Choosing A Color Palette for Floral Illustration

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When it comes to choosing a floral color palette, the color wheel is a great place to get information about how colors work together, says artist Mia Whittemore. The color wheel is anchored by the three primary colors: red, yellow, and blue. Mix any two of those primary colors together to get the secondary colors. Red and yellow make orange; yellow and blue make green and blue and red make violet. Between a primary and its secondary color is an intermediate, or tertiary, color. For example, red-orange sites between red (primary) and orange (secondary). You also have yellow-orange, yellow-green, blue-green, blue-violet, and red-violet. These 12 colors — three primary, three secondary, and six tertiary — are evenly spaced as wedges around the wheel.

The color wheel can be divided up between warm and cool colors. Warm colors (red through oranges to yellow-green) are vibrant and active while cool colors (green though blues to red violet) recede into the background, says Mia. Complementary colors are directly opposite from one another on the color wheel and often look good together because they offer so much contrast between them. However, be aware that complementary colors can be bright and strong, says Mia. Analogous colors are next to one another on the wheel. For example, red-violet, red, and red-orange are all near each other on the color wheel. These colors are similar but different enough to add subtle contrast.

The color wheel is expanded when you add tints, shades, and neutrals to each color. To create a tint of any color you just simply add white to it to lighten it up. A shade is the opposite, you add black to a color, making it darker. Neutrals — white, browns, and grays — are more subdued colors that give the eye a rest when worked near brighter colors.

There is no right or wrong way to use colors, says Mia, but the color wheel is a tool to help you get started experimenting until you know what colors and combinations you like.

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