We covered the basics of color in this post. In this one we get into the more practical aspects of combining colors in a pleasing way. Here’s some easy tips for success:
Complimentary Colors. These are colors directly opposite each other on the color wheel. In the case of complimentary colors, when combined the colors will cancel each other out. When they are beside each other they create the strongest contrast possible with those two colors. Examples of Complimentary colors are Yellow and Purple, Red and Green, Blue and Orange.
Split Complimentary Colors. These are created using any one color and the color found on each side of it’s compliment. Let me explain: Red and Green are complimentary colors. If I use Red as my color choice, I would take the colors found on either side of Green, which are Blue/Green and Yellow/Green. If you use Violet, the other colors would be yellow/green and yellow/orange because the compliment is Yellow.
Triad Colors. The use of three colors equally spaced on the color wheel. Your examples would be Blue, Yellow and Red. Or Green, Orange and Violet. Or Yellow/Green, Red/Orange and Blue/Violet.
Tetrad Colors. Four colors, two sets of compliments. Blue and Orange with Red and Green, or Blue/Violet and Yellow/Orange with Yellow/Green and Red/Violet.
These are easy color combinations that will always work.
Another easy way to come up with great color combos is by looking at the advertising which comes in the mail or in magazines. Advertisers spend a tremendous amount of money to get your attention. They spend a lot of money trying to come up with the perfect look for their products. This includes the combinations of colors.
Also look in your closet. Look at the colors combined in the fabrics you see there. Notice the amount of colors used. How much blue is there used compared to the green and the orange. Things like that.
Honestly the key to being a successful artist is observation. If you observe the environment around you, you will begin to see and absorb what works and what does not. Which is equally important, by the way. If you recognize what does not work, you can then tell what does.