fun with color
Monday, March 29, 2010 at 8:23AM
jenifer at stroopwoffle

A year or two ago, I was teaching a drawing/painting course at a local college. I ran into trouble, embarrassingly enough, when I was teaching a lesson on color theory. It's something that many artists do intuitively, and we forget how to put language to it (as I found out the hard way, whilst fumbling through the lesson).

As I've been doing more and more design work lately, I've been nerding out on color relationships, and I thought it might be fun to share a tool that I'm in love with. I've found it particularly helpful for a website I'm currently designing where color harmony is really important.

Particularly for clients who aren't sure what color schemes they're looking for, I'd recommend just monkeying around a bit with a site that generates color palettes: it's a nice option, outside of stealing a bunch of paint chips from Home Depot and rearranging them on your kitchen table (as some do).

So check it out: here's a site I love called Color Scheme Designer.

I clicked on the big color wheel at left and chose a shade of cool pink, as you can see:

But what goes with pink?
(No. The answer is not EVERYTHIIIING! Sorry.)
But there are a lot more colors that go beautifully with pink than one might think.

At the upper left, there are sections that allow you to experiment with different combinations based on the color wheel: COMPLEMENTary colors, TRIADic colors, TETRADic colors, ANALOGOUS colors, and ACCENTED ANALOGOUS colors. Since I'm off-duty teaching color theory, I'll just show you what happens when you click on some of the options after selection your main color (in this case, pink):

You'll notice it selects a range of yellow-greens from the opposite side of the wheel.

TRIADIC (as in 3):

Notice it selects from a triangle of colors on the wheel

How about TETRADIC (as in 4)?:

Yep, from 4 points on the wheel

Lastly, here's ANALOGIC (often referred to as ANALOGOUS, but who's checking?):

It selects the "neighboring" colors on the wheel.

There are about a zillion other settings you can experiment with on this site. If you're stuck, trying to figure out the palette you want for your invite, poster, or whatever it is you're working on, don't try to reason it out like a game of chess. Just try messing around with color samples in an active way, and see what "clicks" for you, visually.

Article originally appeared on stroopwoffle (
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