What Are The Best Color Combinations That Look Great Together

One word of advice is not to get caught up in the latest and greatest color schemes.  Color trends come and go and most often look very dated after a few years.

Solid Color Advice

The best color combinations that stand the test of time is Black and White with vivid accent colors like Red, Yellows and or Greens from the Active color spectrum. Continue reading for more details.

Trendy colors sometimes look dated very quick. One color I can’t get out of my mind is Avocado Green of the 70s.

When looking for color combinations take note they can make or break your art. If your color combinations are not good no matter how well your art is your art work is it will not look appealing. I’ve been to many art shows where the artist did a fantastic job on the painting but their color combinations were off and it made the entire artwork look bad.

In my opinion, color is the single most important part of your artwork.

Stay away from trendy colors unless you are a well-established artist and know what you are doing. I’ve been in art for more than a decade and as a rule of thumb I stick to the basic complementary color schemes. And by doing so, my artwork will look good for years to come well after the trendy colors have faded into the past.

What is The Most Used Color in Art?

One color that stands out and is the most used color in all of art is white. White is the color of the canvas therefore that’s where it most likely gets is it ranking as the most used color. White is a great color to use and combines well with most all other colors. White and blue, white and red and white and black especially go well together. You can’t go wrong with white but be careful not to use too much white otherwise your artwork will look washed out and very boring.

Also, along with white is beige. Beige combines well with white and also combines well with blue, red, black brown and emerald.

Another universal color like white is black. Black looks good in most any combination and stands out when combined with red, pink, orange, yellow and a leaf green. When in doubt you can always use black and white as your colors. These are timeless and looks great in most any art project.

To use the table below just select your primary color using the column on the left and the individual color combinations you can use with your primary color is on the right. You can’t go wrong using these tried and true colors together.

Download my Primary Color Chart PDF by clicking the link above.

Color Examples You Can Use

Black, Red, Yellow and Beige

Color palette combinations of Black, Red, Yellow and Beige. This works so well together you can’t go wrong with these colors! I used these colors when creating my ceramic flat top guitar artwork.

Blue with Light Yellow and Cyan

Amazing Blue combination with Light Yellow and Cyan. The Light Yellow and Cyan color scheme just pops! This color scheme made my blue ceramic plate stand out. It turned a somewhat boring solid blue plate to a very interesting and colorful design.

Dark Violet, Light Yellow and Red

New combination (new for me) of Dark Violet, Light Yellow with Red. This is one of my favorites! Instead of using a suggested Light Orange, I used Red and it worked out excellent. The combinations are very soothing and turned out to also be appealing to the eye.

What are the Most Popular Color Combination Schemes?

One color that stands out and is the most used color in all of art is white. White is the color of the canvas therefore that’s where it most likely gets is it ranking as the most used color. White is a great color to use and combines well with most all other colors. White and blue, white and red and white and black especially go well together. You can’t go wrong with white but be careful not to use too much white otherwise your artwork will look washed out and very boring.

Also, along with white is beige. Beige combines well with white and also combines well with blue, red, black brown and emerald.

Another universal color like white is black. Black looks good in most any combination and stands out when combined with red, pink, orange, yellow and a leaf green. When in doubt you can always use black and white as your colors. These are timeless and looks great in most any art project.

Combinations do not have to be confusing or hard to figure out. It’s actually easy one you know some simple guidelines. There are 6 basic color schemes that you should be familiar with. All the schemes use a color wheel and involve basic shapes. You should remember these shapes:

  • Straight Line
  • Regular Triangle
  • Tall Triangle
  • Rectangle
  • Square
  • Combination of 4 adjacent colors on the wheel

What is a Color Wheel?

Color Wheel Example

Before we can talk about the different color schemes it’s a good idea to get familiar with the color wheel. If you already know what a color wheel is you can skip ahead. A color wheel or color circle as it’s sometimes referred to be a visual representation of colors that are arranged according to their color spectrum or chromatic relationship. The color wheel can be divvied into several major sections for better understating and ease of use.

What Are The Primary Colors?

Primary Color Example

These are colors that are basic. They cannot be created by mixing other colors. Therefore they are primary. Primary colors can be mixed to form other colors.

Secondary Colors are formed by combining two of the primary colors. For example, Orange is a secondary color. Tertiary colors are formed by mixing primary and secondary colors. For example Violet.

Active and Passive Colors

There are what’s called Active and Passive colors. Active and Passive colors basically divide the color wheel into two major ranges that are either visually active or passive. The cool dark colors are less visually than the active warm, more saturated colors.

Color Schemes Explained

Straight line scheme

Is also known as color contrasting or choosing a color’s complementary color. Looking at a color wheel it’s the colors that are directly opposite of each other on the wheel. You can draw a straight line between the two colors. Refer to the straight black line in the diagram on the right. Red and it’s complementary color Green.

Regular Triangle

Draw a regular triangle on the color wheel and the colors at each end point are the three colors of choice. These are colors of harmony when used together. See the Black Triangle in the diagram on the left.

Tall Triangle

Similar to the regular triangle, draw a steeper triangle.  See the tall black triangle in the diagram to the right.

Rectangle

Draw a rectangle on the color wheel and the four corners represent your colors. For example, Red-Orange, Blue-Purple, Blue-Green and a Yellow-Orange.

Square

Draw a square on the color wheel. The colors are vivid but complement each other. For example, Red-Orange, Purple, Blue-Green and Yellow.

Combinations of 4 adjacent colors

And lastly there are colors that are adjacent to each other on the color wheel. Pick four colors on the wheel next to each other.

I hope I have helped and made it easier for you when choosing colors for your decorating or art project. For many people choosing colors is the most challenging aspect of their project. So don’t feel defeated before you begin, just review this article again. One you get the hang of it you will feel more confident on future projects.

