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01. Relationship of dot, line and plane
02. Dot
03. Constellations
04. Line
05. Grids & Patterns
06. Shapes
07. Openings (shapes within shapes)
08. Colour
09. The colour wheel & natural order of colours
10. Color Harmony
11. Texture
12. Light & Shade, Shadows
13. Three-dimensional form
14. Voids
15. Space
16. Composition
17. Principles of basic design
18. Proportion and Scale


10. Colour Harmony

Most people wrongly assume that harmony is the only true goal of colour combination; though most artists and designers nowadays believe that too much harmony can be boring, limiting the pleasure-giving and expressive range of colours. Besides, there are a few instances where colours settle down together and co-ordinate with ease. The simplest kind of harmony is that which occurs when three colours from the wheel, the middle one being a primary, are placed together, pure and unaltered. Although they are of different hues, they contain such a high percentage of identical semi-chromes as to constitute a family kinship. Not only are they closely related in hue, but equally so in value. Another way of harmonizing colour is to equalize (more or less) the differences of hue, value and/or intensity. Take, for example, the three primaries - red, yellow and blue - in their natural position and in full intensity. These hues belong to distinctly different families and they are dissimilar in terms of value, yellow being the lightest, red of a middle value, and blue of the darkest. To equalize the three colours, one could: a) raise the value of the blue to much the same value as that of the red by adding white to it, and lower the value of the yellow by adding a bit of black to it (it's better, however, to lower the value of yellow by breaking it with, say, a tiny bit of violet), and then place areas of the two together with red, unaltered; or b) raise the values of both blue and red closer to that of yellow; or c) lower the values of yellow and red closer to that of yellow or d) add a bit of each of the three colours to the others so as to alter their intensities and their values, hoping not to damage them so much as to destroy their hue identity ( the yellow will probably suffer the most, the blue, somewhat and the red the least). There still remains the factor of simultaneous contrast when it comes to placing these colours together in a design - possible shifts of value and hue. (One could play a similar game of harmonising any three colours in any condition with regard to hue, value, and/or intensity, that are rather unpleasant as a trio).

Both artists and theorists tend to agree on at least two types of harmony: that of analogous colours (colours that lie next to each other on the wheel) and, although it would seem totally contradictory, complementary colours.

Colour lends itself to circular or spherical conformations, as in Munsell's colour solid. We have referred to a number of colour circles, most of them variations on colour and their complementaries. Yet another kind of wheel could be based on colour proportion, after a suggestion by Goethe. It would demonstrate, for example, how a large area of red is needed to balance an area of yellow - a heavier, a more "physical" colour in relation to a light, radiant colour. Goethe's ratios of extension for the primaries and secondaries (in their purest condition) pertain, not surprisingly, to the natural order of colours. Yellow is awarded the numerical rating of 9 in a scale ranging, presumably, from white (10) downward to black (0). Yellow is followed by orange (8), red and green (6), blue (4), and, finally, violet (3). Yellow spreads the most, takes up the room – while the blues seem to turn inward.

Therefore, a wheel based on these ratios would be, from the point of view of a harmonious design, very unbalanced.

Colour and texture play a decisive role in spatial dynamics. This is because all colour and all textures exhibit certain special visual tendencies.

Several aspects need to be considered for our understanding of colours, and no single aspect can be isolated from the others without depriving it of some of its essence. The unique power and appeal of a colour depends on the nature of colour perception, the variables of colour interaction, colour and form, colour and space, colour and mood, fashion trends, personal taste and so on.

Even primitive societies are known to have used colours -either in their art forms, or in daily life, as make-up. Though initially discovered and used by the common people, colours (vegetable dyes and animal extracts) gradually became a dear commodity, and hence the prerogative of the upper echelons of society. Most of those organic pigments were subsequently proven to be toxic and inedible, and thus are now mostly used in textile prints. However, a few like Cochineal (initially used as a lip-enhancer) are still used, in minimal quantities as colouring agents in certain foods.

There are three characteristics exhibited simultaneously by all colours. These are Hue, Value and Intensity. Hue is the colour name, which distinguishes one colour from another. Value is the lightness or darkness of the hue. Intensity, also known as Saturation or Chroma, is the brightness or dullness of the hue, and is determined by the amount of opposite or complementary colours mixed with the hue.

When complements are mixed together, they produce Chromatic greys. Mixing black and white produces Achromatic greys. Achromatic colours can be mixed with chromatic hues to get tints, tones and shades. Adding white to a hue creates a tint, adding black creates a shade, while tones are made by adding greys to a hue. The Colour Wheel is formed on the equations of the three primary colours (red, blue, yellow) and black and white, leading to secondary and tertiary stages of colours.



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For more details contact - Ar. Shirish Sukhatme
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