As an artist it is important to understand at least a few basics about colour theory and which colours look best together and how they interact. If you can understand this then you have a good base on which to start creating your paintings. Of course rules are always there to be broken but before you start breaking rules it is an idea to know what is considered best practice and why.
In order to really understand how colours interact together it is a good idea for any artist to own a colour wheel. These are widely available in art shops or else you can find one online (see right).
Typical Colour Combinations
There are three main typical colour combinations that have been proven to work and they are:
- Complimentary Hues: If you chose two different colours from either side of the colour wheel, with similar hues (in every simple terms strength, i.e. not muted by white or black), then these two colours will complement each other in a painting.
- Triadic Hues: Similar to the above, if you choose three colours that are as far apart from each other as possible – i.e. you draw a triangle between the colours and they are equidistant on the color wheel, these will also complement each other.
- Monochromatic Hues: if you choose two or three colors that are very close to each other on the colour wheel then these will also work.
With regard to options 1 and 2, there are some tests you can do to experiment with this. Choose your two or three colors from the color wheel and then try and make as many different colors as you can with those colors and only also adding some white and black. It is quite surprising, particularly with three colors, how many different shades and colors you can create without using anything else.
There are a lot of further variations on hue, saturation and value that you can experiment with and it is a fascinating process to study the theory of color which is only going to improve your paintings. I would recommend getting a comprehensive guide to colour theory as per the examples below: