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Color Harmony

( Originally Published 1924 )

Oscar Wilde was once asked, "What is the most artistic color?" His reply was, "All colors are artistic. As in music, so in color : one note is not more beautiful than another. The concordant combination of notes is music; the concordant combination of colors is beauty."

By color harmony or balance is meant any color scheme which is pleasing to the eye and which is appropriate for the purpose used.

There are three methods of attaining color harmony. They are:

Self harmony, by gradation of tone, or single hue, single value, single intensity,

Harmony by dominance,

Harmony of related or analogous hues.

Color balance is produced by the following means :

Complementary colors, Split opposites,


Distributed colors.

Harmonies can be worked out scientifically even if one has no color feeling; just as one not "gifted" in music can, with a knowledge of technique, work out musical harmonies.

When Michael Angelo was asked how he mixed his colors, he replied, "With common sense."

Self Harmony

Such a harmony might be red, light red, and dark red. It should be remembered that, in all color schemes, the color of the wearer is considered as one of the colors of the scheme. A lady with brown hair, brown eyes, and orange skin wears a brown costume and gives us a self-harmony. Such a harmony is always less obvious and more temperamental than contrast.

Harmony by Dominance

To illustrate this harmony, let us imagine a brown-haired woman with bright colored lips and blue eyes. Her costume is brown with touches of green and blue, but the general impression is brown. The touches of blue and green embroidery on her frock, her blue eyes, and her red lips add interest but are not sufficient in amount to balance the main theme.

One should never have to debate the question as to which color is supposed to be dominant in any such costume. The nid-nodding would dizzily take away from the joy in the picture and disaster might result, as it did to poor Rastus. Rastus was in the hospital. Some one asked, "How did the accident happen ?" "Wall, I was goin' along Broadway. I saw an automobile coming toward me. It was zig-zagging. When it zigged, I zagged. When it zagged, I zigged. Here I is !"

Harmony of Related Hues or Analogous Harmony

From the definition of the word analogous, we know that the colors which make up the harmony of related hues have the same blood running in their veins. Green is made up of blue and yellow; so, if we put green with blue, or green with yellow, we have a combination of related colors; the same in violet with red, or violet with blue. In such an association, a difference in value or intensity sufficient to show contrast enhances the scheme. A light value of sky-blue might be mixed with a dark value of purple successfully, whereas, navy blue and violet would not be "in the picture."

A woman with flaxen hair dressed in a changeable blue and green gown would form a perfect analogous harmony of green-yellow, which is her hair, and blue-green, which is her gown. A touch of black would save this particular analogy from insipidity; and because black never changes a color harmony or a color balance, the harmony would remain.

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