The combinations giving least contrast are those in which different tones of the same color are used. Here the contrast is only that of light and shade, or value. Care must be exercised that the different values are of the same or harmonious hues. For example, a light green, which was a very blue green, might not harmonize with a darker green which had a decidedly yellow hue, while on the other hand, it would form an excellent combination with a darker blue green.
The use of color must depend entirely upon the kind of effect which is to be produced. If a brilliant effect is wanted, intense colors may be used, and complementary contrasts will be in place. If a quiet, restful effect is desired, close harmonies, of broken tones, as browns and warm greens, will be chosen. A touch of a complementary may serve to relieve the monotony of a large mass of color or to increase the brilliancy of that color.
A rich result may be obtained by combining a number of broken tones of different colors, and the contrast may be lessened by having these colors very nearly equal in value of light or dark. A neutral background may serve to harmonize a number of colors. Similarly a drapery of chiffon over a number of colors in a costume tends to harmonize these.
Certain colors have characteristics which cause them to be termed warm or cold. The red, orange, yellow side of the color wheel contains the warm colors, the violet, blue, green side the cold colors. The warm colors are those which seem to advance, the cold colors to recede. Gray is usually cold, but when it contains a large amount of pink becomes warmer. A cold color scheme may be relieved by a bright touch of a warm color, which if in small quantity may be quite intense.
The texture of material may aid in harmonizing color. The rich, deep pile of rugs with the play of light and shade on its surface serves to bring the colors together. Colors seem harsher and flatter in cotton cloth than in silks or wools. The brilliancy of lustrous silk may not be produced in wool, nor the richness of wool in linens.
Colors are greatly modified by others placed near them. One color brings out the hue of its complementary in the other. If one looks at a red spot for a long time and then looks at a white paper, a green spot, the complementary of red, will appear on that paper. If red is put next to blue, the blue will look greenish, because green is complementary to red, while the red will look more orange, because orange is complementary to blue. It will not be possible here to discuss the many variations produced by this juxtaposition of colors. Practice in combining colors will illustrate this point.
Skill in combination, unless one is a born colorist, requires long study and practice. Study of successful color schemes, in rugs, pictures, fabrics, etc., is good training. Nature is an excellent teacher, but it is always well to remember that a brilliant touch of color with all outdoors for a background might be very trying when confined to the limitations of a room or of a costume. The proportion in which colors are combined is of great importance. When applying color and design in the decoration of construction, definite limitations must be recognized. For perfect harmony the small detail must be governed by the demands of the larger result. Both design and color must be subordinate to the whole effect to be produced. In architecture the farther the carving is removed from the eye, the less minute the units of its design. The size of the space to be ornamented influences the proportions of the details which are to fill that space. There are recognized positions for ornament, and ornamentation by small details is not appropriate for all parts of a building.
Certain colors are retiring in effect and may be used when the effect of space is desired; others advance and serve to bring forward parts to be emphasized, or to produce an impression of coziness.
Fig. 42. Color Wheel.