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Colour Blog #3

Colour Context and Colour Combinations

Although certain colours have specific qualities, these may change according to their context. In the example below, for instance the colour in the centre square is the same, but looks different because it is surrounded by a different colour. So, you may need to experiment somewhat to get the effect you desire.

When placing colour in context, you may want to consider two common colour combinations: those that are complementary (or contrasting) and those that are analogous (or harmonious). Complementary colours are those that appear opposite each other on the colour wheel, the most common complementary pairs being orange and blue, yellow and violet and red and green. Applying a complementary colour scheme creates a visual energy, where the colours seem to 'bounce' off each other. Use it to create a sense of energy and life within a composition or room. An example of this is below. In this image, the orange and contrasting blue create an energy within the composition:

A famous example of the use of complementary colours is the painting 'The Scream' by Edvard Munch. When two opposite or complementary colours are combined, they create a shade of brown, some of which are more attractive than others. The nicest brown can usually be created by combining orange and blue. In their fully saturated form, complementary colours have very similar tones, meaning that if a desaturated form of the composition was made (e.g. a black and white photocopy), opposite colours would be a similar shade of grey. This is the basis for the most common form of colour blindness - red/green colour blindness where sufferers find the two colours difficult to differentiate between.

Analogous (harmonious) colour schemes, as the name suggests create a sense of peace and harmony within a composition. Harmonious colours are any three colours which occur next to each other on the colour wheel. It doesn't matter which three colours, so long as they are next to each other on the colour wheel. Contrary to the old saying 'Blue and green should not be seen' these harmonious colours are often seen in landscape, such as in the painting below.

NEXT TIME: Colour Psychology

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