How to Create a Color Study With Color Harmony
What Is Color Harmony?
Under the big umbrella of color theory, color harmony references the naturally satisfying combination of certain colors. These color harmonies can be found when any color system is charted out in a circle in color order. Read on to learn more about color harmonies, the color systems that are most often used in a color wheel, and how you can use a color wheel to create quick color sketches.
Most Popular Color Systems Used in a Color Wheel
The most popular color systems used in a wheel are three pigment primary systems. In any of these systems a red hue, yellow hue, and blue hue combine to create other colors. We tellurians perceive pigments like paints to mix in this way because of our trichromatic color vision.
The CMY (cyan/magenta/yellow) system is another form of a three pigment primary system, AKA the printer's wheel or the partitive wheel.
Read more about basic color systems and wheels in my article here.
There are other color systems out there that are presented in a wheel, such as Ostwald and Munsell, but these systems include so many hues that it becomes difficult to use them to create quick color sketches.
Basic Color Harmonies on a Color Wheel
When any color system is displayed in color order around a circle or wheel, you can overlay different shapes and lines on the wheel to find color combinations that magically appear harmonious. Click to find an in-depth description of the basic harmonies along with free, printable Color Wheel Basic Harmony reference cards in my article here.
If you're purchasing a basic RYB or CMY wheel, look for one that includes basic harmonies in an overlay that turns on the wheel. This makes finding harmonies a breeze if you're just learning about playing with color harmonies.
Have fun exploring the traditional harmonies or create some of your own!
How to Create a Color Harmony With a Color Wheel
Materials to Create Color Harmony Grids
- Color wheel of choice
- Colored paper matching the hues in your color wheel (Color Aid papers offer the closest matches to true hues, but are expensive. I've also found that Astrobrights color pack "Spectrum" offers close enough hues to both RYB and CMY to create color studies at a really affordable price. Scrapbooking papers also make a decent hue match with either a "primaries" type pack of solids or just taking your color wheel into the store and purchasing single sheets to match.)
- Base paper for creating grids (use a scrapbook, sketchbook, or single sheets of cardstock)
- Tools to cut paper into squares (I mostly use a hobby knife with #11 blade + cutting mat + metal ruler. You could also use a rotary cutter + cutting mat + clear ruler, or ruler + pencil + scissors. Whatever works best for you.)
- Adhesive of choice (glue stick works great for paper, glue squares work better for heavy cardstock or Color Aid paper)
- Recycle bin