When I look at a fresh coloring page my natural instinct when choosing my first color of pen or pencil is to find something in the page that relates to an object in real life and then pick an appropriate color based on that.
In this post I am going to shake up my color picking strategy by teaching myself a little color theory
We’ve all done it, you see a pattern that looks like candy canes and you plump for the brightest red in your set. Or there is a wonderful design of a turtle that immediately makes you reach for the green. If I stroll through some of my coloring pages I can see that this behaviour influences most of my coloring – in the majority of my designs I can see that I am choosing color palettes based on what I think the objects or patterns are colored like in real life.
Sometimes though, it is fun to forget the design, forget what a real-life owl may be colored like or ignore the petal yellows and rose reds that are evoked by the flower pattern, and choose some colors purely based on how well they go together, not just on how they relate to the picture on the page.
In this post I am going to shake up my color picking strategy by teaching myself a little color theory, understanding which colors go with one another and then apply some of this understanding to a simple pattern cut from the second weekly book you receive when signing up for The Coloring Book Club.
Basic Color Wheel
To understand color we need to rewind the clock a little and drag up those memories from our early school days. I am sure most people can recall being sat in a little apron at a table with a gaggle of other six year olds, pots of poster paints in front of you whilst you are taught about primary colors. This section is a little refresher, only this time without little Billie sitting opposite picking his nose and a nervous teacher hoping that paint will not spill everywhere!
We started with the three primary colors and suddenly we have created a family of the 12 brightest hues of color.
Primary colors are the three basic colors that cannot be made from any other color combination. Red, Blue and Yellow. These are pure, bright colors that act as the foundation for making the other colors that we think of when we sing a rainbow!
Red mixed with Blue gives us Purple.
Blue mixed with Yellow gives us Green.
Yellow mixed with Red gives us Orange.
Boom! By mixing our three primary colors we suddenly have another set of colors to play with. The rose red of summer mixed with a dash of the golden yellow corn has produced the beautiful Orange sun of Fall!
In common color theory this set of colors we have just created are known as Secondary colors.
Primary – Red, Blue, Yellow.
Secondary – Purple, Green, Orange.
Now that we have six colors in our color wheel we can produce the final set of colors that make up the traditional color wheel. These are known as Tertiary colors and are produced by mixing each of the Secondary colors with each neighbor Primary color.
Red mixed with Purple.
Blue mixes with Purple.
Blue mixes with Green.
Yellow mixes with Green.
Yellow mixes with Orange.
Red mixes with Orange.
Viola! We started with the three primary colors and suddenly we have created a family of the 12 brightest hues of color. This is the common color wheel that most art students or designers are taught in their studies and from here we can understand some basic color harmony.
Basic Color Harmony
The wheel we have created gives us twelve colors to play with and, according to common color theory, where a color sits on the wheel influences how well that color will harmonise with another.
Analogous Color Schemes
Colors that sit next to one another on a wheel are known as Analogous colors. Take yourself a color and choose the next two colors away from it on the wheel. Since these colors sit alongside each other on the wheel they naturally harmonise – creating natural color blends that are pleasing to the eye. Analogous color schemes are often found in nature, this beautiful flower has a stunning gradient of oranges and reds that sit in the warm part of the color wheel.
Complimentary Color Schemes
The next color group to consider are Complimentary colors. These colors sit opposite one another on the color wheel. Choosing these colors together create a design that has a high contrast and will really create a picture that pops from the page. Because of the vibrant nature of these color schemes they must be used carefully – over use of a complementary color scheme can create a psychedelic and overly vibrant page. Think of them as the sugar rush of color schemes!
Triadic Color Schemes
Finally, the last harmony group I will cover is the Triadic color scheme. Choose three colors equally spaced around the outside of the wheel, this approach offers a balance between the contrast of a complementary color scheme and the harmony of an analogous color scheme. Often it is suggested to allow one of the colors chosen to be used more liberally in your coloring and treat the other colors as accents, this can produce a vibrant design with a nice balance.
You can see from using these three color selection methods on the same design piece that you can really create some different and interesting results!
As well as the schemes described here there are other harmonies such as:
Monochromatic color schemes which take a single color from the color wheel and then apply black, white and gray to the color to create a palette of tints, shades and tones of the base color.
Adobe Color is a neat online tool that allows you to play with the color wheel and choose a palette from a base selection. Head over there and see if you can match up some color palettes with your favorite pen or pencil set.
How do you normally select the colors for your design? Do you ever consider the rules of the color wheel or are you a color rebel and throw out the textbook when filling those blank spaces?
The Coloring Wheel Video
Watch our coloring wheel video tutorial:
Over to you!
Grab yourself three or four colors and play with the color harmonies described above. You could create a vibrant eye popping mandala using a complementary color scheme, or a calming design based from an analogous color group. Take a look at the blog on the emotions behind colors and look at the color wheel – as well as choosing a color harmony you can determine whether your design will be inspired by cool or warm colors based on where on the wheel you select the colors from.
How do you normally select the colors for your design? Do you ever consider the rules of the color wheel or are you a color rebel and throw out the textbook when filling those blank spaces? Let us know below.