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Colors that go well together


Colors that go together

So you wanna know what colors go good together? Well, it actually depends on the effect you want to achieve. But while in theory everything may work, in reality some colors proved to be great leading colors in certain situations (cleaning industry loves blue, which is a big no no in food industry, for instance) and same is true for certain combinations.

When you want to make a statement in sport dress, you will probably think about strong primary colors, but if you are choosing a wedding theme, anything pale (with a large addition of white) will probably work much better.

In any case, it is good to start with a color wheel. Here are the basics (and by the way, we’ll not go into details with RGB or CMY wheels, because this is way over the intention of this post):

Primary colors can’t be mixed from other colors. These are yellow, red and blue.

Secondary colors are made from two primary colors in 1 : 1 ratio. Orange is from yellow and red. Purple from red and blue. Green from blue and yellow. We can see them in color wheel exactly on the half way between yellow and red, red and blue, or blue and yellow.

Tertiary colors are combinations of two primary colors in 1 : 2 ratio. There is six combinations: orange and yellow (amber), yellow and green (chartreuse), green and blue (teal), blue and purple (violet), violet and red (magenta), or red and orange (vermilion).


Please note:
Colors on the outer circumference are fully saturated. Every inner step has higher percent of white (in this case 12,5%), what progressively makes lighter (pale) tints right to the center, where everything turns white. Red, for instance slowly turns to white through different shades of pink.

Now about the combinations. There is no definite answer, so look at the presented examples only as ideas and general directions to find you personal winner.

1. Achromatic

You don’t use colors in this case, only black, white and gray in different shades. The effect is elegant and classy, works great in business world and everywhere where we want to emphasize seriousness, loyalty and similar traditional values. It is easy on the eyes, but can soon become boring. So if we want to add a bit of drama, we can play with patterns.

2. Analogous

You take one dominant color and her closest neighbors from the color wheel. This is very often combination in nature and can work very natural on your walls, paintings or clothes. Red, orange and amber would be fine example. You need at least three colors and you have plenty of variations with saturation or tint to achieve similar effect to achromatic and monochromatic, yet having more place for playing with combinations to be more lively without sacrificing the harmony. Just don’t mix warm and cold colors or exaggerate with total number of used colors.


3. Complementary

Do you need some drama? Usage of colors which are direct opposites in the color wheel can give you exactly that. Think about red and green. Yellow and violet. Blue and orange. These color combinations are always vibrant and very effective if you want to stand out. If you want to be seen, wear green pants and red jacket. Go with pale shades of pants if you don’t want to be seen from more than one mile and use black belt to cut the contrast, if you are daring, but not showy.


4. Dichromatic

Any two colors can be used in dichromatic color scheme, but some work much better than the others. Positions in the color wheel are totally unimportant in this case. You should choose both colors after considering the final effect you want to achieve. Two color themes are quite popular for painting the walls of modern homes and most of the best combinations include pale shades of brown with other pastels (think green or purple or even blue). If you opt for more lively colors, you can very soon become too flashy.

5. Diadic

Didadic scheme is variation of dichromatic color scheme with one major limitation. You can use only colors which are separated by one (unused) color on the color wheel. Chartreuse and teal or red and purple are fine examples of this combination.


6. Monochromatic

It is  variation of achromatic scheme (or vice versa), but in this case we have one leading color (maybe blue, maybe teal, maybe green) combined with the same color in different shades or tints. This way we can achieve more lively effect than at achromatic scene or make some artistic statement. Sepia photos are great example of monochromatic scheme. Be careful – this combination lacks contrast. If you need more life in your final result, go for analogous scheme.


7. Neutral

This is combination of one neutral color (sometimes called earth tone color), what basically means brown and gray in different tints, with an addition of black or any other color which neutralize them. Neutral colors are easy on the eyes, have a soothing, relaxing effect and can go well together with almost any other color, if it is used wisely.

8. Trichromatic (and Tetrachromatic)

Any three colors from the color wheel can be used, but in reality the combination works well if one of the chosen colors is dominant and other two are used only as accent. One successful way is to have an energetic color with two (or three) pale colors to keep the balance. In this groups we can find several subgroups based on the relative positions of used colors in the color wheel: triadic or tetradic (perfect triangle or square), split complementary (two neighbors of the complimentary color to the dominant color), rectangle (like square, but with two complementary pairs), split analogous (all used colors are only separated by one unused color), primary (all three primary colors are used), secondary (all three secondary colors are used) etc.


Please note: one the picture above only the colors from the corners are used in every of the three presented situations.

We could go on and on, but you probably get the idea about the colors that go well together.


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