Triadic Color Scheme
A triadic color scheme is a group of three colors, usually a primary and two secondary colors. Triads are known as “complementary” colors when they’re placed on opposite sides of a color wheel. Triadic color schemes are often used in design because they create balance and harmony in a composition. They can also be quite vibrant, but that’s not always the case.
A triadic color scheme is one of the simplest ways to organize the colors in your images, whether you’re photographing landscape or portraits. It’s also a great tool to use if you want to take a picture of a scene that contains a variety of hues, such as a sunset, for example.
The reason a triadic color scheme works so well is because of the way our eyes process color—specifically, how the different hues of light (red, green and blue) mix together in the brain, creating combinations we interpret as familiar colors.
How Triadic Color Schemes Work
Triadic color schemes are a great way to get started with color theory and they’re also a great way to build your confidence.
The best part is that you can use the triadic scheme in any situation, whether it’s a portrait, landscape or commercial shot.
Here’s how it works:
First, pick three colors that are equally spaced on the color wheel (see image above). Those three colors will be your dominant colors.
Next, choose one secondary color and one accent color that are equidistant from each other and pair them with your dominant colors. Again, look at the image above for an example — red/blue/green is paired with blue/red/green as the secondaries and yellow/blue as the accents.
You could also use brown instead of yellow if you like warm tones better than cool tones. The point is that all three pairs should be equidistant from one another on the color wheel!
Once you have chosen your three dominant colors, choose two or three additional hues from within those groups that work well together — maybe some pastel versions of the same color family or even some saturated versions of similar hues — but make sure they don’t clash with each other too much!
Tips for Triadic Color Scheme Photography
Here’s a quick guide to the use of triadic color schemes in photography, which is a type of compositional technique that helps you create stronger compositions by putting together three colors in a symmetrical pattern.
The concept behind the triadic scheme is to break up a color scene into three equal parts; the blue, red and yellow areas. To achieve this, you need to use a camera with the correct exposure settings for each area. The colors will be much more effective if you photograph objects that have a natural balance between red, blue and yellow, but you can use color schemes even if the object you are photographing doesn’t naturally balance those colors.
You may think you already know how to use a triadic color scheme, but in fact it is quite a new and interesting technique to learn. To help you, we have written this article with practical examples.
Step 1 – Choose your color scheme
A triadic color scheme is the simplest way of creating a strong composition and requires you to focus on just one primary color and avoid using other colors. When you are using a color scheme, there is no such thing as mixing and matching colors. The rule is always to choose your three colors and stick to them throughout your entire photo.
So, what colors should you choose? This really depends on the nature of your subject, but the easiest way to determine the best color combination is to look around at the world around you and see what colors you notice most. Red is perhaps the most obvious choice, but you can also use pink, orange, purple, green, yellow, and many other colors as your primary colors. It’s also worth experimenting with black, white, and gray to add depth to your images.
One problem with this color scheme is that if your subject has a lot of green, yellow or brown, it can look messy and not work so well as a triadic color scheme. You will need to balance these colors out with complementary colors. Complementary colors are opposite to each other in the color wheel and are red-green, blue-yellow, and orange-purple. If you find that you have lots of green, you could put more red in your image, or vice versa.
Step 2 – Get the settings right
To get the most out of your triadic color scheme, you need to adjust the brightness of each color area to suit your exposure settings. In most cases, you will want to shoot at a low f-stop value, but you will also need to decide whether you want to use a shutter speed that will blur or sharpen the image.
Shutter speeds are usually expressed as a fraction of a second (e.g. 1/15th of a second). However, when you are using a triadic color scheme, you will want to use a shutter speed that makes the image appear sharper. So, if you are using a 1/15th of a second shutter speed, you will want to reduce it by half to 1/7.5ths, and use a high f-stop, say f8. Similarly, if you are using a slow shutter speed, say 1/60th of a second, you will want to increase the shutter speed by a third and use a low f-stop, e.g. f2.
Step 3 – Practice
There are many ways of practicing the triadic color scheme. You could take a picture of a colored wall and study the three areas. You can then use these areas as inspiration to experiment with other objects in your own home or on the streets.
Alternatively, you can work with different objects. Take your camera with you and study the color scheme around you. Try to choose objects that have a natural balance between the three colors. For instance, a table would not be an ideal candidate because it would tend to be too light on one side and too dark on the other. Instead, you could photograph a vase, flowerpot or fruit bowl, which are likely to have a more even distribution of colors.
When choosing an object to photograph, consider how you will be able to isolate the three different areas. For instance, if you are photographing a vase, it will be easy to isolate the blue area with a clear glass and the yellow area using a white vase.
You could also photograph objects with a natural balance of the three colors. For instance, you could take a picture of a sunset. The sky will be mostly blue, so you will have to work hard to isolate the red area with the orange sun and the yellow areas with the clouds.
Remember, don’t make the mistake of making the object too colorful. You want to concentrate on the basic triadic color scheme without adding too much detail.
Step 4 – Apply the concept to your images
When you have mastered the concept of the triadic color scheme, you are ready to use it to create images that are more visually interesting and pleasing. To apply the technique to a photo, simply choose a subject that has a strong balance between the three colors.
Next, decide where you want to place the three colors in your image. For instance, if you are working with a sunset, you might start by placing the blue area with the setting sun in the top left, then the red area at the bottom right and the yellow area in the middle.
In some cases, you may be able to work from a single color to make the composition even stronger. For example, if you have a strong balance of red and yellow, you might be able to place the red objects in the center of the image and the yellow objects in the top right and bottom left areas. Alternatively, you might be able to use a blue background to show the contrast between the two.
Remember, you can also play with the positions of the three colors in your image, for example, you might move the blue area to the top right or bottom left of the image, or add more red to the red area. As you practice the triadic color scheme, you will find it easier to place the three colors in interesting ways.