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Colour Tips

How to Choose Good Colour Harmonies

Understanding the shapes and characteristics of commonly seen clouds makes it easier to learn how to paint them.

What not to do

  • Only use the colours you think you need

  • Use colours directly out of the tube

  • Slap it on without thinking about it…just paint!

  • I’m an artist, it’s all about the emotion. No logic needed

In color theory, color harmony refers to the property that certain aesthetically pleasing color combinations have. These combinations create pleasing contrasts and consonances that are said to be harmonious.

Good Colour Harmonies

Complimentary Colours

What is Complimentary Colours? They are opposite each other on the colour wheel are considered to be complementary colours (for example: red and green).

The high contrast of complementary colours creates a vibrant look, especially when used at full saturation. This colour scheme must be managed well so it is not jarring.

Select a dominant color and use the other color as an accent. In van Gogh’s paintings, he used a background of blue to complement the orange.

Both colors are relatively strong and they fight for your attention.

Of all the color rules that interior designers use, the complementary color scheme is often thought of as the simplest. That’s because this color scheme only involves two shades. In particular, it uses two shades that are sitting directly opposite each other on the color wheel, meaning you get combinations like blue and orange, yellow and purple or red and green.As you can see from the photo above, these color pairings are extremely high contrast, which means that — while they undoubtedly bring a strong energy into the space — they’re ultimately best used in small doses. You should think of them as your accent colors and use plenty of neutrals to balance them out and provide a place for the eye to rest.

Split Complimentary Colours

Split Complementary color harmony (also called Compound Harmony)
In a Split Complementary color harmony we use two colors plus the color that is opposite to them on the color wheel. For example blue and purple with yellow.

This harmony has a strong visual contrast, similar to the complimentary color harmony, but with less tension because three colors are used instead of two.

A split complementary scheme involves the use of three colors. Start with one color, find its complement and then use the two colors on either side of it. For example, the complement of blue-green is red-orange and the split complement of blue-green would be red and orange.

Analogous Colour

An analogous color harmony occurs when you take a key color (primary or secondary) along with the two colors that border it on the color wheel. … For the warm color grouping, yellow (a primary color) was used as the key color, then orange-yellow and yellow-green were used for the complimenting colors.

If you have trouble navigating the color wheel, an analogous color scheme might be for you. For this one, all you have to do is pick a central color, then also use the colors on either side of it. Here, two colors will be primary colors and the third will be a mix of the two. For example, red, orange and yellow or red, purple and blue. Since you’re using three colors in this one, proportion will come in handy to make sure the space feels balanced. You may want to incorporate the 60-30-10 rule to keep your proportions in check. 

Use colours that are next to each other on the colour wheel. They usually match well and create serene and comfortable designs.

Triatic Colour

Triadic colors are a color scheme that uses three colors paired together in order to create a vibrant and playful feel. When used properly, they can be fun and pleasing to the eye. Once you understand exactly what triadic colors are and how to use them, you will enjoy making them a part of your color arsenal when it comes to photography, interior design, painting or other artwork.

When you use triadic colors in equal portions, the result is a wonderful child-like appeal. An excellent example of this is when they are used in a child’s bedroom or playroom. Designers, parents, and teachers all love using red, blue, and yellow. This is the primary triadic color scheme.

Triadic colour scheme can also be used in a more sophisticated way. Pick a dominant color and two secondary colors. Otherwise, it would be tricky to balance all three colors without it appearing jarring to look at.

Triadic colors are sets of three colors that are equally spaced from each other on the color wheel. When placed side by side, a set of triadic colors can be interesting and vivacious.

Tetratic colours

Tetradic color harmony (rectangle)
In a Tetradic color harmony we use a combination of four colors that consist of two sets of complementary colors.  For example: purple and blue green plus yellow green and red.

These colors form a rectangle on the  color wheel.  The colors on the short side of the rectangle are spaced one color apart.

This is a rich color harmony that offers many opportunities for variations.  To be most effective it is best to let one of the 4 colors dominate.  It is also important to pay attention to the relationship between the warm and the cool colors used in this harmony.

In the painting by van Gogh, there are four fairly distinct color shapes – yellow for the flowers, green for the vase, blue-green for the wall and a dull orange for the desk.

  • Very colorful harmony
  • Tends to be ‘in your face’
  • Works well with ‘flashy’ subjects
  • Easily gets ‘crude’ if overused
  • Works when you want to call attention in a dramatic manner
  • Similar to square harmony except that colors are one apart on the short side
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Learn how to make eye-catching paintings. Leonie.e.Brown will teach you how to catch the eyes and imagination of the viewer. 
  • Arranging and rearranging nature components, picking what is important and what is not.
  • Creating a toned canvas to help set the mood of the work and expedite the painting process.
  • Mixing bright clean colors.
  • How to paint a value study using only three colors.
  • The importance of connecting shapes based on value.
  • Selecting a limited palette to simplify the mixing process and make color harmony almost automatic
  • Why it is important to simplify and leave some parts of the painting for the viewer to interpret.

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