Thursday, 20 June 2013

Colour “theory”

You will need to decide which colours combine well, whether they are toning, harmonious or complimentary.  By getting to grips with the rules of colour, you can give your work a unity of concept.

Primary colours

Primary colours are three key colours - red, blue and yellow. They cannot be made from any other colour.

Secondary colours

If you mix equal amounts of the primary colours, you get the secondary colours - purple, green and orange.
red + yellow = orange
red + blue = purple
blue + yellow = green

Tertiary colours

If you mix a primary with a secondary colour, in a ratio of 2:1, you get a tertiary colour. red-orange, blue-green etc.

Colour wheel example

Cool versus hot

Look at the colour wheel and you will see the left hand side of the colours are 'warm' or 'hot' and the ones on the right are 'cool' or 'cold'. This is useful when you want to create a mood in a particular room or need to make your space cosier or lighter.


Neutrals are one of the easiest groups of colours, or non-colours to work with. They don't appear on the colour wheel and include Black, Grey, White and sometimes Brown and Beige. They all go together and can be layered and mixed and matched. No neutral colour will try to dominate over another.

Accent colours

An accent colour is a colour used in quite small quantities to lift or to add punch to a colour scheme. An accent colour should be in a complementary colour. It works best if it's a bright, vibrant colour. Accent colours are perfect if you're concerned about using strong colour - simply add a splash of an accent colour. Keep most of your piece in shades and variations of one single harmonious colour. Then pick out just a few objects in an accent colour.

Clashing colours

Using clashing colours is thought to be inappropriate in formal settings. But in other settings they can provide drama, if they are used carefully. If they are of equal tonal strength, you can mix them together. You don't have to stop at two, you can try three or four. But if one is paler or weaker than the rest it will get lost in the overall scheme.

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