Color Theory

Do you remember the color wheel from art class in elementary school? Yes, I’m going there. Becuase the more you understand how colors work together, the more you will love your projects.  There is one shortcut you can take to skip everything I’m about to share.

The shortcut involves two truths:

  1. Stampin Up! colors are designed to play well together.
  2. If you like the colors you selected for your project – go for it!

But, if you’re nervous about color or you have a color impairment like my son, maybe you aren’t as confident.  If so, read on, because I’m going to give you a little bit of theory and a lot of practical advice. But first  THE WHEEL

Quick review from your last art class in elementary school.  Primary colors are Red, Blue and Yellow.  Mix them together and you get Orange (Red and Yellow), Green (Blue and Yellow) and Violet (Red and Blue). These are called secondary colors.  Mix a pair of one primary and one secondary color and you get the Tertiary colors.  Remember the crayon known as “Blue-Violet” – that was a tertiary color crayon named for its parents.  Aww, so cute.

So, the darker section of the wheel shows what happens when you mix the colors with black.  The lighter ring, the color was mixed with white.  Any questions?

How does this help me with my card design?


Glad you asked.

We’re going to do a little more color theory before we dive into color schemes.  Analogous and Complementary. Analogous colors are the shades in the same family. These colors fall in between two primary colors.  Red and Yellow are primary colors. Red-orange, orange, Yellow-orange are all analogous to each other.  This is a low contrast color combination. They don’t fight at the family table, you can take them anywhere and they’ll behave.

Complementary colors are like that unlikely husband and wife duo.  You can’t imagine what they have in common, but they seem to each be better, more vibrant when they are together.  These colors are directly opposite on the color wheel from each other, Yellow and violet.  Blue and orange.

Analogous and Complementary color schemes will both produce beautiful projects.  The mood conveyed will be different, one calm, the other more energetic.  Speaking of mood, the color wheel can be divided in half by the warm colors, the reds, oranges, and yellows and the cool colors, blues, greens, and purples.

Let’s look at some cards:

Analogous Cards

Complementary Cards:

Stampin Up! Color Collections as they relate to the color wheel.

The standard Stampin Up! colors are categorized under four labels: Brights, Subtles, Regals, and Neutrals. In addition, there are  In Color sets that change each year. The Brights collection has the primary colors  – Real Red, Daffodil Delight, and Pacific Point.  The other colors are vibrant combinations useful for making children’s birthday cards, celebration cards and summer themed cards.

The Subtles palette has more white added to the blends of colors. They are excellent for baby showers and weddings and have a springtime feel.  The Regals collection is darker and would be found in the part of the color wheel where more black has been added. These colors make beautiful fall and winter cards.

The Neutrals collection has tones of brown and black that compliment all of the other collections. These colors can be used on their own for masculine cards, or nature-based cards or graphic black and white cards for example.

The designers at Stampin Up! have provided palettes that work well in any combination.  As long as the colors convey the theme of the card – use them.  Try new combinations.

Color Schemes

Monochrome card
Monochrome example

We covered color schemes that use two colors, analogous and complementary.  You can also use one color and that is a monochromatic color scheme. Usually, it’s one color and white or another neutral. It could be one family of color like three shades of green and a neutral.  It would still look monochromatic although it’s leaning toward analogous.

There is also the triadic color scheme. The classic triadic scheme is red, blue and yellow. These colors are evenly spaced around the color wheel.  The other scheme that would meet that definition would be orange, green and violet.  I’m sure you’ve seen Halloween cards done using that color scheme.   

Where can you get ideas for color schemes?  Decorating magazines, Pinterest, nature, anywhere.  A classic decorating triad is red, green and yellow.  Shades of these colors, such as Cherry Cobbler, Garden Green and Crushed Curry are gorgeous together.   Or you can go vibrant summer and use Melon Mambo, Bermuda Bay, and Daffodil Delight – same color scheme at the root, red, green, and yellow.  Challenge yourself.  Try your least favorite color with your most favorite or pick a theme and see how the colors can enhance the card.  Look at a card you like that someone else has done and try a completely different set of colors. Go for it!