Color Theory For Miniature Painting - Part 2, Color Harmony

Not only can color, which is under fixed laws, be taught like music, but it is easier to learn than drawing, whose elaborate principles cannot be taught.” – Eugene Delacroix

“Color is so much a matter of direct and immediate perception that any discussion of theory needs to be accompanied by experiments with the colors themselves.” – Walter Sargent

“All colors are the friends of their neighbors and the lovers of their opposites.” – Marc Chagall

“Why do two colors, put one next to the other, sing? Can one really explain this?” – Pablo Picasso

Color Harmony

Harmony can be described as a sameness, the belonging of one thing with another. The repetition of design elements like colour, texture, shape, and form is one of the easiest ways to achieve harmony to create a composition.

In visual experiences such as viewing a miniature, harmony is something that is pleasing to the eye. It engages the viewer and it creates an inner sense of order, a balance in the visual experience. When something is not harmonious, it's either boring or chaotic. At one extreme is a visual experience that is so bland that the viewer is not engaged. The human brain will reject under-stimulating information.

At the other extreme is a visual experience that is so overdone, so chaotic that the viewer can't stand to look at it. The human brain rejects what it cannot organize, what it cannot understand. The visual task requires that we present a logical structure. Color harmony delivers visual interest and a sense of order.

In summary, extreme unity leads to under-stimulation, extreme complexity leads to over-stimulation. Harmony is a dynamic equilibrium.



Some Formulas for Color Harmony

There are many theories for harmony. The following illustrations and descriptions present some basic formulas.


1. A color scheme based on analogous colors

Analogous colors are any three colors which are side by side on a 12-part color wheel, such as yellow-green, yellow, and yellow-orange. Usually one of the three colors predominates.
 

2. A color scheme based on complementary colors

Complementary colors are any two colors which are directly opposite each other, such as red and green and red-purple and yellow-green. In the illustration above, there are several variations of yellow-green in the leaves and several variations of red-purple in the orchid. These opposing colors create maximum contrast and maximum stability.
 

3. A color scheme based on nature

Nature provides a perfect departure point for color harmony. In the illustration above, red yellow and green create a harmonious design, regardless of whether this combination fits into a technical formula for color harmony.

Color Context

How color behaves in relation to other colors and shapes is a complex area of color theory. Compare the contrast effects of different color backgrounds for the same red square.

Red appears more brilliant against a black background and somewhat duller against the white background. In contrast with orange, the red appears lifeless; in contrast with blue-green, it exhibits brilliance. Notice that the red square appears larger on black than on other background colors.