Colour Relationships

The purpose of this exercise is to look at the relationship between colours and is done in two parts.

Part 1

The first part is to create three images that use pairs of primary and secondary colours from the colour wheel in the proportions specified by J. W. Von Goethe. The three pairs of colours are taken from opposites on the colour wheel and are considered complementary.

The ratio’s originally specified by Goethe were:

  • Red:Green – 1:1
  • Orange:Blue – 1:2
  • Yellow:Violet – 1:3

As I was about to start this exercise, I came across a tutorial in the January addition of Digital SLR Photography magazine that involved mixing food die with cream and injecting it into water to create interesting images. I liked the idea so decided to use this to create the colour ratio’s required.







Part 2

The second part of the assignment relaxed the rules and specified that appealing colour combinations should be found. A walk on a winters day typically doesn’t immediately bring to mind colour but I was lucky to get a sunny day when at the seaside.


When I first saw this beach hut, the colours that were striking were the green and the pink. I didn’t immediately think of them as being of complementary colours because they weren’t obviously colours from part one above. However, looking at the image further, I realised that they are in fact complementary greens and reds. Instead of being the pure green and red as above, the greens and reds here have a greater lightness value but the hue’s are still quite close to the original primaries. There was also a third colour, the blue, that was playing a part in the image that didn’t initially strike me.


The colours on the front of this beach hut were again the first thing to appeal to me and the green side was causing a tension. I’ve still not been able to decide if I like or loath the green in relation to the red and yellow front. Whilst thinking about the green, it struck me that I’d been ignoring a major colour in the images I’d been taking and this was the sky. Cutting out the blue sky, seems to reduce the tension in the image:


I still feel that there is some tension, but certainly not as much as when the blue is present.

Having become aware of the impact of the sky, I started looking for colour combinations without the sky and found this:


This image contains the red/green complementary colours but I think other elements of the composition are making the red much stronger in the image than the green even though, proportionally, the green is taking an equal, if not greater area in the image. Having the blue/purple relationship seem to bring in an extra dimension and balance out the image.

Learning Point

Whilst out taking the images of the beach huts, the realisation that I had been ignoring the sky brought to my attention the importance it can play and when using colour as part of an images composition, it can’t be ignored.


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