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Combining Colors

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Javier Velasco

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User since: 14 Dec 1998

Articles written: 16

I've always loved playing with colors. As a kid I played with finger-paint, wax

pencils, color pencils, felt-tip pens, and paint! Then color papers, brushes and

paint, watercolor, etc. Until I got my fist computer with a color screen, started

playing with pixelated colors, though I didn't know about RGB at the time, with

a program called Super Paint, which had an amazing feature that made the color

palette in your image rotate! And finally I've been playing with color photography.

So you can imagine my excitement when I saw that question from Dave on thelist,

"how do you pick colors?"

By definition, the best two colors to combine are opposite (or complimentary)

colors, which are opposed on the color wheel, the 1:1 mix of opposite colors

results in mid-grey, neutral color by definition. This "perfect combination"

can often be seen in interior decoration and it's always a good place to start,

then you can change the hues and tones to give it a personal character and make

it unique.

Then when you start adding colors to the palette, it depends only on your

experience and judging capacity. This capacity to judge must be enriched daily

as you simply live with your eyes wide open. Look all around you, we're surrounded

by objects of design: clothes, boxes, CDs, books. On the streets: ads, cars,

motorcycles (the most flashy colors here), stores, buildings. In nature: (best

combinations around) trees, plants, flowers, insects, stones, mountains, branches,

birds, etc. Of course, hundreds of master painters who have left years of work

as evidence.

Below I have stuck some of the responses to Dave's question pulled from thelist...

Within the confines of that publication I found a link to the mother of all

color tools, for me - the VisiBone 216-Color Webmaster's Palette, at their Webmaster's

Color Laboratory, which you can dial up at:

. Although designed principally for Photoshop, I use it frequently for color

theme creations, in conjunction with "Color Harmony 2." The web safe colors

are arranged in a circular design, by hue, 'somewhat' similar to a color wheel,

and by selecting colors from corresponding positions on the 'color wheel,' you

can put together themes in a snap that will utterly stupefy you. It displays

colors in RGB, hex, AND CMYK. Try it! It's online, and FREE.

Tom Tetzlaff

...For sites with a lot of information, stuff that's updated daily or needs

to be read by a lot of people.. I always use a base of white for background.

It's neat, clean and lends itself well to printing. After that, I might add

a picture or grayscale imagery on top of that, but less is more.

Jen Delgrosso

So don't try to think of something of your own :) Put away your web palettes,

go take a walk outside... pick a flower, take a look at the colours on it and

how they're combined. Look at trees, look at grocery store packaging (but not

for too long, your eyes will hurt), look around. Surf with the yahoo URL randomizer.

Or for a wonderfully different approach that I use often since I found this

page, check out Joe Gillespie's "web page design for designers" site: I'd start

here especially the last paragraph, on using

a photograph with the feel you want to capture to create your palette (in short,

take a photo, any photo, reduce the palette to the 3 or 4 strongest colours,

and use those, in similar proportions to the amount of each colour in the photo).

It's a grand technique, and sometimes when I'm a little stuck, or just messing

around, I take my favourite photo's, and do this to them, and save them in a

text file as tags, ready to drop into a page on a moments notice. When I'm stuck

for inspiration, I sit there with a temp file changing out body tags I've already

prepared, until I find one that either works or sends my mind off on a tangent

and comes up with something else.

I do believe nature knows best what colours go together, and she's been doing

it a lot longer than we have.

Lauri W, Koping, Sweden

I would only add that you really ought to give consideration to the print collateral

of those companies that have worked to establish a visual identity. I, for one,

hate visiting sites of companies or (especially) publications whose site incorporates

nothing of what makes me like their stuff.

Also, I would suggest you also consider the psychology of the colors you choose.

Now, some people don't put any stock at all in the theory, but I personally

think there's something to it. Your choice of color can appeal to pleasure,

dominance and arousal, which affects men, women and "culture" members differently.

Maria Teresa Molina

Artistic inspiration for me is almost inherent. I grew up in an art gallery

and have spent my entire life surrounded by great artists and I think that interaction

has helped me greatly. Basically I think you just need to walk around with your

eyes open and you'll draw your style and inspiration from the world around you.

I think it helps that I take the time and walk to work everyday and honestly

make a conscious effort to look at the horizon while I walk instead of the typical

10 foot radius us humans tend to focus on. Try it, you'll be amazed at how much

more you see.


I would suggest (in addition to the wonderful ideas already suggested) that

everyone start a clip file. Basically, whenever I see something that sparks

my imagination in a magazine or advertisement or postcard I cut it out and put

it in my clipboard. I have quite a collection of clips which interested me either

for their color scheme, their mood or their typography. Whenever I'm stuck in

a rut I pull it out and and get new ideas.

Also, once a month or even more, take a special trip down to a big bookstore

and thumb through all the magazines with visually interesting covers. Buy the

ones that have lots of potential "clips" in them. Go to your town's most visually

interesting street and wander around picking up not just sights but scents and

sounds. Bring a notebook with you and write about it. Take photos so you'll

remember how fantastic that red doorway looked in the morning sun. It's not

just a good exercise for your brain it's therapy too!

- amanda

mantruc is an oldtime evolter from Chile.

his thing is communication, what he most likes about the internet is how it allows people to communicate at many levels, and he thinks that is the best proof of that.

he has worked in web development since 1997 as designer, developer and information architect.

his expression is photogtaphy.

Javier is currently working as an associate researcher for the Center for Web Research, part of the Department of Computer Science at Universidad de Chile.

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