This section is from the book "Clothing For Women: Selection, Design, Construction", by Laura I. Baldt. Also available from Amazon: Clothing For Women: Selection, Design, Construction.
Take several examples of color combinations and notate or record as to hue values and chromas.
Exercise II - Copy in flat washes a series of combinations or schemes from beautiful examples.
Describe in words a beautiful color design observed out-of-doors - notate from description. A memory of color sometimes is more beautiful than a copy of color harmony.
Take one color and try various combinations with it.
One must be familiar with the principles of art which govern design in color in order to have a standard for comparison.
Underlying life and art we find rhythm. Our contact with nature is based on rhythm - the wave vibrations of light and sound, when rhythmic, give pleasurable sensations, and beauty results. Our response to rhythm is largely instinctive. So an art expression, conveying a sense of pleasure, must be rhythmic in order that the result may be beauty, the aim of art. Rhythm is the power possessed by an orderly arrangement, or organization of colors to appeal to our sense of sight and our nervous system irrespective of association. For this orderly arrangement of color, nature is the greatest teacher. In her color designs, from sweeping landscapes and sky effects to a flower or an insect, we will always find the three guiding principles - unity, variety and balance. A rhythmic color harmony without all these is impossible.
Unity holds parts of the composition together by means of a unifying or common element. Brilliant effects of nature are enveloped in a wonderful ethereal haze. Nature welds her colors, unifying and blending everything. Unity gives strength and subtlety.
Variety through contrast gives life, vivacity and interest to a harmony. Combination of opposites is the simplest form of variety - warm with cold colors, weak with strong chroma, and a dark with a light. Red with the blue-green of the poppy; autumn's purple asters and the golden-rod are suggestions of nature's contrasts.
Balance is the principle which brings about the perfect adjustment of unity and variety through the arrangement of the area and position of the three qualities of color - hue, value and chroma. Colors which have unity in the three qualities may be used in more nearly equal balance of area and position. Nature illustrates this in the relation of the sea to the sky. Colors having great variety in their properties are arranged in unequal accent, i.e., balance - for example, small spots of intense chroma are balanced on large areas of weaker chroma. Thus we see there are two kinds of balance, equal and unequal, but perfectly equal balance is dull - Nature avoids it.
Unity will be found to exist, first, in related hues, values, or chromas, and second, in sameness of hue, value or chroma. Very intense colors may be unified by a sameness of chroma (Plate III, Fig. 8), while by using a very high or light value, almost any colors may be used together. Great contrast of hues, value and chroma are made possible through balance in the arrangement of area, or quantity, and position, as well as the combination with neutrals, i.e., black, white and gray. Variety is necessary in all good harmony.
Unity in sameness of hue, and variety in value and chroma, are shown in Plate III, Fig. 1; unity in related hues, as well as variety in the yellow and green, in Plate III, Fig. 2. Unity in related hues and contrast of complements are shown in Plate III, Figs. 3 and 4; balance by the arrangement of quantity is shown in Plate III, Fig. 4.
How important is the element of position will be seen by noting the effect of one color placed in juxtaposition to another. Place a piece of bright blue-green on a ground of white, black-gray and red-purple papers successively and note the effect (Plate IV). There is a rule in connection with the juxtaposition of colors, i.e., the law of simultaneous contrast, which is the modification of one color in juxtaposition to another through the effect upon the optic nerve. A hue is modified by the complement of its neighbor, because a color reflects its complement. Red and blue, when placed side by side, are affected thus - blue tends toward the green-blue scale or the reflected complement of red, while the red appears to have a yellow-red cast. Complements side by side strengthen each other according to this law. Note Plate III, Figs. 5 and 6, effect of blue with blue and with its complements.