How to Create Exciting Color Schemes
When I started out in art, I was very nervous about how to use color effectively. I liked the way some of the artists I admired made such wonderful use of color but I couldn’t imagine how I’d be able to pull it off. Over the years I’ve gained my color confidence. In this post which is part 2 of the one I did last week, I’m going to show you some of the things I’ve learned about color and now incorporate into my work which have tremendously helped me gain color confidence.
There are three things I’ve done which have helped me gain my color confidence. And they are:
- Understanding the Color Wheel,
- Knowing the Basic Color Schemes, and
- Maintaining Balance.
So let’s take a look at each one of these guiding principles.
To Gain Color Confidence: Understand the Color Wheel
A basic color wheel has either 6 or 12 colors. Understanding the location of each color on the wheel, the interaction of the colors next to each other and how to mix and create new colors is very important in learning to use color well and to gain color confidence. Two things you can do to help you with the color wheel are:
- draw the 12 color wheel over and over again, till you can draw it without looking at it
- learn how to mix colors, you can use acrylics, watercolors, or dyes to learn. I used fabric dyes. When dyeing fabrics, I often create my own colors by mixing other colors. This helped me understand the primary and secondary colors and their complements and how to get neutral colors.
To Gain Color Confidence: Know the Basic Color Schemes
There are 5 to 8 basic color schemes. (You’ll find a simple introduction to the basic color schemes here). It’s a good idea to know the rules and then you can proceed to tweak them or break them as you go. I often use either a complementary color scheme or my own version of a split-complementary scheme. However, these two schemes can be difficult to balance.
So to continue where I left off with Under the Microscope #2, I needed to choose a color scheme for my piece.
I decided on a split-complementary scheme: Red-Oranges/Blue-Greens/Yellows. It doesn’t quite fit the definition to a T. But it’s close enough. And that’s the lesson here. You don’t need to always use a specific color scheme. You just need to understand how they work so you can create your own.
So I started by drawing organic shapes on my first blue fabric.
Then I cut the shapes out and ironed or fused them to my black background fabric (or my canvas).
To continue with my color scheme, I added some more blue fabrics (dark blues this time).
Then I slowly started adding the yellows
Next, I began to introduce the oranges.
At this point, it was beginning to get a little chaotic. This is the point at which most people panic when they’re trying to create a color scheme. And until I learned to gain color confidence, I used to panic too. Using just two or three colors can become daunting if you’re not sure of what you’re doing. But this is where my guiding principle #3 comes in.
To Gain Color Confidence: Maintain A Balance
Harmony is what makes all the colors in your piece work well together. And to accomplish that, you need a balance between the colors. To achieve balance so that everyone is not talking over the other, someone needs to be the boss and take charge.
Color balance means one color leads and the others support. It doesn’t mean all colors are created equal.
Generally, you want to distribute the colors such that one color has the greater share, then the next color has a little less and following in that order.
If you’ve got three colors in your color scheme, you can use the 60-30-10 rule. In this rule, the dominant color forms 60% of the color scheme. Then the next color – secondary color- forms 30% and the third color makes up 10% of the design.
As always, you don’t need a calculator to calculate how much you need of each color in order to stick to this rule. What you need is a general understanding of the concept in order to apply it to your design. And that’s what I did.
With that in mind, I added more blue colors, a few more oranges and a sprinkling of yellows to complete my fabric collage.
Although I’ve gained more color confidence by applying these three guiding principles, it does not in any way mean I don’t get all tied up in knots when working with color. My knowledge of my 3 guiding principles helps a lot. They form the basis of my understanding. But mastering the concepts requires intuition and a lot of practice.
My hope is that you’ve learned something from his post that will help you gain your own color confidence. The next stage in the process is to add texture and do some more coloring with threads. See you in part three of creating Under the Microscope #2.
Do you struggle to create exciting and harmonious color schemes? What have you learned from this post that you think will help you overcome that?