Since the time I learnt about the 7 colors of the rainbow and all the colours in between, I have been fascinated by colours one way or the other. The colour wheel is the phenomenon which explains it all. So here is the ubiquitous Colour wheel, seemingly simple but hidden beneath it, the whole visual spectrum of a thousand colours and explanations.
The scientific ideology called the colour theory is basically a guidance for you and me to choose the right colour and its combinations. Knowing the importance of colours in our day to day life, no one would dare to ignore this theory, especially designers, creators and artists, who are vastly concerned about the appearance of things. And the appearance of anything is very much dependant on its colour or lack of it.
Also Check out this related posts What colour should I wear? Wardrobe colour trends for you. You will even learn which colour is your lucky one.
Colour names in fashion – A reference guide for 100+ colors.
We never look at colour in isolation. It is a combination of colours and their proportion and balance which gives us the right perception of an object. For this, it is important that when we use colour, we analyse how effectively it stands together with other colours used around it. Because at the end of the day it is not just the professionals who are concerned about colour. It is for everybody.
Colour is every where, and if there is a harmonious colour experience, colour theory is not far behind.
How to Match Clothing Colours
- Complementary colours
- Split complementary colours
- Double complementary colours ( Tetradic colours)
- Analogous colours
- Triad colours
- Monochromatic colours
- Classic colours
- Greyscale colours
- Neutral colours
- Pastel colours and soft colours
- Earthy colours
- Cool colours
- Lively colours and vivid colours
- Ethnic colours
- Romantic colours
Here is a simple example showing the importance of colour harmony in our daily life : when you wear an emerald colour dress it is going to look more visually striking to choose a blood red lipstick to go with it than if you were going to wear a dull mauve shade. If that is the effect you are going after, you will choose the red rather than the mauve, right?
Colour theory is nothing but common sense like this . But then, it is like my chemistry professor told me ( well, he addressed the entire class but at the time, it seemed like he told me) “Common sense is uncommon”; which is why we see atrocious colour combinations. Indeed, common sense is uncommon.
By learning the colour combinations mentioned in this post you will be having a better idea about what colours will go together for clothes, accessories, and even for embroidery and other embellishments.
Colour wheel is the visual representation of the colour theory. Sir Isaac Newton invented the colour wheel and then Johann Wolfgang Goethe elaborated on it so that we have a better time understanding of various colour schemes / colour harmonies.
The basic Colour wheel combinations
You would be using the colours in the colour wheel on a daily basis like the obvious ones here – Yellow, yellow green, spring green, green, blue green, aqua green, aqua blue, turquoise blue, cerulean blue, blue, blue violet, violet, red violet, purple, fuschia, magenta, blue red, red, orange red, orange, yellow orange, orange-yellow, golden yellow. There are so many more that consists of shades, tones and tints of these colours.
You have the primary colours and then combine them to get secondary colours. These groups are again combined in varying proportions to get the tertiary colours. But then these details are of interest mostly to an artist ; you and me, who are more interested in the visual aspect of colours can skip this and checkout the simple fashion colour wheel charts/combinations that will help you co-ordinate clothes. ( If you like to know more about the colours, their mixing etc you can checkout the post on colour in the fabric painting tutorial)
These are colours which are opposite to each other on the colour wheel. They are basically contrasting colours so will give you a striking high contrast effect.
Well, if you follow this colour scheme you just may end up looking like a Christmas tree, if you are not too careful. Well, maybe not so dramatic, but these are bold and striking colours and should be used carefully, because of the high contrast effect. Designers usually bypass this problem by choosing small accents in complementary colours.
As you can see from the colour wheel the complementary colors are
- Blue-green & red-orange
- Yellow & violet
- Blue and Orange
- Yellow GREEN and red violet
- Blue Violet and yellow-orange
- Green and red
Complementary colors work with the greatest impact when bright versions of blue are used.
Split complementary colours
In this colour combination, you take one key colour and then combine it with the adjacent colours of its opposite complementary colours. The result is a toned down version of the high contrast complementary colours.
You get the contrasting effect but without the drama. They are stable and harmonious.
