Contrasting Colours (Colour Theory)

Its great to top up your knowledge on Colour Theory, so that you have wealth of information to call on when you need it. I have always been hugely influenced by Colour. You can see it strongly throughout all my work from Sculpture, Mosaic and Painting. This week on Periscope, we discussed the 7 types of Contrasting colours as outlined in “Itten -The Elements of Colour” (a treatise on the colour system on Johannes Itten – The art of colour, published in 1961). Hugely important for all kinds of visual artists from set designers to digital artists.

7 types of Contrasting Colours

1- Hue. The most contrasting colours are Red, Blue and Yellow (as they are primary) followed by Green, Purple and Orange (as the secondary colours are less vivid). If you contrast any of these with Black and White you also get a bold contrast effect.

2- Light/Dark. Placing a lighter colour against a darker colour produces a contrast and of course Black and White would be the strongest. When you mix any colour with White to get lighter or mix with black to get darker, you get an infinite amount of grey tones which produce shades (using black) or tints (using white).

3- Warm/Cool. Yellows, Oranges, Reds and Pinks are warm colours and Greens, blues and Purples are cool colours (although purple can lean more to warm if it is a more red purple). Putting warm colours and cool colours together produce great contrasting effects.

4- Complementary. Complementary colours are some of the most invaluable colour combinations that we have. Appearing on opposite ends of the colour wheel, Contrasting colour combinations are intense and dynamic.  Orange & blue, Green & Red, Purple & Yellow are the three main complementaries.

5- Simultaneous. This type of contrasting colour is interesting because its where we begin to see slight optical illusions. Simultaneous contrasting is the fact that when you see one colour, your eye also generates its complimentary colour. You can see this as evident when you place a neutral colour such as grey next to your colour. Within this grey you begin to see tinges of the complimentary colour. Its so fascinating!

6- Saturation. This type of contrast is based on the vividness of a colour. The most effective contrast being the most vivid of a colour and the least vivid. The colour is usually mixed with varying amounts of grey tones, to produce what I like to call ‘dusky’ colours.

7- Extension. This is the most complex of all the types of contrasts. Contrast of Extension means the proportion of two or more colours next to each other. For example, if you had a large green circle and within it, a small red circle, the red circle is contrasting to the green because it seems so much more vivid, even though it is smaller, because of its powerful hue.

I asked my viewers what their favourite complimentary colour pairing was and the majority chose the pairing of blue-green and orange-red. You can see that pairing across the centre of the colour wheel above.

What your favourite?

Until next week. With Warm Wishes,