How to Choose Colour Schemes

Choosing colour schemes for my scrapbook layouts has often been a challenge for me. I have blown away many hours since I began scrapbooking in fiddling around with different backgrounds and elements (both digital and paper) trying to hit on the perfect colour combination for my layouts. Whilst some of that dilemma can be reduced by using scrapbooking kits which usually come with colour coordinated papers and elements to help with your choices, ultimately it still comes down to you making your colour selections to get the ball rolling. So you still need to work out what type of colour scheme you want because different colour combinations will influence the mood of your scrapbook layout and the presentation of your photo(s).

So I thought we’d spend a couple of articles looking at colour, what messages it sends to the eye and brain, and what principles can be followed to help in your choices to achieve the effect you want for your scrapbook layouts.

The Colour Wheel

A colour wheel a great aid to understanding the relationships of colours with each other.

The colour wheel is divided into three Primary colour segments linked to each other by the colours created by blending proportions of these primary colours with each other. The Primary Colours are red, yellow and blue. These are the basic colours and cannot be mixed from any other elements.

Secondary colours result from mixing two primary colours; such as mixing yellow and red to create orange. And Tertiary colours result from blending a primary colour with a secondary colour; eg. blue and green mixed together produce teal (blue-green), which is a tertiary colour.

Neutrals are shades of white, gray, or beige. Usually neutrals are tinted with another colour.

Colour the Mood of your Scrapbook Layout

Colour is one of the most dominant elements in a Scrapbook Layout design. It can dictate the entire mood of your layout. Generally speaking, colours fall into either warm or cool categories. Colours like purple, blue and green (cool colours) tend to inspire feelings of tranquility and peace. The warm colours such as red, yellow and orange evoke energy and playfulness. You can mix warm and cool colours on your layout, but you do need to pay attention to how you mix them as this can affect the mood of your layout.

And the value and saturation (also known as the depth) of colours can also impact the tone of your scrapbook layout. Choosing deep, dark colours will suggest a formal or regal atmosphere, whereas using light, pale colours will create a delicate soft feel. And earthy colour tones also have a lot of appeal as the colours are neutral and don’t compete with other tones in your photos.

If you’re not comfortable in creating colour schemes, it’s a good idea to stick with colours that have the same value (degree of lightness or darkness) and the same level of saturation (brilliance or vibrancy).

How do I juggle all this colour information to choose a colour scheme?

Basically colours in your scrapbook layout should either complement or enhance the focal point on your photo grouping. Typically, there are a few colour schemes that can be followed:

  • The Monochromatic Colour Scheme. This colour scheme uses a single colour selection in different shades.
  • The Complementary Colour Scheme. In this colour scheme the colours used are selected from the opposite sides of a colour wheel.
  • The Triadic Colour Scheme. This Colour Scheme selects three colours of the same tonal value. This means they must all be soft, bold, muted, light or dark.
  • The Split Complementary Colour Scheme. This Colour Scheme utilises one colour from your photo and one or more complementary colours.

When it comes to selecting colours to build your colour scheme always remember; less is more. Experiment with a maximum limit of three colour choices. The more colours you use on your scrapbook layout, the more competition you introduce for your focal point. The fewer colours you use, the easier it is to use them well.Try to use colour in the right proportions on your layout. Aim to choose a single main colour and then accent it with one or two other colours. You need to vary the amount (or weight) of each colour you use on your scrapbook layout. If you try to use the same amount of three different colours on a single scrapbook layout, you run the risk of making your layout all about the colour and not about the subject of your layout. As a rule of thumb aim at using a ratio of 60% for the dominant colour, 30% for the complementary colour and 10% for an additional complementary colour. Black and White are considered ‘non-colours’ and you can include these in your colour schemes in any proportion you like. Also neutral colours such as cream or beige and brown are unlikely to create any conflict when you bring them into the mix.

I hope this article has been helpful and perhaps given you some assistance in what sort of things to consider to create the ‘feeling’ that you might be trying to achieve with your layouts. In a follow up article, next week, we’ll take a look at some of my scrapbook layouts and analyse which of the above colour schemes and principles they follow. And we’ll also look at some on-line colour scheme tools that are available to help you choose your colour schemes.

If you think other scrapbookers might find this information useful, please help to spread it around by clicking on the StumbleUpon button below or submitting it to Delicious or any of the other social bookmarking sites.

Other posts you may enjoy:

Scrapbook Layout Color Schemes
Free Tools for Color Schemes
Learn How to Digital Scrapbook

27 Responses to How to Choose Colour Schemes

  1. Yvonne Russell November 26, 2007 at 9:37 pm #

    An informative and useful reference, Karen. Thanks.

