the harmony of colour…

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26/11/2010 by Sarah Ritchie

…Renaissance golden boys such as Titian and Bellini, whose colour harmonies travel straight along the optic nerve to the zone of the brain marked ‘Pleasure’.” (Justin Paton, “How to Look at a Painting”, 2005). Nice! I look forward to the day when my paintings produce such a delicious result!

‘Complementary’, ‘primary’, ‘triadic’, ‘analogous’. Confused? So am I…and that’s just the beginning of the terminology!

A few weeks ago I bought a colour wheel and began reading up about colour theory. You’d think that – being a graphic designer – I would understand the principles of colour theory, but I understand only the very basics.

It is far too easy to rely on websites and resources such as or or the numerous colour harmony books out there. These sources are fantastic, and take the guesswork out of creating successful colour palettes. The downside? They take the guesswork out of creating successful colour palettes.

Complementary colour example

Canvas #10: Grace to you, and peace. Basic complementary colour palette.

With the majority of my canvases – to date – I have played it safe with colour – preferring to use full-strength (and basic) primary, secondary, complementary and analogous colour combinations. The test will come when I branch into combining more complex colour sets and tints.

However, before I focus on colour theory I will first need to find out how to mix the colours properly and confidently. I really thought colour mixing was going to be easy. So many things to learn…!


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Finalist, Estuary Art Awards 2011
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© Sarah Ritchie 2014

Please do not use copies of my original artwork for profit, however you are welcome to share my artwork images as much as you like!

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