If you are an acrylic pouring addict (just like myself) and want to know how to find the right color combinations for your art, this Color Theory for Acrylic Pouring is just for you! Acrylic paint pouring is mostly an abstract art, which is why finding the right colors is especially important. After all, the color composition determines whether your pour is going to be an impressive "wow" art or just average "ok" pour.
If you think that the ability to find nice color combinations is an inborn gift, you are wrong! Color theory is a science! Of course, it's easier for some people to find right colors, but overall, there are specific principles that stand behind any of the successful color compositions, and these rules have been known and used by artists all over the globe for centuries!
But what stands behind the color theory? Physics and Biology. I'm not going to go any deeper, because it's a subject for a completely different theme, but if you are curious, google about what the color actually is and how does our eye and then our brain detects and responds to color - it's super interesting!
Related: Acrylic Pour Painting – Tips and Tricks You Need to Know
Overall, there is no specific color theory for acrylic pouring only, it's the same for everyone, but in this post, I want to cover the rules and principles that are especially relevant for acrylic pouring without giving you loads of impractical information. But before we dive into that, I want to share a few awesome color-hacks!
Color Combination Hacks
The secret of designers and colorists. How to find awesome color palettes without having a clue what the color theory for acrylic pouring is?
Detecting Colors from the Picture
Let's say you have a picture that has colors you love. It can be a scenery, a painting, or anything at all, as long as you like the colors and how they combine together.
It can be quite hard to "detect" exact palette to use it for your pour. But guess what? You can upload this picture for example to Canvas Color Palette and it will detect dominating colors.
And Canvas is not the only one, there are many websites for designers that do that, another one I love is Coolors.co. And it's all completely free! Give it a try!
Websites for Designers and Colourists
What if you don't have any nice pictures on your mind? Not a problem! There is a wide range of websites that have ready-made color schemes or can even generate the desired combination.
The Coolors.co I've mentioned above has this option too, so you can generate different color combinations, or browse through tons that are already there. Here is another blog-post with beautiful color ideas: 50 Beautiful Color Combinations.
Wow, what an unlimited source of ideas and ultimate color combination?
Color Theory for Acrylic Pouring
Now, let's talk about Color Theory and what actually stands behind all the nice color combinations.
Note, from now on, I'm going to assume that you know what the Color Wheel is, and in case you don't, I highly recommend you to read this post before reading any further.
Basically, there are two things you need to know to understand how to find great color palettes for your pour - Color Contrasts and Color Harmonies.
Contrast is very important in any aspect of visual art, and especially in pouring, because the color is all we have, and finding contrast combinations is a key to create an interesting appealing pour. Without further ado, I want to jump into different types of contrast that are especially important for paint pouring art.
The Pure Color (Hue) Contrast
Or simply contrast of color. This is the most simple contrast, and it can be demonstrated by all the undiluted colors in their most intense luminosity.
For this contrast, you need to use at least three colors that are quite distant from each other on the color wheel. The combination of Primary Colors red-yellow-blue makes the most intense contrast, it's almost screaming bright. Secondary colors green-orange-purple make a much weaker contrast, whereas any Tertiary Colors contrast is even less apparent.
If colors are separated with black and white, their mutual influence, therefore, the contrast is reduced, and their individual character becomes more obvious. This also brings us to the negative space that will be explained in the next section.
The Light-Dark Contrast
Yin Yang, Day and Night, Light and Shadow... The contrast of Light and Dark is fundamental in nature and in our lives, therefore it's very powerful and versatile.
Of course, white and black make the most intense contrast. But chromatic colors also have their lightness and darkness - yellow color is the lightest on the color wheel. And blue and purple are the darkest. So any combination of light and dark colors will make an excellent contrast. Examples: deep blue + purple + yellow+ light orange + black; or deep blue + ultramarine + teal + white; or black + brown + white + golden.