  2. Alex Kay November 27, 2007 at 12:00 am #

    I agree, very well written and interesting Karen :)

  3. Michelle Vandepas November 27, 2007 at 12:17 am #

    As an artist I even found this useful! thanks

  4. Hannah November 27, 2007 at 6:11 am #

    Yes, the colour wheel is a scrapbooker’s best friend! I love coming up with 2- and 3-colour combos using those concepts. Thanks for posting this.

  5. Travel Betty November 28, 2007 at 5:22 am #

    Indepth and insightful. I don’t scrapbook, but color knowledge is useful for everyone. From fashion to home design to holiday decorating! Thanks for the great post, Karen.

  6. karooch November 28, 2007 at 7:33 am #

    I’m glad you found the article useful everyone. Thanks for leaving your comments. I always find there’s so much about colour to get my head around. And if I don’t I’m never happy with the result. So I have to keep learning. I’ll be publishing a follow up article where I look at a number of layouts and how they fit into the different colour scheme models.

  7. Olga November 28, 2007 at 1:21 pm #

    Great article about the use of colour, and a good idea to remember not to overdo it. :D

    Thanks so much for sharing this and best wishes. :O)

  8. karooch November 29, 2007 at 8:40 am #

    Thanks Olga. I find colour a fascinating topic.

  9. DreamScrapper November 30, 2007 at 5:11 am #

    Thank you for this excellent article, Karen! Just to add that there are some wonderful color wheel tools available, both for free and to purchase. I have been a long time user of Color Schemer Studio http://www.colorschemer.com/studio_info.php and I also visit the Color Wizard http://www.colorsontheweb.com/colorwizard.asp which is a free online resource. (I was a little confused how to use this when I started – click on the Random button and go from there!)

  10. karooch November 30, 2007 at 9:40 am #

    Glad you enjoyed the article Linda. It’s one in a series of three I’ll be posting over the next couple of weeks.

    The second article will take a look at some of my layouts and how they apply to the colour schemes discussed above, and in the third article I plan to look at on-line colour scheme tools such as the two you’ve mentioned.

    Any supporting comments you make to those articles will be more than welcome because I don’t pretend to be the fount of all knowledge and I love it when people add extra info to my articles in the comments section. It all makes for a better information resource for everyone. And that’s what I want Scraps of Mind to be.

  11. Olga November 30, 2007 at 10:23 pm #

    Okey now that I have seen the links DreamScrapper has added, I have remember reading about colour tools in Hummie’s blog. I cannot find the right entry but in her Resources page, she has a section with a huge list of colour tools

    http://del.icio.us/Hummie/color

    One thing I didn’t write the previous time because I thought it was too obvious or perhaps silly, is that whenever I make a layout I try to match the colour in the layout (papers and elements) with the colours in the photo. That way it tends to blend all together nicely in my opinion. But I guess it’s a matter of taste, some people might want to make some kind of contrast and going for one of Colour schemes above, that might look terrific but give you more work to do in the layout in my opinion. I guess I might be a lazy scrapper. LOL

    Best wishes. :O)

  12. karooch December 1, 2007 at 8:53 am #

    Thanks for pointing me in the direction of Hummies article Olga. When I do the final post in this series I’ll be sure to use this as a resource (with appropriate credit of course)

    And I’m starting to learn that there are no ‘too obvious’ suggestions. We tend to forget that things that seem obvious to us when we’ve been doing this for a while are total revelations to someone who is new to digital scrapbooking — just as they were to us once. I am constantly finding little things I didn’t know when other people explain the things they do.

    So much to learn, so little time.

  13. Dragonslayor November 8, 2008 at 4:31 am #

    how do u find the purfict colour to an unfinished room

  14. karooch November 8, 2008 at 10:38 am #

    You’ve got me beat on that one Dragonslayer

  15. EKUNBOYEJO GBENGA November 18, 2008 at 1:43 am #

    can i get daily newsletter of this website in my box

  16. karooch November 18, 2008 at 9:56 pm #

    Hi Samuel

    You can subscribe to my daily email feed by following this link
    http://www.feedburner.com/fb/a/emailverifySubmit?feedId=860987&loc=en_US

  17. randi May 20, 2009 at 7:29 pm #

    Hi,I’m a interior deco student.and this page helped a lot to do my project.
    Thank you

  18. reusable bags July 4, 2009 at 7:08 am #

    I am a freelance copywriter but I have always thought of more creativity in my job. I hope my text messages will be more understandable and impressive if accompanied with the proper color images.

  19. Matthew beech October 22, 2009 at 5:50 pm #

    thanks for doing this clour wheel because i needed this to help me to do my coursework so thank you very much i am a natinal diploma horticture student at rodbaston college i needed to do a colour wheel for my designing

    • karooch October 22, 2009 at 7:49 pm #

      Glad to be of help Matt

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