This post follows on from Introducing more colour into your personal style. If you’ve followed my previous post you may be in a position where you’ve gone through your wardrobe and identified whether there are any colour themes. You may have also been searching for inspiration to build a colour palette and played with different palettes to work out what colours you like.
The emphasis on the last post was very much about experimenting, seeing if you have any colour themes that already exist amongst your clothes, working out what colours you like, and just generally starting to think about colour.
The next step is about understanding how colours work with one another, with the aim of taking the guesswork out of combining colours for you. This is one of the questions I get asked the most. Now generally when it comes to personal style I’m against imposing rules on people. However, when it comes to colour there are certain rules that can be followed if you want to look great.
So when getting to grips with this stuff you may have to make a conscious effort when combining colours to start off with. But over time it will become natural and require less thought. But the same can be said for most things when it comes to developing your style.
So we’re going to start off with some principles to guide you when it comes to colour. Then in the following posts continue with the principles and also take you through how you can actually apply these to your style and wardrobe.
Basic colour principles
- Value – The value of a colour refers to the brightness or darkness of the colour. Imagine taking a colour and mixing it with various amounts of black. The result would be a series of the same colour starting with the original then gradually getting darker.
- Saturation – The saturation refers to the intensity of the colour. Imagine taking a colour and this time mixing it with white. The result would be a series of the same colour starting with the original then gradually getting less intense.
Now some colours just look better together than others this is where colour harmonies come in. I’m only going to cover a handful of simpler colour harmonies and then dive into some more complicated ones in the next post of the series.
- Monochromatic – This is probably one you’re already familiar with, a monochromatic colour harmony only uses one colour with saturation and/or the value tweaked. You can see the examples below how you could use different saturations of green to create a monochromatic look. The outfit below uses different saturations of yellow to avoid the outfit looking too ‘matchy’.
- Complimentary – A complimentary colour harmony uses colours that oppose each other on the colour wheel. Complimentary colours are quite common and naturally pleasing to the eye, they generally just look good. In the example colour wheel, you have yellow and blue selected, and the outfit pictures illustrate what complimentary outfits look like in green and red and also orange and blue. The top and bottom in the first outfit example is also a great monochromatic look if you removed the coat.
- Analogous – An analogous colour harmony uses three colours that are adjacent on the colour wheel, this colour harmony is generally seen a lot in nature as you can see from the colours highlighted on the wheel below. The outfit is another example of an analogous colour harmony, only this time using orange, red and pink.
- Triadic – This colour harmony is usually much bolder than the previous harmonies I’ve touched on. Triadic as you might have guessed involves three colours that are equally distant to each other on the colour wheel. You can see an example below on the wheel as well as an example of a bolder Triadic outfit and one with less saturation.
One of the key things to point out with the colour harmonies is you don’t have to use each colour in equal amounts. So using the Triadic colour harmony, for example, you could have your top half of your outfit in one colour, your bottom half in another and use the remaining colour as an accent for your accessories.
Hopefully, this starts to explain why different colour combinations look amazing, while others just look a bit ‘off’. By taking the basic principles and colour harmonies into consideration when planning an outfit you can comfortably know the colours you’ve picked will look great.
In the next post, we’ll look at some more complicated colour harmonies that will help you when planning a colour palette for your wardrobe.
I always love to hear from my readers so let me know how you’ve got on incorporating colour into your wardrobe by leaving a comment below.
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