Color Theory Tips for Children's Books
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 10 min read


  1. What is color theory?
  2. How to choose a color palette
  3. Why colors influence emotions
  4. How to use colors to enhance storytelling
  5. Tips for creating a color script
  6. How to balance colors in your illustrations
  7. Why color contrast matters
  8. How to use colors to draw attention
  9. Color theory examples in children's books
  10. Tips for testing your color choices

Imagine reading a children's book with no colors—just black and white text and illustrations. It's a bit dull, isn't it? Colors bring stories to life and make them more engaging for children. If you're an aspiring children's book author or illustrator, understanding color theory can help you create captivating visuals that kids will love. Improving color theory in your children's book isn't just about making it pretty—it's about enhancing the story and the overall reading experience. But how do you improve color theory in a children's book? Let's find out!

What is color theory?

Color theory is a set of rules that artists use to understand how colors work together. It's like the grammar of color—it tells us how to combine colors to create a certain mood or effect. If you've ever wondered why some colors make you feel calm while others make you feel excited, that's color theory at work.

Here are some key concepts you should know:

  • Primary colors: Red, blue, and yellow. All other colors come from mixing these three.
  • Secondary colors: Green, orange, and purple. These are made by mixing two primary colors.
  • Tertiary colors: These are made by mixing a primary color with a secondary color. Examples include red-orange and blue-green.
  • Complementary colors: These are colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel, like red and green. They create high contrast when used together.
  • Analogous colors: These are colors that are next to each other on the color wheel, like blue and green. They create a harmonious feel when used together.
  • Warm and cool colors: Warm colors (like red, orange, and yellow) can create feelings of warmth, comfort, and energy. Cool colors (like blue, green, and purple) can create feelings of calm and relaxation.

By understanding these concepts, you can start to make more informed decisions about how to use color in your children's book. You can create a mood, highlight important parts of your illustrations, and even influence how your readers feel as they read your story. And that's just the beginning of how to improve color theory in a children's book!

How to choose a color palette

Choosing a color palette is one of the first steps in applying color theory to your children's book. But how do you choose the right colors? Here's a simple process that you can follow.

  1. Think about your story: What kind of mood do you want to create? A bright and cheerful story might benefit from a palette of vibrant primary colors, while a quiet bedtime story might call for a palette of cool, calming blues and purples.
  2. Consider your audience: Younger children tend to be attracted to bright, bold colors, while older children might appreciate a more sophisticated palette.
  3. Choose your primary colors: These will be the main colors in your palette. You might choose one warm color and one cool color for balance, or you might choose two warm or two cool colors for a more harmonious look.
  4. Add some secondary and tertiary colors: These can add depth and interest to your palette. They can also help you highlight important elements in your illustrations.
  5. Don't forget about neutrals: Colors like black, white, and gray can help balance out your palette and give your eyes a place to rest.

Remember, there's no right or wrong when it comes to choosing a color palette—it's all about what works for your story and your audience. And don't be afraid to experiment! Trying out different color combinations can be a fun and rewarding part of the creative process. It's a great way to learn how to improve color theory in your children's book.

Why colors influence emotions

Colors can influence our emotions in powerful ways. This is because colors are like a universal language—we all respond to them on an instinctual level. So, when you're thinking about how to improve color theory in your children's book, it's important to consider how colors can affect the mood and feel of your story.

Ever wondered why we feel calm when we look at a blue sky, or why a bright yellow sunflower can make us feel happy? It's all down to color psychology. Here are some common emotional responses to different colors:

  • Red: Excitement, energy, and passion. But be careful—too much red can also evoke feelings of anger or danger.
  • Orange: Warmth, enthusiasm, and creativity. It's a great color for encouraging imagination and adventure.
  • Yellow: Happiness, optimism, and joy. It's the color of sunshine, after all!
  • Green: Harmony, growth, and safety. It's often used to represent nature and the environment.
  • Blue: Peace, trust, and stability. It can have a calming effect, which is why it's often used in bedrooms and relaxation spaces.
  • Purple: Luxury, mystery, and spirituality. It can also evoke a sense of magic and wonder.
  • Black: Power, elegance, and formality. But too much black can be overwhelming and create a sense of heaviness or darkness.
  • White: Purity, innocence, and simplicity. It's often used to create a sense of space and clarity.

By understanding these emotional responses, you can use color to enhance the emotional impact of your story. It's one of the most effective ways to improve color theory in your children's book.

How to use colors to enhance storytelling

Now that you know how colors can influence emotions, let's talk about how you can use them to enhance the storytelling in your children's book. Storytelling and color theory go hand in hand. Here's a step-by-step guide on how to improve color theory in children's books:

  1. Understand your story: The first step is to really understand your story. What's the mood of the story? Is it a happy tale, a sad one, or maybe a mix of both? This will help you choose the right colors.
  2. Decide on a color palette: Next, decide on a color palette that matches the mood of your story. For example, a happy story might use lots of bright, vibrant colors, while a sad story might use more muted, darker tones.
  3. Use color for emphasis: Use color to emphasize important parts of your story. For example, you might use a bright, bold color for a key character or an important event.
  4. Be consistent: Be consistent with your color choices. If you use a certain color to represent a character or a feeling, stick with it throughout the book. This helps readers make connections and understand the story better.

Remember, colors are a powerful tool in storytelling. They can help to create mood, highlight important elements, and even help children understand complex emotions. So don't be afraid to experiment with color in your children's book—it's one of the best ways to enhance your storytelling and improve your color theory.

