Intro to colors
There are six elements of art, and color is one of them! Today we are going to apply various artistic principles to our favorite way of self-expression. Understanding how colors work together and the reasons why sometimes colors just seem to ‘clash’ will help you create more impactful outfits and make more concous choices. Don’t worry, you will see that the principles we are about to learn are very easy, but knowing them can really make a change. Not just when you are preparing your outfits, but also while shopping. Sometimes when that cute top comes in five different colors it can be overwhelming to choose just one, in the moment we might be drawn to the color that we personally like the most, but when you come home and realize you have nothing to combine it with, then it just stays in the back of your closet with the tag on for month. Let’s start thinking of our outfits as works of art and with a few simple guidelines you will never have this problem again.
The color wheel
Lets start with the basics, the color wheel shows the relationship between colors. In general, you can reduce any color with strange names by combining the 12 basic colors on the color wheel. Colors like crimson, goldenrod, and ultramarine blue are pretty much just red, yellow, and blue. Another thing to keep in mind about color is the temperature of each one. We can classify the colors as warm or cold. Warm colors have golden undertones, while cool colors have blue undertones. The easiest way to understand this is to think of warm colors as the colors that evoke the sun and heat and cool colors are the ones that impart a feeling of calm and coolness.
This is especially important in the context of fashion as our skin tones have to be taken into account when dressing. Generally speaking, if you have a warm skin tone, you will look better in warm colors and vice versa. In the illustration you can see the division between warm and cold colors.
Now comes the fun part. In color theory, there are a lot of color harmonies, but we will focus on only the basic ones: monochromatic, complementary, analogous, triadic, and semi-complementary.
Monochromatic color combinations are made up of shades of a single base color.A color scheme of burgundy, salmon, and cherry red is a monochrome scheme. Contrary to popular belief monochrome colors do not mean grayscale or black and white. Technically speaking, dressing in grayscale and black is monochrome but the term does not refer exclusively to only those colors. A better term for black and white color schemes would be achromatic, which literally means no color.
Complementary colors are colors that are directly across from each other on the color wheel. There are six complementary colors on the wheel. This double scheme is very attractive to the eye and is often used in movies.
One caveat: complementary color combinations may be too strong or too bright for some. A good way to try out a complementary color scheme without making it look too strong is to use a muted shade of one or two colors.
Analogous colors are three colors that are next to each other on the color wheel. It is often confused with monochrome schemes. Usually there is only one dominant color, while the others are used as accents.
Analogous color combinations are easy, safe and reliable combos, but using different shades of each color gives a more sophisticated palette of hues. A triadic color scheme uses three equidistant colors around the color wheel. Triadic color combinations look very vibrant. A classic example would be its main color scheme of red, blue, and yellow.Another triadic scheme can be orange, purple, and yellow (secondary). Again, if this seems too bright you can go for muted shades of triadic color combinations to make it more workable.
The semi-complementary color scheme is a variation of the complementary color scheme. You take one color from the color wheel and look at its complementary color, then you take the two colors next to it, as shown in the diagram.
This is a fairly unusual way of color matching and while difficult, the impact is worth it if done right.
When talking about color in the context of fashion, we cannot forget neutral colors. Neutrals often make up the bulk of our closets and some are content to have a walk-in closet exclusively in neutral colors. Think of neutrals as “foolproof” colors that can be paired with just about anything. Common neutrals in fashion are black, white, navy, gray, and brown, along with the myriad hues of each. The least common are olive, brown, and some very dark, muted shades of plum. This is not a definitive list of neutral colors.
It is important to remember that there are thousands of colors and consequently thousands of possible combinations. This guide is nothing more than a simple introduction. Look around you and you will see all kinds of unexpected color palettes. If you are ever stick and trying to find new color schemes, Mother Nature can be of great inspiration.