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Contrast    Part 2        Colour contrast                     Back to articles list    

Have you ever noticed how red flowers are looks much brighter on green grass compear to yellow or orange flowers?

Red flower on green

Yellow & red

Yes, the surrounding colour helps us better evaluate not only the tone, but also the colour saturation and contrast.

Colour contrast Pic.N1

Pic. N1

Have looked on the top row of Pic. N 1. The grey colour on the middle of 2 squares obtained a different shade of colour, depending on the surrounding colour. The left grey looks much warmer then the right one. In reality they are absolutely same grad of pure grey colour. Which is means that the achromatic colour takes on chromatic characteristics the opposite (contrast colour) of chromatic background.p>

If we have looked on the bottom row of Pic 1. we can see that a red square on a green background. It is looks much sharper and lighter compare to the same red square on the light orange background on the right.

If we compare two colour, which located close to each other on the colour weal, our eye will try to change the shade of the colours, to make it more contrast, more different to the comparative colour. So, green colour next to blue will looks more like green-yellow one. The yellow near red will looks like a yellow-green one. Knowledge these laws can help you successfully resolve questions of colour harmony and colour scheme.

In nature colours are in harmony because the single sours of light (Sun, electric lamp, Moon) united the subjects. A sheet of paper will looks incredibly differently in Moonlight, on the middle of the day or on a rainy morning, We just have that knowledge that paper is white and assume that is always white. In reality the sours of light will colour everything. As a result a sheet of paper will be pink in a sunset and light grey-blue on a rainy day and deep blue at night.

Moreover, the same sheet of paper will looks different if it is near you or 200 meters away. The air mass has its colour and will colouring this sheet of paper, making it darker and colder when it is more far from the viewer.

Further more colours of subjects are reflect on each other and added extra colours to each other. See how colour of a heat or an umbrella will dramatically change the colour of the head of person, passing you by on a sunny day.

One of the most common mistakes of beginners is attempt to passively transfer the colours of nature as it is to the painting. They look separately at the subjects with out noticing any connections. After they separately transfer each colour of the subjects on the painting and do not takes in account the air perspectives, reflections, lightning and boundaries of the colours. Each of these aspects will change the colouring of a subject dramatically and combination of two or more can easy change the colour of the subject in to the opposite one.

Colour contrast Pic. N2

Pic. N2

Have looked at the top row of Pic. N2. The green little square is a cold colour on the neutral white background and yellow is a warm colour, but if you place the green on blue background and yellow on orange one, you suddenly realise that the green is a warm colour and yellow is a cold one, compare to their surrounding. Also see the bottom row of Pic. N2. The same yellow will looks warmer on the blue background compare to the orange one. As a result, combination of the colour and its background makes the “temperature” of the colour a relative concept.

Also, keep in mind:

Colour Contrast and Saturation.

The most effective contrast of opposite colours is better achieved with combination of less saturated colours or combination of one chromatic saturated colour and one achromatic. As saturation of two bright colours is compete for our attention and exhaust our perception.

Lightening of Two Contrast Colours.

If tone of two contrast colour is close or equal to each other - the contrast impact will be more dramatic when if one of the colours is more darker then the other one.

Colour Contrast and the Size of the Colours Spots.

If size of colour spots is small they will melts in the contrast background colour. If the viewer is standing far enough from the painting he/she will see the mixture of two colour. (See the Tone contrast article). (See the Tone Contrast article).     

by Margarita Iakovleva 24.02.08                                                                                     

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