The way you use color in a picture can either make it or break it. Colors can complement each other or look completely horrid together. The primary colors are red, blue, and yellow. These colors can then be mixed together to make secondary colors which are green, orange, and purple. If you then mix a secondary color with a primary color you will get a tertiary color. These colors are ones such as yellow-green, blue-violet, and red-orange. When you put all of these colors together you have created the color wheel. Here is an example of one:
This color wheel was found on a sign for a kids bungee jump in the mall. It’s not likely that you would use all the colors in the order they would be found on a color wheel but this was one of those rare times.
Now that you know a little about colors and the color wheel, it is time to get to know how the colors can be used to get the most out of a picture. Combining colors to receive this effect can be hard at first, but this should help clear things up. There are five major color schemes that every designer should know. They are analogous, alternate analogous, split complement, triad, and monochromatic. Each color scheme will effect a picture in different ways, but all color schemes will help you get the most out of your picture (color wise). Following is a description of each major color scheme and 2 pictures of the color scheme I have either found somewhere or had made it using the resources I found.
An analogous color scheme is when you combine one color with the two colors that appear next to it on the color wheel. When used it will come off pleasing to the viewer’s eye and can also brighten an area up a little. One of the three colors should always be used as the main color which is found in the picture the most. This scheme is found a lot throughout nature.
In the photo on the left I am pointing to a banner that uses this color scheme. In the photo below I am holding a fabric that uses the color scheme. Each picture uses yellow, yellow-orange, and orange. The main color in the banner is orange. What is different about this one is that usually the main color is surrounding by the other two colors however the orange is only next to the yellow-orange and than the yellow is next to that. In the fabric I would consider the main color to be yellow-orange. Most of the flowers are yellow-orange and then the rest of the flowers are a yellow color. The background for these flowers is then the orange.
The next color scheme is alternate analogous. This is where you have a main color and then the other two colors are then one color away on the color wheel. This scheme is a lot like analogous but the colors may not brighten up an area of the picture as much as the other would.
In the photo to the left I found a fabric that shows an alternate analogous color scheme with a gray tint for the background color. The butterflies are red, orange, and yellow. Which all have exactly one color in between them. The next photo shows the color scheme in a display, however it was not made as a display on purpose. The scotch tape display is green and yellow. Then the mannequin is blue which gives the third color to the scheme.
Split Complement color scheme is quite a bit different than the two I just explained. In this scheme, there is one color and then the two colors next to the color that complements the first one. This might sound a little confusing at first. So to clear it up a little. It will be the first color than you take the color opposite of that on the color wheel (complement color) and use the two colors next to it. This color scheme will bring a vibrant look to the picture since the two colors contrast with the one.
The photo on the left shows a split complement color scheme of yellow, red-violet, and blue-violet. I actually did not set this picture up besides moving the chairs to be able to see the colors better. The yellow has a complement color of violet and the two colors next to violet is blue-violet and red-violet. The next photo uses the same color scheme and colors just in a different variations the roses are grouped together in a small bouquet and of course to include myself in the picture I used my reflection in the jewelry box as part of the picture. The colors of the flowers however bring you’re eye straight to them.
The triad color scheme is somewhat like the split complement scheme. The three colors used in this scheme will be equal distance away on the color wheel. No matter how bright or light the shade of the colors are, this color scheme will show off a vibrant look. One color should always dominate and the other two just accent the picture.
The photo on the left is a picture of feathers on a ribbon. The three middle feathers are red, yellow, and blue, which are primary colors and make a triad color scheme. The next photo uses the same colors in scarfs I had found. The only difference is the different shades. You can tell from both the photos that this color scheme pops out in the photos and causes the photo to be very vibrant.
Monochromatic is the last major color scheme. You need to decide on a main color and than you pick shades of that same color. This scheme is probably the easiest to use but can also hurt the affect of the photo very easily. This is due to there not being much of a contrast between the colors.
The photo on the left shows three different colors of fabric. All of the colors are different shades of blue. There is a royal blue, sea blue, and an auqa blue. The next photo shows different shades of violet in the same fabric. The plaid has a dark violet, a violet, and a lilac color. Both of these photos are monochromatic but they both affect the viewer in different ways. The blues seem to give off a positive feeling, while the violets give off almost a negative feeling.