Colour combinations are created when two or more colours are juxtaposed. They can create either harmony or discord, through balance and contrast. When well balanced, a colour combination is harmonious and appealing. If the balance is wrong, the combination is disharmonious and unattractive.
Complementary colour combinations are based on two colours that are positioned opposite each other on the colour wheel. For example:
When placed next to each other, complementary colours create the strongest contrast possible for those colours. This contrast strengthens both colours, increasing their definition. When evenly mixed together, complementary colours create black.
Analogous colour combinations are based on three colours that are adjacent to each other on the colour wheel. The middle colour may be called the dominant colour.
The most effective analogous colour combinations use either warm or cool colours, with a primary or secondary colour as the dominant colour and tertiary colours either side. This creates a pleasing, low-contrast harmony. For example:
Triadic colour combinations use three colours that are equally spaced around the colour wheel. These combinations provide a high degree of contrast and retain colour harmony. For example:
Monochromatic colour combinations use variations of light, medium and dark shades of a single hue. Such combinations are created by adding different amounts of white or black to the base colour.
If a colour combination is devoid of colour such as black, white and grey it is known as an achromatic combination.
Optical mixture colour combinations are based on the perception of a single colour that occurs when two or more colours are juxtaposed. The perceived colour is that which would result from a mix of the colours. The colours mix optically, so they retain their intensity. The third colour, the one that is perceived from the combination, is called a resultant colour.
Coloutral combinations combine both colour and neutral tones. Like any combination they can create either harmony or discord.
To create a harmonious coloutral combination, the same colour theory that makes other colour combinations harmonious is applied. Therefore, the underlying dominant hue of the neutral tone must be understood before applying colour theory.
For example, an olive neutral tone, with an underlying dominant green yellow hue, will create an analogous coloutral combination when combined with green and blue green tones. An olive neutral tone, with an underlying dominant yellow hue, will create an analogous coloutral combination when combined with yellow and yellow orange tones.