Contrast - From signal colours to greyscale

Time to use the colour-wheel you made in the second section before last!

In the colour-wheel section it was mentioned that it's arranged in a way that neighboring colours are analogues, and opposite colours contrasting. But what does that mean?

Analogue, contrast and greyscales

Analogue colours: According to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, that more or less invented the colour theory used by artists, analogue colours are the colours near each other in the colour spectrum (from yellow to read for instance).
Like rainbows they please the eye, but tend to be a bit boring in the long run.

Contrasting colours on the other hand are the colours sitting across from each other on the colour-wheel (blue/orange, red/green etc.).
One explanation of their effect is that the brain wish to compensate colours by balancing them with their opposites, and with very strong colours, the result is often vibrant and exciting.

Greyscales: Even though greyscales aren't real colours, you can achieve a very strong light-dark contrast, but generally they're used in large quantities as neutral background for the more bright colours.

That's plenty of theory for now, let's use it!

Colourschemes from exciting to boring

Based on the observations above, it's possible to graduate various colour-combinations by their relative contrast:

Dual complementary colourscheme: Starting at the strong end of the contrast-scale, the dual complementary colourscheme is probably as harsh as it gets, especially if the colours are placed right next to each other.

One of the most well-known dual complementary colourschemes is red and green, like in the Octan stripe.

Split complementary colourshemes: Basically the same as duals, but watered down a bit because one of the complementary colours has been split into one or two of the neighbouring colours on the colour-wheel.

An example of split colourschemes would be by purple together with lime and light orange, or simply purple and lime.

Triad colourschemes: Made out of three colours with equal distance on the colour-wheel. Pretty because they contain all of the primary colours, but less contrasting than the split colourscheme because none of them are directly complementary.

Tetrad colourschemes: Made out of two pairs of complementary colours with equal distance on the colour-wheel. These colourschemes should combine prettiness like the triads (because both contain all the primary colours) with double complementarity.

Unfortunately, with a twelve-colour colour-wheel, you'll always end up with a primary, a secondary and two tertiary colours - out of which at least one will be extremely rare. So tetrad colourschemes will rarely be possible with Lego.

Non-complementary colourschemes: Of course, colourschemes doesn’t have to be based on complementary pairs of colour: There's six steps from one colour to it's complentary opposite and five steps to it's split complementary, so colours at a distance of three or four steps should probably be considered a non-complementary colourscheme (especially iacross primary colours).

An example of this would be green+light orange (3 steps) or green+orange (4 steps).

Analogous colourschemes: Are based on colours sitting close to each other on the colour-wheel such as yellow green, yellow, yellow orange and orange.

While this kind of scheme will create pleasing variations in what would otherwise be one colour + greyscale, they lack the true dynamism of a complementary colourscheme.

One colour + greyscale: One step above plain greyscale, a single colour can add a splash of life that these colourschemes usually lack:

Greyscale colourschemes: With greyscale you can still get a heavy light-dark contrast, however, without the liveliness of colours, most of these schemes end up being either dull greyish or confusing zebra-schemes that are particularly difficult to photograph.


Next up, we'll take a look at colour brightness and quantity contrast.

[return to colour tutorial index]

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