigor by restricting the levels of saturation in a pair of colors, and also by limiting differences between the two hues’ values.

In terms of printing, keep in mind that there are at least a couple of ways of inflating the appearance of a two-color print job. For one thing, you can always expand each color of ink into a set of monochromatic relatives by including lighter tints of each color. And—because printing inks are transparent—you may be able to lay your colored inks on top of each other to produce additional hues. A yellow ink, for example, when printed on top of a blue ink, will produce green (exactly what kind of green it might yield might be difficult to predict without paying the printer to run some tests prior to the actual press run, but it will yield a green).

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