Color Theory and the Color Wheel

Dana Hinders
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Monochromatic layouts use varying shades of the same color.

Understanding color theory and the color wheel can make it easier to create well designed layouts for your scrapbook.

About the Color Wheel

The color wheel is a simple tool that painters and other artists often use when selecting colors for their projects. Sometimes called a color circle, a color wheel arranges red, yellow, and blue primaries at three equally spaced points around a circle. Intermediate and interior points on the wheel demonstrate what happens when various colors are mixed, such as yellow and blue combining to make green. Many color wheels also show the tints, tones, and shades that result from adding black or white to a particular color.

There are a variety of Web sites that will let you print small color wheel charts to use as a home reference for your scrapbooking. If you'd like a studier color wheel, however, you may want to consider investing in one of the following items from Jerry's Artarama.

  • The Color Wheel
  • Pocket Color Wheel
  • Pocket Guide to Mixing Color

Color Theory Basics

Color theory helps to promote the effective use of color in artistic projects. When used correctly, color serves several different functions. For example:

  • Color conveys emotions and sets the mood for your project. Just as pastels are considered soft and romantic, a layout done in bright yellow conveys a sense of youthful energy.
  • Color establishes a focal point. The colors you select for your layout make it clear where the viewer's eye should focus first.
  • Color defines space. Matting dark photos on light colors, for example, helps to keep them visually defined as separate from your background paper.
  • Color helps to balance out different components of your layout. The right color scheme creates harmony among your photos, journaling, and page embellishments.

Using Color in Your Scrapbooks

According to the color theory and the color wheel, there are four basic types of color schemes you can use in your scrapbooking projects:

  • Monochromatic schemes use varying shades of one color, such as a layout mixing dark and light blues.
  • Analogous schemes use colors that are next to each other on the color wheel, such as purple and blue.
  • Complementary schemes use colors that are directly opposite one another on the wheel, such as blue and orange.
  • Triadic schemes combine three colors that create a triangle on the wheel, such as red, yellow, and blue.

Obviously, there is no "right" answer when it comes to picking a color scheme for your layout. Scrapbook magazines such as Creating Keepsakes often feature the same layout done in three or four different color schemes to illustrate how many possibilities are available to scrapbookers. If you're having trouble getting started with your project, however, there are two easy ways to break though this creative block:

  • Choose a dominant color from your photos as the starting point for your color scheme. For example, you may wish to build your son's birthday layout around the vibrant red shirt he's wearing in the photos.
  • Choose colors that help support the theme of your photo, such as pastels for a springtime layout or cool blues and greens for pictures of your most recent beach vacation.

If you're worried your photos have too many competing colors to work well on the same layout, consider using digital image editing software such as Adobe Photoshop Elements to convert the pictures to black and white. This will lend a sophisticated look to your project and give you the creative freedom to choose any color scheme you wish.

Additional Information about Color Theory and the Color Wheel

To learn more about color theory and the color wheel, check out the following helpful Web sites:

You may also be interested in these great scrapbooking idea books:

Color Theory and the Color Wheel