Tips for creating a color script

Creating a color script for your children's book can be daunting, but it's a great way to ensure your book has a consistent, coherent color scheme. Here's how to create a color script to improve color theory in your children's book:

  1. Plan out your story: Before you start your color script, plan out your story. Break it down into key scenes or events. This will make it easier to decide on colors for each scene.
  2. Choose your colors: For each scene, choose a main color that reflects the mood or tone of that part of the story. This could be a bright, sunny color for a happy scene, or a dark, stormy color for a dramatic scene.
  3. Test your colors: Once you've chosen your colors, it's time to test them out. Paint a small section of your book to see how the colors look together. If something doesn't look right, don't be afraid to make changes.
  4. Be consistent: Consistency is key when it comes to color scripting. Make sure your colors are consistent throughout your book, and that they match the mood and tone of your story.

Creating a color script can take time, but it's worth the effort. It can help you create a visually stunning book that tells your story in a colorful, engaging way. Happy painting!

How to balance colors in your illustrations

Balancing colors in your illustrations isn't just about making things look pretty. It's a way to guide your reader's eyes and to enhance the storytelling. Here's how to improve color theory in your children's book by balancing colors in your illustrations:

  1. Use a color wheel: A color wheel is a handy tool that can help you understand color relationships. For instance, complementary colors (those opposite on the wheel) can create a vibrant contrast, while analogous colors (those next to each other) produce a harmonious effect.
  2. Consider the mood: The mood of a scene can guide your color choices. Warm colors can express happiness and excitement, while cool colors can convey calm or sadness.
  3. Remember the rule of thirds: This rule suggests that an image should be divided into nine equal parts. The key elements of your illustration should fall at the intersection points for a balanced look.
  4. Use color to create depth: Different colors can create a sense of depth in your illustrations. For example, cooler colors tend to recede into the background while warmer colors appear to come forward.

Remember, there's no one-size-fits-all method to balance colors. It's all about trial and error, and what works best for your story. So, don't be afraid to experiment with different colors until you find the balance that's right for your book.

Why color contrast matters

Contrast in color is a lot like salt in soup: just the right amount can bring everything to life, but too much can be overpowering. But why does color contrast matter so much in children's books? Let's break it down:

  1. Visibility: High contrast makes your illustrations pop off the page. It helps young readers distinguish different elements on the page, a key aspect on how to improve color theory in children's books.
  2. Focus: Using contrasting colors can help guide the reader's eye to important parts of the illustration. You can use it to highlight key characters, objects or actions in your story.
  3. Emotion: Contrasting colors can also evoke strong emotions. For example, a bright, cheery character on a dark, gloomy background can create a feeling of hope amidst despair.

So, when you're working on your next children's book, remember to play around with color contrasts. It can be the difference between a good book and a great book.

How to use colors to draw attention

Colors are the biggest show-offs in the art world, and as an illustrator, you can use this to your advantage. Clever use of colors can guide your young reader's gaze exactly where you want it to go. Here's how you can improve color theory in your children's book by using colors to draw attention:

  1. Use bright colors for important elements: Bright colors naturally catch the eye, so use them for key parts of your illustration. The red cape of Little Red Riding Hood or the yellow brick road in The Wizard of Oz are classic examples.
  2. Employ color contrasts: We've already talked about why color contrast matters, but it's worth repeating. Contrasting colors draw the eye and can highlight important details in your illustrations.
  3. Play with color saturation: More saturated colors are more intense and will draw the eye more than less saturated colors. But remember, balance is key. Too many saturated colors can be overwhelming.

Remember, colors are a powerful tool in your illustrator's toolkit. Use them wisely, and they'll make your illustrations more engaging and effective.

Color theory examples in children's books

Let's look at some specific examples of how color theory can be used to improve a children's book.

  1. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle: This classic children's book uses bold, vibrant colors to draw attention to the caterpillar and the foods it eats. The green of the caterpillar stands out against the bright colors of the fruits, making it the focus of the reader's attention.
  2. Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown: The calming, cool colors in this bedtime story create a soothing atmosphere. The use of darker shades in the room scenes provides a feeling of nighttime, aligning perfectly with the book's theme.
  3. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak: The author uses color to enhance the mood of the story. The wild things are in darker, mysterious colors, while Max, the protagonist, is in a bright wolf suit, drawing attention to him amidst the wild things.

These examples show how color theory can be used to enhance the storytelling in a children's book, guiding the reader's attention and evoking specific emotions. So, as you go about improving the color theory in your children's book, remember to think about what kind of mood or focus you want to create with your colors.

Tips for testing your color choices

So, you've picked out colors for your children's book and have a general idea of how they'll work together. Now, it's time to put those color choices to the test. Here are some tips to help you do just that:

  1. Print it out: Colors can look different on screen compared to when they are printed. So, it's a good idea to print out your illustrations to see how the colors look on paper.
  2. Ask for feedback: Don't hesitate to ask others for their opinions. Friends, family members, or even a group of children can offer valuable insights into how your color choices are perceived.
  3. Consider different lighting conditions: Remember that your book may be read in various lighting conditions, from bright, natural light to softer, indoor lighting. Test your color choices under these different conditions to ensure they still work well.
  4. Use a color blind simulator: This can help you understand how your colors might be seen by color blind readers. There are several free online tools available for this.

Testing your color choices is a crucial step in improving color theory in your children's book. It helps ensure that your colors not only look good together but also effectively convey your story's mood and focus. So take the time to test, adjust, and retest until you're satisfied with the results. The end product will be all the better for it!

If you enjoyed learning about color theory tips for children's books and want to further enhance your skills in creating visually stunning illustrations, check out Carolina Vázquez's workshop, 'Illustration Tips: Creative Storytelling with Colour palettes.' This workshop will provide you with valuable insights on how to effectively use color palettes to captivate your young audience through creative storytelling.