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Photography & Color Harmony

Color Harmony

One of the most important factors in visual art is color.

Painting is in essence, arranging strokes of color onto a canvas to create forms.

It’s a simple observation that certain colors look good together and certain colors look poor together.

When different colors look good together, you could say that the colors “harmonize” with one another and you get color harmony.

Color harmony in visual art works very much the same way that sound harmony work in music.

Color harmony is not a matter of personal opinion or taste. Just as certain music notes harmonize with one another, certain colors also harmonize with one another. This is a technical fact that has to do with the way wave lengths work and interact together.

Harmonizing colors will often leave the viewer with the impression of beauty, order and balance while; non-harmonizing colors can leave the viewer with the impression of ugliness, disorder and chaos.

Through simple observation and the development of color theory, artists have discovered certain sets of colors which look the best together. These sets are called color harmonies or color schemes.

Color Wheel

A color wheel is basically the spectrum of colors place around a wheel. A color wheel shows how the different colors relate to one another.

By using a color wheel, an artist is able to pick a set of colors which are in harmony with another and create a workable color scheme.

There are several different types of color harmonies but there are four basic ones.

Monochromatic – A single color is used with different degrees of lightness and darkness. Sepia photography and black and white photography would be considered monochromatic.

Analogous – Colors located next to one another on a color wheel are used.

Complementary – Colors opposite to another on a color wheel are used.


Triadic – One makes an equidistant triangle on the color wheel and uses the three colors that land on each corner of the triangle.


All fine arts students are taught color theory and color harmonies as part of their basic art education but since many photographers have not taken basic art design classes, they often lack the full use of color in their photographs.

By learning to use different color schemes a photographer can improve the quality of his work.

Mike Williams
Austin Fine Art & Glamour Photography

One Comment

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  1. Alex / Jun 21 2010

    Thanks for publishing this prime knowledge, much appreciated.

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