Color Harmony: Color Schemes Explained
Choosing the Right Color Scheme Makes or Breaks a Design
In painting as well as in interior décor, graphic design, photography, fashion design, garden design, and all artistic expressions, the choice of colors determines the mood of the creation, the level of energy that will be conveyed, and if it’s pleasant to the viewer or not.
As you are choosing the color scheme, you are determining the outcome of the whole project.
What Color Combinations Work Well Together? Which Color Schemes Are Best?
There are not color schemes that are better than others, but only those that are more suitable for the visual message you want to convey. As all the manuals on how to choose a wall color for a room suggest, you should first pick the mood you want for that room, and then go from there.
Do you want to create calm and tranquility, or do you prefer energy and vitality to be expressed?
As shapes and lines transmit a sense of stillness, action, or energy, so do the colors you use. Based on the reaction you are trying to get from the viewer, you can select the colors to use with the help of the classic color schemes
How Do You Achieve Color Harmony?
Color harmony is achieved using colors that relate to one another in a specific way on the color wheel.
Choosing the right color scheme from the start can be a huge help on each decision you have to take later, ruling out options and narrowing possibilities, but most of all if you handle your chosen colors well you will be able to create a harmonious palette.
Below are the classic color schemes based on the color wheel.
Monochromatic Color Scheme
To provide visual unity to the painting, use one color and its tints, tones and shades. This color scheme gives the impression of simplicity and cleanliness. You can use variations in lightness and saturation of the same color, and it is possible to integrate with neutral colors, such as white, black or gray.
The main advantage of using monochromatic scheme is that the painting will look visually appealing and balanced. This scheme is not the appropriate choice if your are trying to express energy and vibrancy.
Analogous color scheme
Analogous Color Scheme
The analogous color scheme employs colors that are close to one another on the color wheel. Typically you choose three colors, but you can use a minimum of two to a maximum of five adjacent colors.
Using too many colors would disrupt the harmony of the scheme. Also, to guarantee harmony, try to keep the selection either of warm or cool colors.
One color is used as the main color, while the others are used to enrich the composition.
It provides a richer, more colorful solution than the monochromatic scheme, and a vibrant composition, but still not as vibrant as a complementary scheme.
A complementary color scheme employs colors that are directly opposite to each other on the wheel. The color pairs always consist of either a primary with a secondary color (red and green; yellow and violet; blue and orange), or two tertiary colors (red-orange and blue-green; yellow-green and red-violet; yellow-orange and blue-violet).
This is the color scheme that offers the highest contrast and vitality, and the consequence is that it can get quite hard to find a harmonious balance of the colors.
Complementary colors intensify each other, however if you mix them together they neutralize each other, resulting to a duller color.
Even if you don’t physically the complementary colors, but you paint them next to each other, beware that the mixing can happen in the viewer’s mind. Seen from up-close they make each other pop, but from a distance, when they are painted adjacent to one another, they may look as a neutral color, or brownish.
Split Complementary Scheme
The split complementary is a variation of the complementary color scheme. In fact, it uses a color and then the two colors on each side of its complement. For example: violet, yellow-green, and yellow-orange.
This produces high contrast without the aggressiveness of the complementary scheme. It's very versatile and creates a pleasant atmosphere.
The triadic color scheme uses three colors that are equally spaced around the color wheel. This scheme provides nice contrast and an easier achievable color balance than the complementary scheme.
It is recommended to use one color as the dominant color, and the other two in lesser quantity. Example: blue, red, and yellow. If the pure colors are overpowering, it is a good idea to combine them with gray values or their complement to dull the intensity.
The tetradic color scheme uses four colors that are two sets of complements, for example: yellow, violet, green, and red.
The tetrad colors do not need to be equally spaced in the color wheel, as long as they are couples of complements.
Because of the wide range of colors, this is the richest of all schemes, but also the most difficult to balance in a harmonious way.
The best way to proceed is to make one color prevail, and use the other three in a subtle way.
Choosing Color Combinations Using The Color Wheel
Which color scheme is your favorite?
Questions & Answers
© 2012 Robie Benve