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Color Harmonies

Last week we talked about the basics of color theory and warm vs. cool colors. Today let's take a look at some color combinations from the color wheel. These are classic rules of thumb you can use to select colors for a page. There are two-color combos, three-color combos and four-color combos. When you select a group of colors from these palates, you're almost guaranteed a good-looking finished product. That's because these colors tend to work well together on the page.

Two Color Schemes
When you want to select just two colors for page, complementary and counterpoint colors are a good place to start. Complementary colors are those that are the opposite ends of the color wheel. Since we have 12 colors in the color wheel, we get 6 pairs of complementary colors.

The counterpoint color is the one to the right of the complementary color. So green is the complementary color for red but the counterpoint would be blue-green which is one step to the right.

You can get vibrant looking pages with complementary colors but they have to be managed well. If you fill an entire page with just one pair of complementary colors, it can be a bit jarring. However you can use them to highlight 1 specific item or a group of objects. Counterpoint colors are a bit less dramatic than complementary color schemes.

Three Color Schemes
The three basic schemes in this group are analogous colors, triadic colors and split complementary colors. You can spread the three colors equally on the page or use 2 main colors with the third acting as an accent.

Analogous colors are adjacent to each other on the color wheel. Simply select one color along with the two colors on either side of it. These colors are usually found in nature and work well together. Triadic colors are evenly spaced around the color wheel. Triadic color schemes are vibrant and many artists referred to use one color as the dominant one with the other two acting as accents. The split complementary is a variation on the basic complementary color scheme. Instead of selecting the opposite color, pick the colors on either side of the complement. Instead of red and green, you would use red with blue green and yellow green. Split complementary color schemes are great for beginners.

Four Color Schemes
Four-color schemes come in the form of squares or rectangles on the color wheel. Square color schemes are basically four colors that are evenly spaced from each other. You can select one color to be dominant or two. The rest will be accent colors.

Rectangle color schemes are pairs of complementary colors such as red-green and yellow-violet together. This color scheme will always contain a combination of warm and cool colors so you can use them to highlight certain objects on the page.

These are the basic techniques of combining various colors on the color wheel. Sometimes you just want to color page realistically i.e. with brown trees, green leaves and a blue sky. You can still use these color schemes for inanimate objects such as clothes or toys. Using a combination of colors that complement each other can be used to create more unusual landscapes or for fantasy type images. Imagine leaves that are a combination of yellow orange, blue and violet. The sky is the limit when it comes to your imagination!

You can use colors to soothe the eye, convey joy and happiness or even annoy the viewer. Sometimes you finish the page only to find that certain colors don't work well together or that a few parts of the picture are more vibrant than others. Keep these color harmonies in mind when you select colors and you'll get better results. Next week I will show you two useful tools - that I personally love - to select colors for your pages. Until then, happy coloring!

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