Collage and the Color Wheel – How to Harmonize

My sister-in-law recently gave me the nicest compliment. I was bemoaning my lack of housekeeping skills when she interrupted to say, "But you paint your house in the most awesome colors."

My complementary back door,
in progress.

Well, that's true. My house is a collage of bold colors. Also, I like complements, and I'm not afraid to use them. Why, just this past weekend I painted my back door eggplant, accented with sunflower yellow. It pops against the blue-gray shingles and makes me happy just to look at it.

I tend to go bold and complementary in my artwork, too. I just feel so energized by complements, or the colors across each other on the color wheel. They sing.

But using complements in artwork can get old and, especially in collage, confusing. It's like having two divas in the chorus: they fight for the spotlight and drown out everyone else.

Lately I've learned that if you want your collage art colors to harmonize more, try analogous colors.

blue analogous collage
green analogous collage
purple analogous collage
Three versions of the same
mixed-media collage, using three different analogous color groups.
Art by Jenn Mason.

Analogous colors are the colors immediately next to each other on the color wheel. Yellow's analogous colors are orange and green. Red's colors are orange and purple. If you think of the color wheel as a pie, any quarter piece of the pie is made up of analogous colors.

Staying with the musical metaphor, analogous colors are more like a band where the lead singer, guitarist, and drummer all get a star turn at some point in the performance.

Cloth Paper Scissors Editor Jenn Mason puts it this way:  "How the colors are used together can make or break a piece of art. Think of the analogous color grouping of purple, blue, and green. Using all three colors in even amounts, textures, tints, and shades would confuse or tire the eye.

"Pick one of the three colors (perhaps your favorite of the three) to be the lead singerlet's pick a nice cobalt blue. Go to town with the lead singer. You will use this color the most. Try it in the background and for final touches. Next pick your lead guitar. This guy is a show off and might be your brightest colorgreen. But not just any green; let's let our lead guitar be a brilliant acid green. Lastly, we need a drummer. Yes, the drummer sits in the back but really, if the song doesn't have a good beat, no one will ever buy it. The drummer is your unsung hero. Because our drummer is versatile and can play all types of percussion, let's use this to our advantage and use a little touch of purple, a wash of violet, and some dreamy lavender."

Once you have a real bandlet's call them the Analogous Artistsit's time to start jamming. Gather your mixed-media collage materials (paint, ink, ephemera, markers, etc.) and some heavyweight watercolor paper and improvise. See how they play together.

I've always avoided analogous color combinations because I thought they would be too subtle. But in these three examples, featured in the interactive eMag Collage in Color 2, Jenn dispels that notion.

Hmmm. I wonder how my front door might look in purple, blue, and acid green? You can try out analogous color combinations yourself on Collage in Color 2, available for iPad.

P.S. Great news! Versions of Collage in Color 2 for PC and Mac will be available in about three weeks. We'll keep you posted. Thanks for your patience.


Blog, Collage, Mixed-Media Techniques


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