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Color Theory in Floristry

In floral design, like in most visual art forms, innovative use of color is crucial to creating pieces with depth and meaning. For example, you can use red to represent passion and love; blue and white to invoke feelings of serenity and calm; or yellow to inspire vibes that are happy and bubbly.

In a previous article, we explored the origins of flowers and the industry. Now, we'll examine the basics of color and design in floristry. However, to design truly exquisite floral arrangements, you’ll need a rudimentary understanding of color theory, a deeper understanding of ROYGBIV, and a grasp of the more complex principles of color combination.
What Is a Color Wheel?

A color wheel illustrates how different colors are related using a circle diagram. Its creation was attributed to Sir Isaac Newton and his experiments with sunlight and prisms in the 1660s. 

He identified the colors in the visible spectrum ROYGBIV (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet) and developed the first color wheel. Newton’s discoveries were published in a 1704 book called Opticks

Years later, in 1810, Wolfgang von Goethe, best known for poetry and prose, had a different take on the science of color. He eliminated indigo and created a symmetrical color wheel with six colors, similar to the one we use today. Artists, including floral designers, use color wheels to establish color schemes that produce a desired effect.

Applying the Color Wheel and Harmonies in Floral Design

Depending on how you want to use them, colors can create visual harmonies that are quiet and somber, bright and lively, or soft and delicate.

Though whichever combination you choose, it's vital to refer to a color wheel. A color wheel will help unify your floral pieces, making them more visually pleasing and exquisite. 

What Is Color Theory?

Color theory is a predetermined group of guidelines used for combining, mixing, and manipulating colors. Examples of color theory concepts include:

  • Color context: When viewed in different contexts, colors seem to behave differently. For example, placing a vivid yellow flower next to one that’s rusty orange will make the orange flower appear subdued and dull. Though the orange flower will seem much brighter if paired with one that’s dark purple. 
  • Color temperature: Color temperature has to do with separating colors into cool colors like blue, green, and purple (i.e., an overcast light) and warmer colors like red, orange, and yellow (i.e., daylight or sunset). By mixing various warm and cool combinations, you can achieve a specific effect.
  • Color harmony: Color harmony refers to color pairings that provide a feeling of visual order and are visually pleasing. Generally, color combinations based on analogous and complementary colors are recognized as being in harmony. Yet, life experiences and personal preferences dictate how anyone responds to colors. Therefore, there is no 100% correct way to achieve color harmony.

Color Theory Terms

There are three basic terms in color theory: primary, secondary, and tertiary: 

  • Primary colors: Primary colors are three crucial parts of the color wheel, and when combined, they make a wide range of colors. Red, blue, and yellow are traditionally considered the primary colors and are spaced evenly apart on the color wheel. They are the only colors that are not made by mixing other colors.
  • Secondary colors: When you blend two primary colors, you can create a secondary color. For instance, when you mix yellow and blue, it produces green; combining red and blue will give you purple, and you make orange by mixing red and yellow.
  • Tertiary colors: To produce any of the six standard tertiary colors on the color wheel, you would combine any primary color with any secondary color: violet (blue and purple), teal (blue and green), amber (yellow and orange), vermillion (red and orange), magenta (red and purple), or chartreuse (yellow and green).

Color Styles You Should Know to Make Harmonious Arrangements

As we’ve said, it’s crucial to utilize a color wheel in artistic and appropriate ways. Doing so can help you accelerate the process of selecting aesthetically attractive foliage, flowers, and accessories. Then, you can effortlessly design and create delightful decorations and arrangements.

There are seemingly limitless ways to mix your styles and colors to compliment any occasion or theme. To help get your creative juices flowing, feel free to follow these four fundamental color combinations. 

Pro tip: keep your color wheel in sight to help you visualize these color harmonies.

Complementary Colors

To build radiant or intense floral arrangements, use these pairs of colors situated across from each other on the color wheel; for example, blue and orange, violet and yellow, and green and red. Because of how well they contrast one another, you can establish a color palette to create exciting arrangements.

Analogous Colors

These are colors next to each other on the color wheel: for instance, blue paired with violet and teal; red with vermillion and orange; and yellow paired with green and chartreuse. 

The trio of colors appears to match because they share a common hue. Florists match analogous color schemes to a variety of themes. Whether for exciting motifs or somber moods, they blend well to create a flowing look.

Monochromatic Arrangements

If you’re on a tight budget, you can still create arrangements that are simple yet opulent. Monochromatic colors, also referred to as greenery, can add a touch of nature to any of your arrangements.

Triadic Color Schemes

Referring to your color wheel, triadic schemes are three colors equally spaced. When creating a floral arrangement, you can use primary and secondary color bundles. Professional florists typically use lighter or subtler shades of the triad.

In addition, they may use contrasting soft and deep shades for a balanced, amiable aesthetic. 

Go Beyond the Theory of Color

Hopefully, you now have a better idea of how color theory and color combinations can shape and influence your floral arrangements.  

For a more in-depth guide on creating beautiful floral designs for specific vessels or particular occasions, please read the first of our two-part floral arrangements article on making flower ornaments

Palm Springs Florist Has Delivered Stunning Designs for More Than 75 Years

Since its doors opened in 1947, our award-winning designers and first-rate delivery crew have designed and delivered memorable flower arrangements to the Palm Spring community. 

View our beautiful flower arrangements online or stop by our Palm Springs Florist location on Palm Canyon Drive. Create once-in-a-lifetime memories for that special event or bring a smile to a loved one’s face today. Feel free to call us with questions or contact us by completing our online form.