Opposites Attract: The Contemporary Colour Scheme

If you’ve read my previous post regarding Alice In Chain’s Rotten Apple, you would recall how I discussed Layne Staley and Jerry Cantrell’s remarkable ability to harmonise. But what exactly is a harmony?

It’s the result of the arrangement of components that altogether create a specific aura. It’s often aimed to be the result of most things! Conversations, the general structure of this post and also the combination of colours.


Fig 1. A Nightmare Of Elm Street (1984)

The latter, colour harmony, is the concept of combining colours to deliver certain aesthetics and moods smoothly to viewers and it’s a crucial tool in the works of designers and artists. There are 5 types of colour harmony: complementary, split-complementary, triadic, analogous and tetradic. In this post, I will go in-depth about the complementary colour scheme, also known as the direct harmony. (Rodin, 2016)

The complementary colour scheme is the combination of two colours directly opposite to each other on the colour wheel. It’s the most commonly used colour scheme in media as it is known to be the most effective colour scheme when your work needs to be bold, striking and eye-catching due to the high contrast involved. (Benve, 2017) However, it is not recommended when used on text as it could be too intense for readers.

Fig 2. Contemporary Colour Wheel

Despite being so commonly used in the media industry, it’s tricky to harmonise the two colours as they are two extremes coming together. For example; Blue and orange. Blue falls on the cool side of the palette while orange falls on the warm side. Psychologically, blue represents serenity, coolness and relaxation whereas orange represents life, free-spirit and excitement. (Kolenda, n.d.)

When considering the effect that your work has to make on an audience, the difficulty lies in bringing a balance between two completely energies. Nevertheless, when using the right shades of both colours and using an equal colour ratio, they harmonise and neutralise each other.


Fig 3: Fight Club (1999)

The aura created by your work can differ due to the intensity of saturation. When the saturation is high, your work becomes dramatic, vivid and conspicuous. I came to learn this when doing my own art with this colour scheme. Before digitally altering it, the edge was subtle. I blamed this on the general nature of watercolours. It needed to be loud as my subjects had shocking personas. Once I increased the saturation, there was vitality, intrigue and life. It became a visual treat and did justice to my subjects.

Fig 4. (left) My artwork Manson before digital alteration, (right) After digital alteration increased saturation

If the saturation is too high, it becomes repulsive. Your work would have too much to say; like being caught in an argument. When low/neutral, it’s toned down, mellow and soothing; caters to most of the audience. Too low and the colours look merged into one. It’s dull and the work loses its energy entirely.

Well, regardless of its challenges, it’s one of the more exciting colour schemes to work with and if used wisely, you can create some pretty rewarding work.




A Nightmare On Elm Street [Digital image]. (n.d.). Retrieved October 24, 2017, from https://i.imgur.com/ntxiVbD.jpg

Benve, R. (2017, July 31). Color Harmony: Color Schemes Explained. Retrieved October 23, 2017, from https://feltmagnet.com/misc/Harmonious-Painting-Color-Schemes

Colour Wheel [Digital Image]. (n.d.). Retrieved October 24, 2017, from https://i.pinimg.com/736x/70/19/b97019b9c203b5ae661dd3f17ae5b32122–interior-paint-colors-colour-wheel.jpg

Harmony. (n.d.). Retrieved October 23, 2017, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/harmony

Kolenda, N. (n.d.). Color Psychology: An Enormous Guide. Retrieved October 23, 2017, from https://www.nickkolenda.com/color-psychology/#color-meanings-what

Purple and Yellow Painting [Digital image]. (n.d.). Retrieved October 24, 2017, from https://greenwillowstudio.files.wordpress.com/2010/06/p1100078.jpg

Rodin, R. (2016, June 14). Color Harmony: Why Hulk Wears Purple Pants. Retrieved October 23, 2017, from http://zevendesign.com/color-harmony-hulk-wears-purple-pants/