Color is one of the most basic, yet powerful design tools. It is said to be the most significant factor in consumer decisions, from cars to clothing. It's also one of the most complex components of design. Combining colors to create harmonious schemes is the topic of this article.
Paraphrasing Donald Kaufman, a wonderful colorist, no color is inherently wrong but may be wrong for a particular space. I'd add it may be wrong for a particular "intention". Putting together more than one color or more than one variation of a color takes the challenge to another level.
Some key concepts to keep in mind:
Hue is the family of a color, such as red is one hue, yellow another.
Value is the degree of lightness or darkness of a hue, i.e. whether white or black has been added. Tint refers to a hue with white; shade is a hue with black.
Chroma is the purity, saturation or intensity of a color. Or, we could say its brightness. When gray is added, it becomes duller and is referred to as a tone.
Hues are either warm or cool. On a 12 color wheel; 6 are warm R to YG); 6 are cool (RV to G).
Harmony, a principle described in last month's newsletter, may be achieved in many ways. It may be quiet and calm or more active and stimulating. It may be the two peas in a pod type of relationship or the Jerry Maguire "you complete me" scenario.
Color, like most things in life, is not black and white (subject of next month's issue). It's on a continuum.
I like to use an organization chart to list the main ways in which to organize color harmony schemes...those based on relatedness; those based on contrast.
Related Schemes: Contrasting Schemes:
All related schemes are based on one color temperature...either warm or cool, not both. They tend to be calming. Contrasting schemes rely on both temperatures to be more active and stimulating.
Monochromatic schemes use only one hue but may combine tints, shades and/or tones. The more versions of a hue used, the less related it generally is. That's the notion of the "continuum".
Analogous schemes are based on hues adjacent to each other on the wheel. Again, a variety of tints, shades, and/or tones may be pulled together. You could choose a cool or a warm scheme. Having three hues next to each other on the wheel, such as yellow, yellow-orange and orange or even two such as blue and blue-green, in a few versions of each, is enough for a satisfying palette. We see both below.
Contrasting schemes always combine a mix of temperatures. And, like related schemes, tints, shades and/or tones may be employed.
schemes combine two opposite hues,e.g. yellow and violet or blue-green and red-orange. The interior below is especially stimulating as saturated versions of blue and orange are used.
Split Complementary schemes, usually less active than direct, combine three hues that form a "skinny" or isosceles triangle of three hues, e.g. red, blue-green and yellow-green.
Triadic schemes combine three hues that form an equilateral triangle of hues at equal distances from each other. Often used for children's rooms is the very active primary color scheme of red, yellow and blue. However, as in this Empire style Rockefeller Estate, this scheme can also be very grown-up!
Next month we'll see how beige does not have to be boring and how a lack of color can excite.