Graphic Design / Interactive Design / Fine & Applied Arts / Parkland College

Graphic Design Exercises
Design Principles: Color Tools (Food)


To explore color principles by mixing colors. To become familiar with color theory and Adobe's color harmony rules.


Choosing good color combinations starts with color theory but always ends with a gut feeling. Although it takes years to become a color connoisseur, Adobe has introduced new tools that are designed to help beginners make good color choices. Sometimes these tools save time. Other times these tools will get in the way of your gut instinct. In other words, proceed with caution.

In this exercise, we will create three color compositions using Adobe's color tools. Some will be more successful than others. If you're not satisfied with the automated results, you can always make manual adjustments.

*If you have a Adobe Creative Cloud account, Adobe apps will integrate nicely with your online assets which can be shared. In D019, access to Creative Cloud from within Adobe apps is not allowed, so we will have to use a few work-arounds to access our online assets.


Prepping for the exercise

  1. download starter files, open "food.pdf" in Illustrator
  2. add your name to the place card
  3. save as "food-test1.pdf"
  4. window > color theme: launch adobe color website
    (or browse to
  5. sign in with your adobe ID (or create a new ID)

Using Adobe Color (formerly Adobe Kuler)

  1. go to ASSETS: COLORS
    (click your name or browse to
  2. click EXPLORE: find an interesting color theme (EDIT COPY)
    • adjust HSB sliders
    • SAVE: add to "food" library
  3. click CREATE: create from image
    • upload "wedding.jpg" (or choose your own)
    • choose color mood
    • SAVE: add to "food" library
    • adjust HSB sliders (EDIT COPY)
    • SAVE
  4. click CREATE: choose rule
    • set base color, adjust HSB sliders
    • rotate base color (if needed)
    • SAVE: add to "food" library
  5. take screenshot of your favorite theme (or use the GRAB utility)
  6. paste screenshot into Illustrator*
  7. object > image trace > make (preset=16 colors)
  8. object > expand
  9. window > swatches: new color group
  10. apply colors to art
  11. save, save as "food-test2.pdf"

Using Illustrator's Color Guide

  1. window > color guide
  2. select an object to set the "base color"
  3. set "base color" (click first swatch)
  4. repeat as needed
  5. select > all (cmd+A)
  6. edit or apply colors (button)
  7. exclude color(s) from being recolored (arrow)
  8. click EDIT tab to see color wheel
  9. choose a harmony rule
  10. adjust HSB sliders
  11. save color groups that you like (folder icon)
  12. try the following tests:
    • rotate a color
    • adjust overall saturation (button)
    • adjust overall brightness (button)
  13. link/unlick colors and try the above tests again
  14. save, save as "food-test3.pdf"

Recolor artwork randomly

  1. click ASSIGN tab to see color list
  2. try the following tests:
    • randomly change color order (button)
    • randomly change saturation/brightness (button)
  3. return to EDIT tab to refine
  4. save color groups that you like (folder icon)
  5. limit colors to a library (i.e. food) and try the above tests again (button)


  1. have your instructor critique your best color schemes on screen
  2. based on the critique above, make adjustments (if needed)
  3. submit color laser proofs with your name on it for grading
  4. file graded proof in your Process Book for final review
  5. also save a PDF of your exercise (smallest file size) and publish it as a link on your Process Page (see FAQ )

Adobe tips:

  • cmd = last used pointer tool
  • space = hand
  • space+cmd = zoom in
  • space+cmd+opt = zoom out
  • cmd+zero = fit in window
  • the view menu offers other hotkeys

Last updated: 3/2/17 ■ Webmaster: Paul Young