Now that spring has well and truly sprung, there is plenty of outdoor inspiration for some great colour palettes. But creating outstanding work is about far more than just using nature’s palette, whatever the season, and hoping for the best.

For many creatives, going back to school with colour theory and even colour psychology is the real starting point.

At the heart of colour theory is the colour wheel, which helps us pick out colours that work together. For example, complementary colours can be used to separate a character from its background – with a warm colour for the character and a cool one for the background.

Many software applications have a colour wheel built into their toolsets, and many users find the myPantone website and iPhone app, which enable you to select base colours and schemes, handy. But some believe that while the rules of colour theory are important, it is crucial not to be constrained by them.

“It’s invaluable to grasp the basics of colour theory, but this doesn’t mean it should dictate things too much,” says Scot Bendall of La Boca (laboca.co.uk), the self-styled ‘design circus’ based in London. “Although we primarily use computers to create our work, we try to avoid mechanical processes as much as possible. Creating artwork should be a free-flowing experience, and pausing to think about colour rules can interfere in that process,” he adds. “Building colour schemes now happens instinctively [for us] – we don’t have a set method for every project.”

While instinct is obviously a powerful driver, consciously choosing palettes that have been used by other artists over the years can help evoke a particular style or mood.