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Color Principles Lesson Three from Sherre Hulbert

Color Principles Workshop
Choosing a Color Palette

There are some principles to consider when choosing a color scheme for a project whether it be for a painting, a card, a collage, a scrapbook page, an ATC or interior decoration. Anytime you create art color choice plays a big role in the final result.

The process of choosing color begins with these steps:

  1. DEFINE the mood and goal of your project
  2. CHOOSE the color you feel best expresses this mood
  3. PLAY with the possibilities by choosing combinations of colors from the color wheel
  4. REFINE these color options down to the best possible color scheme

There are several basic color schemes. Using the color wheel to guide color choice brings beautiful harmony to your projects. Complementary colors will always be directly opposite each other on the color wheel and will always seem to intensify each other. Each color scheme creates a unique effect on the eye of the perceiver.

The first we will look at is ACHROMATIC.

Achromatic means “without color.” An achromatic color scheme consists of black & white and the vast array of grays that can be mixed from them. Variation is possible- you can make “warm” or “cool” achromatics by adding a hint of red, yellow or blue.


Analogous colors are those that are found adjacent to each other on the color wheel. They can be varied in intensity and value. This color scheme has a harmonious, pleasing effect on the eye.


Complementary color schemes always involve using two colors found exactly opposite each other on the color wheel. Red and green, blue and orange, purple and yellow, are examples of complementary schemes. These can produce an almost vibratory visual sensation when seen side by side. This color scheme makes for exciting results. A good choice for children’s cards or anywhere you want to add a bit of excitement to your composition.


Take a “slice” of the color wheel pie and you will have a monochromatic color scheme. Monochromatic color schemes give a feeling of restraint and peacefulness. Any single hue combined with its tints (light values) or shades (dark values) makes up the monochromatic palette.


A neutral color scheme consists of hues that have been “neutralized” by adding their complements. The further addition of white or black expands this color palette. They can have a soft and welcoming effect.


A primary color scheme is the most basic consisting of a pure red, yellow and blue.  It is a favorite scheme for children’s books, toys and bedrooms. You'll also see these colors in Pre-school and Kindergarten classrooms because young children have a psychological preference for them.


This color scheme combines the secondary hues of orange, green and violet. These are the colors found in between the three primary colors on the color wheel. This palette has a fresh, uplifting quality. It can be made subtle by using the tints and shades of these hues.


To achieve this palette, choose a hue on the color wheel, then choose the hues on either side of the original color’s complement (orange with blue-green and blue-violet, for example, as shown). Not as jarring as a direct complementary color scheme.


There are two tertiary triad colors schemes. They consist of three tertiary hues that are equidistant from each other on the color wheel. The two tertiary triad schemes are: red-violet, yellow-orange and blue-green; and red-orange, yellow-green and blue-violet.

The next time you design anything from a greeting card, room in your home or even your garden, look to the color wheel and these schemes to give you help in choosing a pleasing color combination!

Information is taken from the Color Harmony Workbook by Rockport Publishing.

Sherre Hulbert, Altered Heart Designs, http://alteredheartdesigns.blogspot.com

Check out my new digital art workshops! Teaming up with Cynthia Powell, we are offering workshops where you can learn how to use Photoshop or Photoshop Elements software to create beautiful digital montages. Please check out http://digitalmontagestudio.blogspot.com for a description of classes and to sign up!

Editor's Note:  To see the next article in this series, click here.

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2 Responses »

  1. Thanks for sharing this lesson. Like it.


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