Color Relationships: Creating Color Harmony

What is Color Harmony?

Harmony is nature’s way of saying that two or more things together make sense. Color harmony represents a satisfying balance or unity of colors. Combinations of colors that exist in harmony are pleasing to the eye. The human brain distinguishes the visual interest and the sense of order created by the harmony and forms a dynamic equilibrium.

Experts have specific ideas based on the principles of color theory and color psychology of color combinations that are aesthetically appealing and pleasant. The color wheel becomes the designer’s tool for creating the harmonies. Just keep in mind, as you learned in “Get to Know the Color Wheel” that it is color relationship reference tool not color selection tool. Once you have a harmony in mind you will then use your a fanguide, chip rack or online tool that shows the hundreds or maybe even thousands of colors you have to chose from.

Creating Color Harmony

The basic formulas for creating harmony are described and illustrated on the designer’s color wheel. This section focuses on understanding color relationships and how to develop a finished palette that is pleasing to the eye. Successful color schemes rely on your knowledge of hue, value and chroma. We have all heard someone say “those colors clash” or ‘don’t work together.’

What follows are examples of the color harmonies found on the color wheel that all begin with the color yellow as the common color however you could create these harmonies with any of the twelve hues on our color wheel

Color Harmonies

Monochromatic harmony uses various values (tints, tones, and shades) within the same color family.

Color Relationships: Creating Color Harmony - Monochromatic


Analogous harmonies are based on three or more colors that sit side-by-side on the color wheel.

Color Relationships: Creating Color Harmony - Analogous


Complementary colors (or Direct Complementary) are those that appear opposite each other on the color wheel.

Color Relationships: Creating Color Harmony - Complimentary

A split-complementary color arrangement results from one color paired with two colors on either side of the original color’s direct complement creating a scheme containing three colors.

Color Relationships: Creating Color Harmony - Split Complimentary

Double complement harmonies include two sets of complementary colors that sit next to and across from each other on the color wheel forming an X.

Color Relationships: Creating Color Harmony - Double Compliment


Tetrad combinations are made up of four hues equal distance from one another, forming a square or rectangle on the color wheel.

Color Relationships: Creating Color Harmony - Tetrad


Diad schemes are combinations of two colors located two steps apart on the color wheel, skipping the color in between.

Color Relationships: Creating Color Harmony - Diad


Triad colors are three colors equally spaced from one another, creating an equilateral triangle on the color wheel.

Color Relationships: Creating Color Harmony - Triad


Use color harmonies along with hue, value, and chroma to develop your color schemes. Color can come first or last in the design process. Some designers prefer to choose each color, identifying the color harmony and color description, then find the other elements for their design. Other designers will do just the opposite and create their color plan by responding to an inspiration or another element of design.

Besides taking into consideration color theory: hue, value, chroma, and color harmony, you also need to understand how people might react to the palette on a psychological basis. Learning the meanings and associations of the different colors can assist you in finding just the right colors.


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  2. mohamad valizade says

    thanks, it’s very useful article. but if were used an example for each part of “color harmonies” ,was better.

  3. Nice article, but would be better if, as you mentioned, add an article related to ‘color scheme meaning and sensation’.
    I actually now that it’s defiantly rely on peoples culture and region, but it could be totally reviewed.

  4. Fawzy Farrag says

    Thanks a lot. Would you show how accessing the desired color using the basic elements hue, value & chroma. It would be better to explain an example for that.

  5. Sometime combining color is a difficult part in design, i really love with color harmony,

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