Colors Have Relationships Too

Colors have relationships too. They’re just not as complicated as ours.

Color theory constructs logical relationships of color. For centuries, scientists and artists have studied color have come up with the concept of the color wheel, a circular diagram of colors logically arranged into pure hues. Sir Isaac Newton developed the first in 1666.

The color wheel is based on the primary colors of red, yellow, and blue. These colors are pure, meaning they cannot be made by combining other colors, but instead all other colors are made from these primary colors. They are the parent colors, if you will.

The secondary colors are green, orange, and purple and are formed from mixing primary colors. The tertiary colors are made by mixing a primary and secondary color, like blue-green, for example.

The color wheel is important to understand because you can use it to pick color palettes that look good together. When paired colors are pleasing to the eye, called color harmony, it is because they communicate a sense of order.

Any three colors next to each other on the color wheel are analogous colors like yellow, yellow-orange, and orange. Colors directly opposite each other are complementary, blue-green and orange-red, for example. It makes it easier to choose colors for a design or a color scheme when you understand the different relationships between colors.

A color can appear different when juxtaposed with different colors. Take red and black for example. When next to black, red may pop and the colors together may feel intense. But the same red paired with a red-orange may feel warm or give the impression of Fall. It just depends on what you are trying to communicate.

Understanding color theory can help you know which colors to pair together and which not to pair. If only relationships were as simple as a theory.