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Colour Theory №1.2

The Colour Wheel, cont’d.

R Proffitt
by Richard Proffitt
iopan design

We've just looked at the “Split-Complementry” and “Analagious” Colours from the Colour Wheel; these are quite popular choices when it comes to designers preferences. Now we shall look at some less common colour combinations; starting with Colour Triads:

The Triads

Colour Triads

Triads: Three hues, evenly spaced around the colour wheel. Triadic colour harmonies tend to be quite vibrant, even if you use pale or unsaturated versions of your hues. To use a triadic harmony successfully, the colours should be carefully balanced - let one colour dominate and use the two others for accent.

The Square Colours

Square Colours

Square Colours: Four hues, evenly spaced around the colour wheel. There are three types of square colours. Similar to Triads, Square Colours can be very vivid together so when using square colours, it is often best to choose a main colour to dominate and add the other three with less saturation and/or contrast, creating more subdued colours.

Monotone Chromatic Colours

Monotone Chromatic

Monochromatic colour schemes are derived from a single base hue which is extended using its shades, tones and tints. Tints are achieved by adding white and shades and tones are achieved by adding a darker color, grey or black.

Monochromatic color schemes provide opportunities in art and visual communications design as they allow for a greater range of contrasting tones that can be used to attract attention, create focus and support legibility; the use of a monochromatic color provides a strong sense of visual cohesion and can help support communication objectives through the use of connotative color, although for the sack of accessibility, it is best not to denote a connection using colour alone as this excludes many ‘colour blind’ and partially sighted people. The relative absence of hue contrast can be offset by variations in tone and the addition of texture or pattern.

Monotone Achromatic Colours

Monotone Achromatic

A monotone achromatic colour scheme is a special instance of the monotone scheme which consists of only neutral colors ranging from black to white. A scheme like this can be efficient, but it can very easily look boring. Using an achromatic scheme with just one bright color for highlight can be very effective.

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Colour Combination Examples

Now that we've met what you might call the ‘First Twelve Colours’ - seen how they are all created from those first three hues and we've given them all names, it's time to look at their relationships to one another and to how they fit into the Colour Theory System. Firstly, and we've already touched on it, each colour has a special pairing which is called it's Complementary Colour. It could also be refered to as it's opposite, since they sit exactly opposite each other on the colour wheel.


Complimentary colours

Complimentary Colours

Complementary colours are pairs of colours which, when combined, cancel each other out. When placed next to each other, they create the strongest contrast for those particular two colours. Due to this striking colour clash, the term opposite colours is often considered more appropriate.

Split Complimentary colours

Split Complimentary Colours

When it comes to Split Complimentary colours, you are always talking about getting three hues. A Split Complementary colour Scheme is often favoured by designers when the first colour choice needs strengthening by more than one alternative. First you choose your main starting colour from the wheel and select the two colours on either side of its Complementary colour.

Analogous colours in sets of three

Analogous Colours

Analogous Colours sit right next to each other on the wheel. They are a popular choice due to their natural harmony. Analogous colour schemes usually match their colours well and create serene and comfortable designs.

Analogous color schemes are often found in nature and are harmonious and pleasing to the eye. However, make sure you have enough contrast when choosing an analogous colour scheme.



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