THE DESIGN STUDIO: Color Theory

THE DESIGN STUDIO: Color Theory

Red, yellow, blue. Red, yellow, blue.

I'm betting that there's a decent chance you sang that in your head. With colors abounding this spring time, it's not only a fantastic time of year to begin incorporating more colors into your wardrobe, but challenging what combinations to try out. You're go-to tool in this situation is none other than good old color theory.

Whether designing a dress for a gala and assembling your mood board or simply putting together an outfit for work, you've probably already put to use some of the most basic color theory ideas. But it's always a good idea to take another look at how the color wheel can wonderfully apply itself to fashion and design.

We will start with the basics:

Here are our old friends, red, yellow, blue, making up the primary colors, or hues. No other colors can be combined to make these special three, but between them (with additions of white, black, and grey, but we'll get to that later) all the other colors are possible. By mixing each of these, we get the secondary colors: orange (red+yellow), green (blue+yellow), and purple (red+blue). 

Now the color wheel is filling in nicely.

Fitting in-between the primary colors are the tertiary colors. Tertiary colors are made by mixing a primary color with a secondary color (yellow+orange=yellow-orange, purple+blue=blue-purple). 

And just like that, you have your basic color wheel and a great tool for deciding which colors/hues work best with others. Here are just a few more key terms to keep in mind and put to use for your design palette and outfit choices:

Shade: add black to a pure hue
Tone: add grey to a pure hue
Tint: add white to a pure hue
 This is an example of tone. The red hue changes to different shades of pink when white is added.

This is an example of tone. The red hue changes to different shades of pink when white is added.

Now, to apply these basics to fashion.

While there are numerous combinations of colors, not all work especially well together. Or perhaps they do, but make your design look too loud or, on the other hand, too muted. Experimenting with color is one of the most fun parts of design, art, and picking out your outfit for the day. Color can affect your mood, the perception of those around you, and, if you are creating a line of clothing, it can be a key factor for tying it all together. Here are a few simple palette inspirations to assist.

Monochromatic

In a monochromatic palette, the palette consists of only one color. While that seems super easy, it can be very difficult to pull off. To help, you can mix it up a little bit by using different tints, tones, shades, or textures to keep it interesting.

Dressing monochromatic is not something that I typically think to do, but I immediately got a compliment from a stranger when we went to take this photo. Maybe it was the fact that I was wearing such a sunny color 30 minutes before it rained, but I think the monochromatic palette is something that if you have a good enough match and the correct elements, can be a pretty fun challenge.

 Monochromatic: Yellow dress, yellow clutch, yellow heels. 

Monochromatic: Yellow dress, yellow clutch, yellow heels. 

Complementary

Complementary colors are created by mixing colors directly opposite of eachother on the color wheel (red+green, yellow+purple, blue+orange). If you are painting, mixing the complementary color of your original hue will first darken your hue, and eventually make the color brown. Using complementary colors in a design or outfit will give you a bold pop of color with the colors' high contrast. The easiest way to spice up a rather plain outfit is to a add a splash of color this way.

This is a go-to work outfit for me (you can see that it makes me so happy!). It's difficult to tell, but the dress is a very simple, very plain and is a basic navy blue color. There's nothing too interesting with the dress itself, so I either pair it with a fun belt or my favorite orange cardigan. Because blue and orange are complementary colors, I know they work well together because of the high-contrast pop of color.

 Completmentary: Blue dress, orange cardigan.

Completmentary: Blue dress, orange cardigan.

Analogous

An analogous palette can be one of the easier ones to assemble. It's made up of colors that are directly next to eachother on the color wheel. Because the colors are so close, they create a very harmonious look. To keep it interesting, mix up again with different tones, shades, tints, and saturations (the intensity of the hue).

For this look, I paired green with yellow. The green is a much darker hue than the yellow clutch, making the clutch stand out as a statement. If I wanted to make it even more analogous, I could pair it with a yellow-green scarf to tie them together even more. This fun pop of color gives me hope that I can incorporate this favorite dress of mine into something that can be worn year-round.

 Analogous: Green dress, yellow clutch.

Analogous: Green dress, yellow clutch.

Triadic

Triadic palettes are comprised of three colors that are equidistant from eachother on the color wheel (red, yellow, blue or orange, purple, green, etc.). Like the complementary palette, this color approach tends to be very dramatic and vibrant. A way to help make this look a little more subdued is to choose a dominant color and have the other two work as more of a support crew.

For this example, I went with a navy blue pant, dramatic red top, and those yellow heels again. This is yet another combination I wouldn't have necessary tried on my own, but I was pleased with the look when it was all together. I had actually planned on wearing the top and pants together, but had had trouble finding just the right shoes to pair with them. Using the tiradic palette was a great solution to that problem. Look at me, I clearly have no worries of my own in this pic, but I'm totally ready to lend an ear to hear yours.

 Triadit: Blue pants (base color), red blouse (heavy accent color) and yellow heels (smaller accent color).   A big thanks to Derek Gallagher for taking these lovely photos. I'm no model, so this took probably twice as long and required three times the patience that it should have. 

Triadit: Blue pants (base color), red blouse (heavy accent color) and yellow heels (smaller accent color).

 A big thanks to Derek Gallagher for taking these lovely photos. I'm no model, so this took probably twice as long and required three times the patience that it should have. 

For someone who studied art and took Art Theory classes, it was so much fun discovering how much of those same processes and concepts have a resounding impact on fashion and fashion design. I challenge you to take a look at some of your favorite designers and their lines and examine the palettes and techniques they chose to go with and which ones you like yourself. Or just look back at the Met Gala or any other celebrity red carpet and I'm certain you'll find them using these basic tools to their advantage. But most of all, I'd like to challenge you to mix up your own designs or wardrobe. You might find some really fun and lovely combinations that you just hadn't thought to try before! 

 

WOMEN CRUSH WEDNESDAY: Valentina

WOMEN CRUSH WEDNESDAY: Valentina

WHAT WE'RE WEARING: Formal Floral

WHAT WE'RE WEARING: Formal Floral