Design Element: Complimentary Colors

February 18, 2010


Color is one of the most visible design elements and sometimes the least understood.  I have an Aunt who defines crafter’s and artists by their use of color.  She says that artists understand how to use color and crafter’s just use what they like which isn’t always appealing.  While I understand what she means I think it’s over simplifying the role of artists in general, (more about that another day).

Anyway, to be effective there are some things to understand about color.  There are colors that “automatically” go together and then there are colors that we don’t usually put together but might go together if we did.  Looking at nature will yield those colors that automatically go together: lots of green with a little brown, orange sunset and deep blue sky, red berries and green leaves.  These are complimentary colors or colors opposite each other on the color wheel.  Complimentary colors used effectively create a visual energy. Think if the green leaves and red berries on a Cotoneaster bush.  If it were just all green it would be rather predictable and not worth a second glance. The amount of green to that amount of red makes you look at it.  Drawing the eye requires visual energy.

Cotoneaster with berries.

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