BLOG: Eye-Popping Tips

From Karen Saunders

Your Branding, Marketing & Self-Publishing Coach

How to Select Harmonious Colors

You experience harmonious colors in many areas of life: clothing, architecture, interior design, jewelry, gardening, as well as advertising, marketing, and corporate identity.

It becomes easy to select harmonious colors if you follow a proven color theory system. The steps below will show you how to create well-planned color schemes based on the “Bourges color circle” system. In 1918 Albert Bourges based his color theory on a circle of 20 hues.

Complementary Colors

Complementary colors are exact opposites that enhance one another. When you blend the two together, you get neutral black. When used together, they both appear brighter and more exciting. To find complementary colors, just draw a line through the circle from a hue on one side to the hue on the exact opposite side of the circle. (Refer to the diagram below.)

Harmonious Colors complements

M. E. Chevreul discovered that complementary colors create an unusual optical illusion. Stare at a color for several seconds, then shut your eyes. Open them, and look at a white sheet of paper. Immediately an image of the color’s complement will appear!

Split Complements

If you would like a palette of three colors, first find the true complement of your chosen color; then move one, two or three more spaces away on either side. A split complementary color scheme is usually more pleasing than a true complementary scheme. (Refer to the diagram below.)

Harmonious Colors split complements

Four Harmonious Colors

To create a color scheme consisting of four colors, first select a color and its complement, then draw a perpendicular line across the circle so that your lines resemble a cross. (Refer to the diagram below.)

Harmonious Colors color wheel 4 colors

This will create a balanced palette of two sets of complements and two related pairs of colors.

Select one of these four hues as your main theme color, then use a small amount of the other three hues to enhance it. You may include darker or lighter shades of these four colors for more variety.

For more information about the Bourges color circle and the science of color, see Color Bytes by Jean Bourges.