A straight guy's perspective on women's fashion
Color Theory, Or… How To Color Block
April 15, 2011Posted by on
After seeing some color blocking attempts that would only be described as interesting, I found the Zara look book which features color blocking at it’s finest. This got me thinking, is there a correct way to color block? I struggled with how to come up with a theory to correctly do this, especially when considering how poor color blocking looked on Camille Belle earlier. After much thought and analysis, I think I have it figured out. Let’s start with the basic color wheel:
I think the first idea to follow would be to try to avoid colors on the exact opposite sides of the color wheel, red and green being a classic example of this. Complimentary color combinations like these generally have too high of a contrast value and clash heavily against each other. If you change the hue of one of the colors it can be possible to pull it off though.
The most popular theory for combining colors is called the rule of two-thirds. How you achieve the rule of two-thirds starts by making an equilateral triangle (a triangle with 3 equal sides) on the color wheel. In it’s most basic form, the points at the ends of this triangle will be touching either red-blue-yellow or orange-green-purple. From there, you pick two of the three colors that the triangle touches. These colors will almost always harmonize together beautifully.
Now that we have that done, it’s onto the heart of the matter: color blocking. Since color blocking tends to have 3 colors, my recommendation is to use 2 colors from the triangle you made earlier and combine that with a 3rd color outside of it. For example, something like red-yellow-green or orange-green-blue works fine, you would just need to change the hue of one of the complimentary colors so you don’t end up with the clash I spoke of above. The reason I suggest color blocking in this manner is so that you don’t end up dressed like a clown in red-blue-yellow or with that weird orange-green-purple combination Camille Belle sported. The final and perhaps most important piece to note about color blocking is that, when you’re putting a color blocking outfit together, it’s best to leave your accessories in neutral colors. Color blocking speaks volumes as it is, pairing this look with colored accessories will throw the entire look off.
The thing I found to be extremely useful for testing color combinations was the simple paint program on your PC. To tailor it strictly to myself, I copied the image of the color palette I found earlier, pasted this image into the basic paint program, then began testing color combinations with the Color Picker tool (the eye drop button). The important thing when playing with this is you should be setting the color proportions up similarly to how the look would be worn. By doing this, you get to see how the primary and secondary color pieces in your outfit will interact. If you don’t set this up correctly, it is possible to throw your eyes off as demonstrated here. Obviously you don’t have to draw a jacket, skirt and shirt in your paint program. Simply placing a yellow block through the center of a larger red one should suffice.
Below is an example of changing the hue so as not to end up with the dreaded red-green combination. The yellow and green are similar in regards to hue, but the pinkish colored jacket works in nicely.
Again, the orange and green are very close to each other but the orange is just a touch darker and the blue is just a touch lighter. I really like the use of colored socks here.
Update: I’ve also done another 2 part post on using color to frame face which can be found here.