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
Complementary colour combinations are based on two colours that are positioned opposite each other on the colour wheel. For example:
- red makes a complementary combination with green
- yellow makes a complementary combination with violet.
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
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:
- red, red orange and red violet makes a warm analogous combination
- blue, blue green and blue violet makes a cool analogous combination.
Triadic Colour Combinations
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:
- red, blue and yellow makes a triadic combination of primary colours
- red orange, blue violet and yellow green makes a triadic combination of tertiary colours
Monochromatic Colour Combinations
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
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 from a distance. 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.
A brown neutral tone, with an underlying dominant orange hue, will create a balanced complementary coloutral combination when combined with a blue tone of a similar value and saturation.
An olive neutral tone, with an underlying dominant green hue, will create a balanced complimentary coloutral combination when combined with a red tone of a similar value and saturation.