With a limitless number of colors and an infinite number of color combinations, narrowing down your color choices for a particular painting can be a daunting task. As I’ve discussed previously, color schemes can help you make harmonious selections. Today we’ll look at one of these color schemes and how it can be utilized to create aesthetically pleasing work.
|Maxfield parris, Daybreak, 1922|
A triadic color scheme, or simply a triad, is made up of three colors. These three colors are equidistant from each other on the color wheel. Any equilateral triangle drawn between three colors will create a triad (fig. 1).
A triad made up of secondary or tertiary colors (fig. 3) will create a more harmonious color scheme.
So why triads? Triads tend to create dynamic color schemes because they are made up of color combinations which may not be obvious. Additionally, the blending of any two triad colors creates an interesting “semi-neutral” color (fig. 4). These colors are called semi-neutrals because they are not true neutrals. To create a true neutral a color must be mixed with its complement (opposite).
When working with triads, it’s important to understand that the hue of contrasting temperatures (resulting from the equidistance on the color wheel) creates a temperature balance between warm and cool colors. When working with a cool color scheme (say purple and green), accents of warm (orange) can be added to create a triad. And vise versa.
Experimenting with triads can lend an interesting dynamic to your work. However, it is wise to avoid using all three colors equally. Allowing one to be dominant will give you the opportunity to use the others as unique accents. Just take a look at the Maxfield Parrish masterpiece above for an example of effective use of a triad.