by Margie Deeb
excerpt from Margie’s Muse, September 2010

I’m often asked how to use the colorwheel. That question takes considerable time to answer (it took me four years and 144 pages to answer to it thoroughly in The Beader’s Guide to Color). But it’s a question that deserves an answer short enough to introduce you to the most valuable color tool I know.

I now have a shorter answer for you: the Instant Color Wheel Guide, a PDF download for $3.95. I’ve designed this digital publication so that in 10 minutes or less you’ll understand the basics of using the color wheel, and you’ll no longer be confused or intimidated by it. It’s easy to understand, and full of examples.

Let’s me tell you about my approach to using color. Then we’ll explore one of my favorite color schemes using some of the material from the Instant Color Wheel Guide.

Before I make any color decisions I always ask myself (and answer myself) these kinds of questions:

What impact do I want my finished color scheme to have?

How do I want the viewer to feel when they see it?

What am I trying to convey?

The color scheme you choose to work with will depend on the answers to these most critical questions. The descriptive words at the top of each page of the guide will help you answer the questions; they give a broad view of nature of the color scheme.

For example, let’s say you want a color scheme that is evocative, poetic, harmonious, and easy to work with. That fits the description of the analogous color scheme. Let’s look at it…

Highpoints of analogous color schemes:

  • 2 or more colors adjacent to each other on the wheel (including pure hues, shades, and tints)
  • they create gentle movement because the colors are similar
  • they are temperature specific, leaning toward warm or cool
  • to maintain the overall mood use no more than 4 analogous colors

Because of their proximity, adjacent colors are intrinsically harmonious, making them easy to combine successfully.

Analogous schemes fill our world: the iridescence of peacock feathers, the changing blues and greens under the ocean, and the yellow-to-pink gradations of a lotus blossom.

The analogous palette has a mellifluous quality. Its colors swirl and flow into one another, defying boundaries. Where does blue end and blue-green begin? The analogous palette seeks no answer. It just revels in the mystery of  movement.