Do you want to discover triadic colours?
Want to improve your colour within you art?
The best paintings are those with the best use of colour. Monet, Van Gogh to Turner were fantastic painters. We remember their excellent compositions and subjects, but also their colour. Monet is famous for colourful haystacks. Van Gogh is famous for blue and yellow. Turner is famous for red and yellow sunsets.
From complimentary colours to limiting your colour, a triadic colour scheme can help you improve your colour. One great colour schemes is that of triadic colour schemes.
Within this blog post you will learn the inside scoop to triadic colours. I’ll firstly cover what triadic colours are. Secondly, I’ll reveal different colour combinations you can try. Lastly, I’ll uncover famous paintings using this colour scheme. We’ll also look at colour examples you can try, with tips for you to create triadic masterpieces.
What are triadic colours?
Triadic colours are three equally spaced colours around the colour wheel. This forms a triangle. The colour wheel comprises of primary and secondary colours. Artists use the wheel as a colour reference. ‘Tri’ derives from the word three, a Latin or Greek origin. Using only three colours and limiting your colour palette is a recipe for great colour. A triadic colour scheme can make your art more vibrant and saturated.
How does a triadic colour scheme help your colour?
Humans find odd numbers, and in particular the number three, satisfying to the eye. Even numbers are symmetrical, but odd numbers are appealing. Symmetry is boring. It has it’s uses, but if you’re an artist, you want to create interest. Three appears time and time again. In the Olympics, we focus on gold, silver and bronze. A good story has a beginning, middle and end. It also wasn’t the Two Little Pigs either!
Using only three colours creates satisfying works of art. Three colours creates harmony, and leads to superior use of colour. Fine compositions are the by-product of good colour. As colour works closely with composition, never is one in isolation.
I recommend triadic colours so it forces you to limit your colour palette. This can only be a good thing, as Andrew Loomis once said:
“Colour is very much like a bank account. If you dip into it too much, soon you have none” ~ Andrew Loomis
I can’t agree with Loomis enough. More often than not, limiting colours creates stronger pieces of art. I’ve ruined more paintings from using too much colour, than less. I thought using more colour will save a painting, however this is rarely the case. My strongest pieces come from using limited colours.
Things to note when using a triadic colour scheme
To construct a good triadic colour image, make one colour your focal point. In contrast to using the three colours equally. For example, let’s say you’ve chosen purple, blue and yellow for your colour scheme. It will create a stronger, more harmonised piece if you were to focus the majority of the painting on purple. Adding blue and yellow as an adjacent.
Using a triadic colour scheme results in saturated and vibrant images. It’s the nature of the beast. This is especially true if you’re using full-chroma colour choices. You could choose saturated purple, blue and yellow for example. That would make a very saturated image. This is because these colours increase in saturation when sat next to each other. Remember that no colour sits in isolation. I recommend testing your colours before committing to avoid this problem.
Tools I use to help me create triadic colour schemes
The main tool I use to help me create triadic colour schemes is Adobe Colour Wheel. You can rearrange colours, select different gamuts, and steal other colour schemes. Another tool is Paletton, which offers more detail than the Adobe’s Colour Wheel. You can rearrange the wheel easily, and drill down into tones of the three triadic colours.
What other artists have used a triadic colours?
Andy Warhol – Marilyn Monroe, 1967
One fine example of a triadic colour scheme is Andy Warhol’s artwork of Marilyn Monroe, 1967. This piece recently sold at time of writing for $200 million dollars. Wowerz! Warhol used teal, pink + red and yellow expertly. The colours are intense and saturated, and her hair is vibrant against her skin tone. Even though he uses 4 colours within this piece, it’s still a great piece for it’s colour. I love the way her eye shadow is the colour of the background too.
Henri Matisse – Icarus, 1947
Matisse used paper cut outs to create this bold and striking image. Using a limited colour palette, Matisse used blue and dark blue, yellow and a touch of red. It goes to show that big shapes are so important, couple with great colour and you’re onto a winner!
Van Gogh – Café Terrace at Night, 1888
By no means least is Van Gogh’s ‘Café Terrace at Night’. As discussed in my article on famous colour palettes, I love the way colour depicts the evening in the piece. Using yellow, orange, blue and some green, this is an expanded triadic colour scheme. Blue is the focal colour, with bright yellow and orange as the adjacent. Van Gogh’s important lesson here is to not feel restricted by colour. It’s better to use limited colour palettes, however if you feel one extra colour can help, include it in the piece. For example, Van Gogh uses green to add interest.
Different colour schemes
Let’s have a look at the different triadic colour schemes that you can create. I’m using Adobe Colour’s colour palette to show you what’s possible. Experiment yourself and see what you can come up with. As you can see below, there’s hundreds of different colour combinations! You can make one colour unsaturated, whilst keeping the other two colours saturated. You can turn the circle pointers around and position where you want them.
Carefully consider your colours if you have an image in mind that you want to create a colour scheme for. What do you want to communicate? what’s the theme of the piece? does it represent your subject matter? Some of my favourite combinations are teal, yellow-orange and pink-purple. Pink and purple just go well together!
In conclusion – what have we learnt?
We’ve covered a lot of ground in today’s article. I hope it’s helped you improve your own colour theory. Triadic colour schemes for the win! To sum up what we’ve discussed:
- Triadic colour schemes are three selected colours from the colour wheel.
- These appear equally around the wheel, forming a triangle.
- This forces artists to limit their colour, resulting in good colour choices.
- Andy Warhol, Matisse, to Van Gogh have used triadic colour schemes.
- Choosing this colour scheme can result in saturated and vibrant colours. This is because these colours intensify each other once arranged next to each other. Pair unsaturated colours with saturated colours to avoid this.
- Make one colour your focal point. For example, make teal your focal colour out of pink and yellow.
- I use Adobe Colour to help me select triadic colour schemes. But there’s other tools like Paletton for example which are also good.
- There’s a range of different colours you can choose from. Teal, pink, yellow. Blue, red, light green. Purple, green, orange. I could go on and on.
- I recommend experimenting with these colours, have some fun, and see what you can create!
If you liked this blog post, check out my other blog posts revealing my top art tools to help you create amazing artwork, or my complete point perspective guide.
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