Intro to Color Theory

Welcome, beauties!  In this article, we are going to try to explain color theory in a way that people who aren’t Isaac Newton can still understand.  (Newton was actually famous for his critical work in color theory.)  Our aim is that you’ll be perfectly armed with the right information to choose your wedding palette.

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We hope you can remember a little about the color wheel from your elementary school education.  If not (our memory is a little off too) let us break it down for you.

The color wheel wraps all the way around in a rainbow (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, and back to red).  The three primary colors are red, yellow, and blue, with the secondary colors being what happens when you mix two primary colors (orange, green, and purple).  Tertiary colors are what happens when you mix a primary and a secondary color (like turquoise).  All caught up?

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First things first, there are three metrics by which you can categorize or distinguish colors:

  1. Lightness-Darkness: how white or how black the color is

  2. Saturation: how bright or pure the color is

  3. Hue: the color itself (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, etc.)

When you take these factors and represent them with Munsell’s Color System, you get a 3D sphere of color.  We know, this is rapidly becoming much more complex than the color wheel.  We’ll break it down:  

First, imagine that the top of the globe is white (the North Pole) and the bottom is black (the South Pole).  Next, imagine that around the equator you have the whole color wheel.  And the surface of the globe is the most saturated version of every color.  So, then imagine that the closer you get to the center of the globe (the core), the more grey the colors get (less saturated).  Therefore, contained in the sphere is every possible color.  To learn more about the Color System, you can find more information here.

Now let’s get into how to pick a palette.  There are a few things you may want to consider:

Warm vs. Cool

Warm colors are colors generally associated with reds and oranges.  These are seen as powerful colors.  On the other hand, cool colors are on the blue end of the spectrum.  They are viewed as relaxing.  So, depending on how passionate or relaxed you want your wedding to feel, you may want to stick to one end of the spectrum or the other.  This is not to say that there cannot be a relaxing orange, but perception may play a part in how the palette is received by your guests or overall feel of the wedding day.

Color Harmony

Color harmony is a theory of what colors look good together.  Here are three parts to the theory:

  1. Analogous: Colors that are immediately next to each other on the color wheel.  You won’t want two colors that are too similar (in the same way that it’s frustrating when your black shirt and black pants don’t match).  Instead, try a turquoise with a blue, or an orange with a yellow.

  2. Complementary: Complementary colors are colors that are directly across from each other on the color wheel.  So, red and green, yellow and purple, and blue and orange.  These colors tend to give a pleasing effect as they will both pop.

  3. Natural: You can also use colors you find that occur naturally.  For example, a purple and green that are reminiscent of flowers with leaves.

Meanings of Colors

Colors have meanings.  There is a symbolism that comes with our culture.  Red is love and passion, but also lucky in Chinese culture.  Green is lucky as well in Western cultures, but also envy.  If there is a particular meaning that you would like to give your palette, we recommend searching the meanings of colors to get exactly the combination you desire for your special day.

Lastly, we cannot stress enough how important it is to stick to your guns with your palette.  If you have an exact shade in mind, take your swatch of fabric, or your Pantone chip, or your color fan deck with you to the dress store, the bakery, the florist, the venue, etc.  

Good luck!