What Did Newton Have To Do With Color?

Newton and the Understanding of Color

Some interesting facts about the color wheel and the understanding of color. Sir Isaac Newton is best known for being a mathematician and astronomer and can be considered one of the most if not the most influential persons of all time. Some of this lessor known achievements are contributions to the branch of physics involving the properties of light.

In 1666 Newton first observed what is called refraction of light. Refraction is when light waves travel through a medium such as water causing a change in direction of travel.

For example, light passing through a drop of water. This is easily seen when looking through a drop of water on glass.

By studying the refraction of light answers the question of how rainbows are created. He sees the refraction of light being composed of the following colors Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue and Violet.

At that time, back in the 1600s many thought color was comprised of light and darkness and that Red for example was almost white light at its brightest to the absence of light going to Dark Blue.

This of course as we know today is false thanks to Newton. Newton was able to project a wide spectrum of colors using a prism. He was also able to refract the light back together again. By doing so he proved that light and light alone was color.

What is Refraction?

What happens when light is refracted in a prism is that light enters the prism from the top and is bent by the glass. The light is separated into different spectrums where the violet light is bent more than the red or yellow.

For us artists this was very useful and eventually evolved into what is called the painters wheel. The color wheel is derived from Newton’s color circle. Newton arranged the colors of the light passing through the prism in to a circle where each wavelength was represented. This eventually became the painter wheel and then the color wheel being refined over time.

What Are The Best Color Combinations?

There are of course many color combinations but there are a few that stand out over time. For example, Black and White. Black and White is probably the most classic and comes across as being very sophisticated and elegant.

House of Tudor Colors

Back in the 1400s through 1600 in England which included the Elizabethan period up until 1603, the classic House of Tudor colors are Red and Gold. These two colors are often paired with a darker Green. Many homes of this era featured a Red and Gold dining room giving off a warm feeling.

In the Louis XI days a more airy palette evolved. These are colors like light Blue, Yellow and cream. King Louis XIV died in 1715 and was one of the longest serving in European history. During this time France was the major power and considered the leader in arts. One of the most extravagant places on earth at that time was the Palace of Versailles. The light Blue, Yellow and cream could easily be a classic of the time. Nature gives us colors that are timeless. Wheat fields full of yellow and gold painted by Van Gogh for example. Combined with natural Greens nature is saying colors of Yellow and Green work very well together and are timeless. To spice things up a bit other colors such as Reds and Blues can be added.
During the 19th century Pink and Green became very popular. These colors were mainly attributed to Dorothy Draper an American interior decorator. She was well known for using bright colors such as Hot Pink and large prints that covered entire walls that mimicked giant paintings like in Palace of Versailles.
Interior Decorator Dorothy

She also is attributed to what is known as the Hollywood Regency era where metallic and glass accents were used in combination with Turquoise and white or very dark contrasts. Dorothy’s color combinations are colors that look good together but are unexpected. Other colors that fall into this category are Turquoise and Pink, Yellow and Pink, Gray and Purple, Yellow and Cobalt Blue, Teal and Pink and finally Lilac and Periwinkle.

Going more natural, earth tones are timeless colors. These colors never die and provide a neutral color scheme that is pleasing to the eye. These are colors like Red Clay, Vintage Gold, vibrant Peacock Blue and traditional Fields-tone colors. Most consider the top colors of all time to be neutral natural colors starting with White, Beige, Gray, Desert Sand, Taupe, Tan and Black. So by choosing one of these colors you are guaranteed to look good hundreds of years from now.

What Are Popular Color Trends Through The Years?

Let’s start out by look at today most popular color combinations and collections. One way to find out what’s popular in today’s world is just look at what’s driving down the road. Look at newer model cars and you will find White, Black, Silver and grey to be the most popular. Today America is graying out. Gray and Silver cars and Gray wood flooring even gray painted interior walls. Popular indoor colors are also gray with shades of white.

2010

  • Shades of Gray
  • Black
  • Beige and off White

2000

  • Coffee and Latte colors
  • Off White
  • Aqua and light blue

1990

  • Beige
  • Earthy Reds
  • Sage

1980

  • Miami Vice colors
  • Pastels
Avocado Green 1970

1970

  • Avocado
  • Amber
  • Gold and Light gold
  • Gold and Green tint
  • Brown and Amber
  • Brownish Beige

1960

  • Pink
  • Yellows
  • Black
  • White
  • Orange
  • Light Purple

1950

  • Pastels
  • Light Pink
  • Light Turquoise
  • Light Yellow
  • Light Gray
  • Greenish Yellow

1940 and 1930

  • Creams
  • Creamy Green
  • Creamy Yellow
  • Tan
  • Creamy Pink
  • Maroon
  • Green

1920

  • Neutrals
  • Shades of Red
  • Blues
Sorry you will have to use your imagination on this one

1880 through 1910

  • White
  • Grey
  • Green
  • Blue
  • Earthy tones

1830 through 1900

  • Victorian colors
  • Green
  • Yellow
  • Gold
  • Purple

What Are The Colors of The Future?

Who can predict what will be fashionable in the future? I put together, just for fun, a collection of colors that might be possible in the future. These color combinations are grouped together into different fun categories depicting certain behaviors and or qualities. Hope they give you some ideas and fun looking at them.

The Stockbroker

Intelligent colors with a New York flare. Colors that have a touch of international and global hues mixed in. These are strong fearless but also humbling colors.

Artificial Intelligence

Computer blue colors, memory gold, speed of light, powerful and accurate. Colors that are grounded but also have virility. Many of these colors have stood the test of time.

Child’s Play

These are bold colors that capture your eye. Each color is resilient, creative, assertive and curious. Each can stand on its own but also interacts well with others.
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