Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Colour Theory for Costuming: Part One

In ATS, quite often there are so many colours of fabric that the dancers look like spinning rainbows. With all that variety of hue how could there ever be a method to the madness? Well, there is and there isn't. There isn't, because yes maybe if you have 2 or 3 random colours together, some may clash. However when you have 5 or more colours on, the clashes occur so frequently it seems to have the opposite effect and it 'matches' well enough. This usually looks okay - that is, until you see someone with just as many colours on, but looking completely tied together. You think your eyes are playing tricks on you! Both ladies have so many colours, shades and hues covering them, but one looks so much more vibrant and professional! How can this be?! Alas, it is true, and I am going to share some of the magic of colour theory with you! ;)

Let's start at the very beginning. Everyone knows the three primary colours are red, blue and yellow. Secondary colours are made by mixing those, and those include purple, orange and green. Tertiary colours are created when a primary and secondary colour are mixed, such as blue and green making teal. Have a look at the diagram below to see what I mean, although I'm sure this is all old news.

Now here is the theory part that gets fun. Complementary colours are the ones across the diagram from each other. Using these colours next to each other makes them appear brighter, creates the biggest contrast, and can be very sharp. For a costuming example, if you have one piece that may be smaller but you really want to accentuate it, put its complementary colour underneath or next to it.

Next we'll talk about analagous colour schemes. Analagous colours are those next to each other on the colour wheel. Blue, teal, and green, for example. These colours run smoothly together, without much contrast or standing out.

Analagous colour schemes can also mean a variety of shades of the same hue. This can be very aesthetically pleasing.

Here is a perfect example from Flickr of these colour schemes. The dancer has on mostly shades of purple and some red, so an analagous colour scheme - but then there is also the gold colour in the belt which complements the purple, and the green hues which complement the red. All of the colours flow and improve the aesthetic of the others, creating a beautifully planned costume.

Now someone might just put this together and think it's pretty. Which it is! But if they don't know why, they will have good luck some days and bad others. Of course, if you use the tricks in this post, your costumes can consistently look vibrant and put together. Good luck!

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