Colour harmony exists in its own right. It is not invented by humankind, but is an innate relationship between colours. When presented with a pleasing combination of colours, the mind automatically registers harmony and is able to sense order. Successful utilisation of colour harmony will foster designs and colour palates that work.


The following terms describe different types of colour relationships based off of the colour wheel. 

Img: CBP of Arizona
Monochromatic - Uses various values (tints, tones and shades) from the same colour family. A single colour is used in this scheme, but everything is included in that from very pale tints to grey tones and dark shades.

Monochromatic designs work well when matched with white or neutral colours.

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Complementary (Direct Complementary) - Utilises colours that are opposite one another on the colour wheel. As complementary harmony can be very vibrant, this scheme can easily go wrong if the hue is too pure or saturated. Such combinations as green and red or purple and yellow are perfect to make truly pop.

Img: CBP of Arizona
Analogous - Sources three or more colours that are next to one another on the colour wheel, called related colours. Nearby colours will have the same root making for a soothing combination. Analogous harmony can come across as uninteresting if done incorrectly. If you have a colour in mind, the selection process becomes much simpler. Begin by choosing a ‘mother colour’ then select adjacent colours.

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Triadic - Colours spaced equally on the colour wheel, creating a triangle shape. To find triadic combination, choose a mother colour then include every equally spaced colour on the wheel in your scheme.

The resulting colour schemes are visually-striking and contrasting. Correctly utilising these colours is a tricky exercise in balance. Triads are best used for accent pieces or dotted throughout a room. If hues are desaturated, you can be braver with colour placement. 

Img: CBP of Arizona
Split Complementary - A variation of complementary, this scheme is created by pairing the mother colour with colours adjacent to the original complementary colour. The benefit to a split complementary is that visual interest is established without the same overwhelming quality of complementary schemes. There is a greater range of colours to use, but colour harmony is still guaranteed.

Img: CBP of Arizona
Double Contrast (Tetrad) - A complex scheme to create, tetrad palates use four colours forming a rectangle on the colour wheel. As these colours can easily compete with one another, it is advised to practice patience with this combination. It is best to choose one colour as the dominant colour. Tetradic colour combos are a relatively new addition to colour harmony.

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Square - Very similar to the tetrad, this colour palate is equally spaced across the colour wheel.

Understanding colour harmony is dependent on grasping the concepts of huevalue and chroma. Deviating from expected hues by using different tints, tones and shades will lend your design depth and interest. That said, people may respond to colours differently due to the psychology of colours

Jacqui Litvan

Jacqui Litvan, wielding a bachelor's degree in English, strives to create a world of fantasy amidst the ever-changing landscape of military life. Attempting to become a writer, she fuels herself with coffee (working as a barista) and music (spending free time as a raver).
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