For the past few years, I've been teaching Beaded Jewelry Design at a local college one night a week. One of the most difficult areas of design for most of my students is color selection and combination. I've always truly enjoyed combining colors to create unique duos and trios, and my eclectic tastes usually steer me towards colors that few others would choose. I'm not a matchy-matchy girl.
Here are a few of my best tips for selecting and combining colors. Although I apply these tips to jewelry-making, they ring true for any and all instances in which you're using multiple colors on a single project (painting, decorating, scrapbooking, etc).
1. Always stay within the same color value when combining colors.
On typical paint swatches, all of the colors on a card are the exact same hue (color), but they all have different values (darkness/lightness). The darkest color on the swatch is typically the hue at 100%, and each progressively lighter color is the same color with a percentage of white added to it to make it lighter.
Sticking with the same value across the cards will give you a more cohesive look...like you planned it...and the result is much easier on the eyes. So, in the example above, you could use both Melon and Hidden Meadow together, or Apricot Flower and Carolina Parakeet.
2. Use the color wheel for inspiration
Admittedly, this is a pretty elementary color wheel, but it will do. It's common knowledge that a color's complement lies directly across from it on the wheel...red complements green, violet complements yellow, orange blue, etc. Combine this knowledge with the above step of staying within the same value, and you're already going to be making good color choices.
But what if you've got to make three or four colors work together?
1. Choose two adjacent colors...let's say blue-green and green...and then use their complements...red and red-orange.
2. Choose two equally spaced colors and their respective complements...blue, violet, orange, yellow.
3. Choose a block of three or four adjacent colors...red, red-violet, blue-violet, blue.
3. Don't be so matchy-matchy.
For me, this rule mostly applies to my jewelry selections, but really, let's face it, aren't we all a little too matchy-matchy? When I create a knock-out piece of jewelry, the whole point is that people notice it. If it blends in to my outfit, that's less likely to happen. A little contrast goes a long way. Here's where the color wheel comes back into play: choose an outfit that complements, rather than matches, your jewelry! Or go for broke and just wear a piece simply because you can't stand not to, even if it doesn't "go" with your outfit. I have sold countless pieces of my jewelry right off of my neck or ears simply because someone noticed them...and I attribute that to the fact that I never match, so it catches their eye.
The matchy-matchy rule applies to talents, too: gold, silver, bronze, gunmetal, nickel...they all mix and match well. Who says you can't wear them together? Oh, and ALL neutrals mix well. Black can indeed be put together with brown, and the world will not stop turning.