Woman with color

Using the Color Wheel When Choosing Color Combinations

When choosing color you may want to start by doing a few things with the color wheel.

Almost everyone has seen a color wheel. Many children are given examples in elementary school, and this may be the last time we looked at one. Other than artists and designers, few of us ever take time to study the wheel in-depth.  However, a little practice with the color wheel will help you learn the ways that colors speak, especially the harmony (or dissonance) of two or more colors.  This can be a great help when you prepare for design and decorating projects.

After you have identified your color, look at the color directly across the wheel from it. This opposing Color Wheelcolor on the wheel is known as the complimentary color. It has the highest contrast to the first color. An example of the use of complimentary colors would be Vincent van Gogh’s Noon: Rest from work.

Look at the colors to the left and right of your color on the color wheel; these are known as analogous colors, meaning they are similar. An example of the use of analogous colors would be Edward Hopper’s Compartment C, Car 293.

The further you move around the wheel and away from your color the less similarity they have. Think of the closest ones as brothers and sisters, and moving around the wheel you meet cousins, neighbors, then acquaintances from out-of-town. Finally, when you get to the opposing color, you might think of it as a complete stranger to the first.

Sometimes you meet a total stranger and you have nothing to say to one another. In other circumstances you might meet on an airplane and talk to each other for hours. Brothers and sisters usually get along well, but there are situations where they can cramp each other’s style.

It’s about context. When you pull your colors together, do it in groupings that get along well together in the context of the space you are using them. Also, remember how hard it is to manage a crowd. In most settings, a few well-chosen colors are more pleasing than a hodgepodge.

Here’s a page that explains basic color theory to teachers of school kids from Donna Young’s Exploring Color Theory. Or, for those who like academic studies, check out the Dimensions of Colour from David Briggs.

This was Part Two of Choosing the Colors in Your World. At Addvantage USA we understand the importance of color, function and form in your fashion and home. Follow our Blog so you don’t miss part three that will discuss the emotional impact of color.

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