Monday, September 14, 2015

Basic Color Theory-Systems of Color

There are several systems of color that can be used for interior design, colors for the outside of your house, garden plant color or just general design application.  Many of the choices you make using the color wheel may already be a part of your thought processes without really knowing why.  You may instinctively know what colors look good together...many think they do...but do not.  So here are a few of the systems you can use successfully.  Remember that it is not always wise to just use the colors just as you see them on the wheel, and there are thousands of colors in between the ones pictured.  You may use tints and shades of the color, or colors that are just close to what you see.
I thought I might as well include this little tutorial as I have been discussing it informally throughout the blog.  For instance I recently wrote that I had a basic blue and white color scheme in the Shepherd's Hut.  I said that my white was not really white, but a very pale tint of orange.  Blue and orange are natural compliments to each other.  I would certainly not paint the house blue, right off the color chart, then put orange trim everywhere, also right off the chart....Way too strong!  But I am using a sky blue with white that had a minute tint of orange in it.   I might use apricot or melon in the book cases, or perhaps a sunny yellow...see if you can understand why I make these choices from the information below.
The color wheel below is not terribly clear, but you can search one on line or buy very sophisticated ones in an art or home decor store.
1. Tints of a color are colors that are simply softened slightly with the addition of white.  Adding more and more white(or just less pigment) can produce a large range of tints from one color.
2. Shades of a color are just pure colors that have black added to them(or just more pigment) to produce a darker shade.  Adding more and more black can produce a large range of shades from one color.
3. Grayed colors or pastels, are colors that have had their COMPLIMENTARY (a color opposite on the wheel) color and usually white added to produce a grayer or browner variation of the color.
4. Complimentary colors are colors that are located directly across from each other on the wheel.  We all know that Red and Green look good together at Christmas, but doing a room in those colors, right off the wheel may be uncomfortable or even jarring...try tints and shades of the colors.  Yellow and purple work well together, but are hard to use in a room without wearing sunglasses.

5. Primary colors are Red, Yellow and Blue.  This is a TRIAD...three colors equally spaced around the wheel.  They work well together, again, perhaps not the color exactly as seen in the wheel, but generally good.  Try moving to one side of a color slightly to interrupt the jarring brightness, or using tints or shades.  Primary colors are called primary because they cannot be made using other colors.  You cannot mix two colors to make BLUE.
6. Secondary colors are between the three primaries.  They would be Orange, Purple and Green, and each is a mix of the two primaries on either side.  Many successful color schemes typically include a primary and a secondary color together.
7. Analogous schemes.  These are colors which appear all together(side by side) on the wheel..Start with green and take the two on either side of it, for instance.  Any two or three in a row usually work, or skip one space, using the colors two away on either side of the original.
8.   You can take any of the triad schemes equally spaced around the wheel, and move all of them together, one space at a time to the left or right.
9. Do not be too strict with these systems.  They are beginning points only, and trial and error, keeping them in mind as you go can produce wonderful results.  There are so many color choices out there today, that you may never see colors that you can specifically identify.
10. Beiges and grays.  Beige and gray are not colors on their own.  They are usually blends of compliments and black and white.  If you squint your eyes slightly and compare to other colors, you will often see green or pink or some other color in all beiges and grays.  Keep that in mind when you mix them and use the systems of color to make them work together.  This propensity to have other colors dominant in these neutral colors, makes it difficult to mix them together from different places.  You may say you are using beige in a room, and buy beiges at a random store, only to find that they do not blend at all. 
11.  Most colors in the paint stores have other colors showing up in them.  For instance, today I went to the paint store and looked at yellows.  It seemed that almost all of them were very green, and this was not suitable for my blue and white project.
12. As you can see, Blue and Yellow go well together..the yellow is a NEAR compliment, it is just to one side or the other of the perfect compliment which is orange. 
13. Some colors act as a neutral, and can be used with any other color.  I find that green works with everything, sometimes with slight adjustments...after all, who ever worried about the wrong color flower on a green plant.  I think that Eggplant is another good neutral.   Try it and see if you agree.
14. In general, neutrals have some element of mixture of any triad or pair of compliments...they come out grayish or beige. 
15. Actually any two colors go well together, if tinted, shaded, or used judiciously.  Having a system of color makes you restrict yourself from too many colors, and can make adjoining rooms blend easily etc..   One thing I would advise is that you do not try to mix reds together without extreme care, blues, greens etc..  Trying to make colors match, and only coming close can really raise eyebrows.  Better to mix different colors instead of trying to match colors and only coming close.
Thank you Wikipedia for the color wheel.  As usual, it is a wonderful resource, and those who can afford to support it can do so knowing that it is a worthy resource.  Those who can, can also join the editorial branch of Wikipedia to edit, or create new subject matter on line.

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