The split complementary colours are
- Yellow-green, violet, red
- Green, red violet, red orange
- Blue, green red, orange
- Blue, red orange, yellow orange
- Violet, yellow-orange, yellow green
- Red, violet, yellow green
- Red, yellow green, blue green
- Yellow, blue violet, red violet
Double complementary colours ( Tetradic colours)
This colour combination consists of two sets of complementary colours. In this combination, the complementary colours are further toned down. Instead of one key colour, adjacent colours are chosen from opposite sides ie four colors arranged into two complementary color pairs. You have to draw a rectangle through the colours of the colour wheel to get this combination.
The colour spectrum is wider here, so it is difficult to balance if all the colours are used in similar proportions. You will have to find a good balance of these striking colours.
Analogous colours are any 3 – 5 adjacent colours sharing a common colour. The colours have a unifying effect as they share the same colour family. Some Analogous colour combinations are red, orange yellow, orange; yellow, yellow green, green.
You may not get the high vibrancy of complementary colours but this colour combination is rich and at the same time harmonious and soothing.
Ensure that you do not combine warm and cool colours in this colour scheme. If you are not careful this colour combination can feel a little flat.
Triad colors are equidistant from one another on the color wheel. You will get contrasting colours which are surprisingly harmonious.
The triad colours are
- Red, Yellow, Blue
- Yellow orange, Blue green, Red violet
- Red orange, Yellow green, Blue violet
- Orange Green Violet
This refers to a single colour in a range of hues ie you get saturation of a single colour. Simply said, from dark to light of one colour. Eg violet, purple, lilac etc. The result is a set of colours which are very easy on the eye. They have a unifying effect.
But if you want to highlight a particular feature this colour scheme is found lacking. Some may find this colour scheme boring.
Other than these colour schemes outlined in the colour theory there are some more colour combinations which you can use to end up with a pleasing harmonious visual experience.
Classic colours are versatile, timeless colours which never go out of style. You will not be able to pinpoint these colours to a particular style or era. But they are appealing colours nevertheless.
This is a monochromatic colour scheme with variations of grey hue. They can turn out to look drab if you are not too careful. But this colour combination can give a feeling of depth with the correct usage. Black and its different variations in this colour combination can give a visual perception of thinness.
Neutral refers to a state of having no colour. In colour combination, it means hues which are toned down. When you want to play down some thing this colour scheme is used. Black, white, grey, and Ivory, brown beige, tan shades of white , gold and silver are the prominent neutral colours.
Pastel colours and soft colours
These are color combinations you associate with all things pretty, delicate and wonderful. The first thing that comes to mind perhaps is a baby. They have a soothing calming effect but is somewhat limiting in its application because not everyone prefers them.
This is a colour scheme which tries to mimic colours found on the earth (colour of soil, trees, rocks, moss etc) It includes a whole spectrum of colours encompassing some shades of brown. It is a muted colour scheme and can look dull if not careful.
Cool colours are dominated by colours in the blue family. These colours are very soothing and very easy on the eye. Cool colours are white, grey, blue and green and its varying shades.You can add accent colours from the warm colour family to break the monotony of cool colours.
Lively colours and vivid colours
As the names suggest these group of colours, can give a lively sporty look. These bright colours maynot be everyone’s cup of tea but for those who find them attractive relish the energy given by these colours.
These are deep colours with a strong vibe. These are colours you would associate with the traditional motifs of Asia and Africa and other cultures.
These are colours straight out of a Disney movie. The candy pinks and bright yellows and sea greens in this group fascinate people ie, those who dig these colours. They look for these combinations in every purchase they make. I have one such giddy girl at home, so I know.
No colour combination is right or wrong, whatever the colour theory and the media try to tell us. Whatever colour combination you choose for your clothes, accessories, it is a reflection of your personality. You can wear the colour of your choice with pride and celebrate life and its myriad colours.
Which is your favourite colour scheme, right now?
Learn more on colour combinations in this very detailed list on canva.com.
You can also check out this related post on 55 different types of fabric patterns and prints