The Symphony of Colors

Color is one of the most powerful tool for visual arts, it can affect our emotions, mood and in some cases behavior. Psychologically speaking (granted I have minimal authority on the subject) colors play an important part in our daily behavior. It is said that hospitals used to use a calming green for their patients to feel at ease since Green is associated with the mind set of healing. Whereas use of Red is said to evoke feeling of anger and rage in people although I do to a certain extent disagree with this because Red in visual arts is bound to draw a viewer in and build an emotional connect so , who knows.

“In nature, light creates the color. In the picture, color creates the light.” 

Hans Hofmann

So for the sake of all that is good and easy let’s skip to the impact of colors in visual arts. Colors can be used to tell a story, colors can be used to create a connection between you and your audience, in some cases colors can be used to create a feeling of zen which is why people buy art to decorate their walls.

The Color Wheel:

The color wheel as we know is our reference to all things ‘color’ – what we usually miss out is when we go against the wheel we end up struggling to appreciate what we have created. This is because our eyes and mind have been trained for decades to appreciate certain colors when they’re placed together. The color wheel is our visual guide to show the relationship between colors and helps create the perfect color combination.

The following information is very important to understand what works on the wheel and how, because just looking at the color wheel can create a lot of confusion – at least it did for me. We now have a wheel with Primary, Secondary and Tertiary Colors.

Color Division:

Primary colors are Red, Yellow and Blue, these are the base colors used for any and all colors in the world. These are mixed together to form Secondary colors which are Green (Blue+Yellow) Orange (Red+Yellow) and Violet (Blue+Red). Following this pattern we get Tertiary colors which are Yellow Orange, Red Orange, Red Violet, Blue Violet, Blue Green and Yellow Green.

“Color helps to express light, not the physical phenomenon, but the only light that really exists, that in the artist’s brain.”

Henri Matisse

And voila, we have the basics down – these are the colors you see on a color wheel. From here we start to divide these colors into categories and sub categories. The first break down is how to set a mood using colors so we break it down in to Warm and Cool colors as marked in the image below.

It’s important to understand that the temperature of a photo has a massive impact on an image and it can affect someone’s impression of the image. Warm tones usually feel more inviting, cozy and happy where as images with cool tones are considered clean but moody and in most instances they create a dark and depressing mood.

I guess it goes without saying that I will be further breaking each scheme into more details to further explain what works with which colors and provide examples to further prove that colors used in this manner will never disappoint. A point I would like to bring up that you may have noticed that BLACK and WHITE are NOT considered colors, which is why they are not used as a part of the wheel but mainly used to convert the colors into shades or tints.


This particular tone of each color defines color in it’s purest form. Hue’s have no black’s or white’s added to it and it is the most vibrant form of color you will come across


Shades are hue’s mixed with black to create a darker tone of the hue and add further diversification of the same color. These generally keep getting darker as they go. Imagine add a drop of black to your hue and keep adding it until your color becomes completely black.


Tint’s are the opposite of shade’s, because these are created by adding WHITE to a Hue and these keep going towards the middle of the circle creating lighter tones of each color. The same formula applied here, add drops of white to your color until it reaches complete white.

“Color is a power which directly influences the soul.”

Wassily Kandinsky

Color Harmony:

Color harmony is defined as aesthetically pleasing color combinations, that work together in a harmonious way. The color harmonies or combinations are broken down into more categories.

Complementary Colors:

Colors opposite to each other wheel

Split Complementary Colors:

One primary and and two colors adjacent to it’s complement

Analogous Colors:

Three Colors next to each other on the wheel, the combinations are infinite.

Triadic Colors:

Triadic colors are three colors that equally spaced around the color wheel. You can draw a triangle on the color wheel to pick your triadic combination.

Tetradic Colors:

Tetradic colors have four colors in one combination. For this combination you draw a rectangle on the wheel which will help pick two warm and two cool colors.

Monochromatic Colors:

Colors within each slice on the wheel.

I had to break this post into several posts so you can easily read about each color scheme instead of having to swipe through what you’re not wanting to read. Color theory is a very long topic and I doubt I have gone through it in a lot of depth because I can write thousands of words about the color theory but that would only bore you to death. So, in order to make life simpler read what you need and not what you’re not interested in.

In the meanwhile, keep creating and love what you do.

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