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Glorious Color: Color Theory and Harmonies


One of the questions we hear most often is about color harmonies: how do you know which color looks good with which color? So our thought was to explain basic color theory - and relationships between colors - along with a few visual examples of simple harmonies.

Basic Color Theory

We have primary colors, secondary colors and tertiary colors. Combine two primary to produce a secondary, and combine either a primary and a secondary, or two secondary colors to make a tertiary color.

When you use a color wheel, you're also able to discern hues, and from that tints, tones and shades. Tints, tones, & shades are less saturated versions of the hue that include more white, gray, and black.

If you combine pure hues, you create very dynamic color harmonies. For more subtle harmonies combine colors that are closer in value to each other: light with light, dark with dark.

When exploring color harmonies, it's often best to begin with pure hues, then experiment with various tints, tones, and shades.

Common Color Harmonies

Monochromatic
A single hue and a selection of tints, tones and shades.
Monochromatic A single hue and a selection of tints, tones and shades.
Analogous
Colors that are side by side, or very near each other on a color wheel.
Analogous Colors that are side by side, or very near each other on a color wheel.
Complementary
Colors appearing across from one another on a color wheel. These color combinations offer the maximum amount of contrast.
Complementary Colors appearing across from one another on a color wheel. These color combinations offer the maximum amount of contrast.
Split-Complementary
One hue plus two colors on eitherside of its complement. These provide less contrast than straight complements.
Split-Complementary One hue plus two colors on eitherside of its complement. These provide less contrast than straight complements.
Triad
Three colors that are equidistant on a color wheel.
Triad Three colors that are equidistant on a color wheel.
Tetrad
Two pairs of complimentary colors.
Tetrad Two pairs of complimentary colors.
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