Black or White Negative Space. Usage of negative space is very popular among pouring artists, and it's a prime example of using a contrast of light and dark. Generally, you can use any color for a negative space, but black and white are very popular for a reason. The thing is the B&W colors are achromatic and make any chromatic colors even more vibrant. Also, white color is very bright, and it weakens any surrounding colors, making them darker. Black is the opposite, it increases the brightness of the colors, making them look lighter.
The Cold-Warm Contrast
Fire and ice, hot and cold - another couple of opposite that underlines one more versatile contrast.
When we look at the color wheel, all the colors from yellow to red-purple are considered to be warm (red-orange is the warmest). And all the color from purple to yellow-green are considered to be cold (blue-green is the coldest). Any combination of two and more color from each of the categories will make an excellent expressive contrast, but the greatest effect of this contrast is achieved with orange-red and blue-green (including teal and turquoise).
Also, all other colors appear cold or warm depending on their contrast with warmer or colder neighbors. For example, this red-purple appears warm in contrast with blue, and cold in contrast with red.
Interesting fact, cold-colored objects always appear further then warm-colored ones (due to the aerial perspective).
The Complementary Contrast
Two colors are complementary if their pigments mixed together produce the neutral gray-black. On the color wheel, complementary colors are diametrically opposite from each other.
Complementaries make each other appear brighter, therefore the use of these colors will result in bright and vibrant pours. However, you need to be careful, because just like I said above they create grey when overmixed together.
Complementary colors are opposite in everything. Interesting fact: complementary pair is always made up of one cold color and one warm color. Thus this contrast of complements is always enhanced by the cold-warm contrast. Meantime the complementary pair of yellow-purple is also a contrast of light and dark, therefore it's a 3-in-1 combo.
Complementary colors are also used to make a hue less vibrant. For example, if you want to "extinguish" the brightness of red, try mixing in a little bit of green to it. The more you add, the more neutral and dark it becomes.
I think that these four contrasts are the most important and relevant for pouring artists. But If you would like to grasp the color theory a little more, go ahead and do some research on Simultaneous Contrast, Color Saturation Contrast, and Color Spread Contrast.
There is a truly amazing book I can recommend to all the artists, crafters, colorists, and designers that explain color theory from A to Z - The Art of Color by Johannes Itten. I personally learned by this book, and I absolutely love it, moreover, this post is basically a very short overview of the Itten's studies. If you want to master the colors, read it and do all the exercise from this book, and if you can buy a hard copy - do it!
By color harmony, we usually mean a combination of 2 and more colors that has a certain pleasing visual effect. The perception of harmony is subjective and varies from person to person, but generally, harmony is linked to balance and symmetry. When it comes to colors, we can set off few principles.
When choosing colors for your next pour, try one of the following:
a) Analogous colors
Analogous color harmony is a combination of colors that are next to each other on the color wheel. These colors match well and create a serene and comfortable palette. Often found in nature.
Combine this harmony with the dark-light contrast to make it more interesting and attractive. Examples: ocean palette of blue, turquoise, green + white; autumn leaves palette of red, orange, brown, and golden.
b) Complementary colors
Complementary colors are not only very contrast but also very harmonious. Use these colors to create bright and juicy pours and designs.
The usage of complementary colors doesn't mean you have to limit your palette to two colors only. You can expand it by adding two colors adjusted to one or both of the complements, as well as black&white. Example: sunset palette of white, yellow-orange, blue-purple, blue, purple, black.
c) Square or Rectangle
This color harmony basically consists of two complementary pairs (eg orange-blue & purple-yellow).
Rotate the imaginary square or the rectangle in the color wheel to get numerous variations of a rich color palette for your pour. Just like with any other, you can enrich this harmony by lightening up and darkening some of the hues. Example: floral palette of orange, red-purple, blue, yellow-green.
d) Triad and Split-Complementary
For triadic color scheme use colors that are evenly spaced around the color wheel. This harmony is linked to The Pure Hue Contrast (red-blue-yellow is the brightest combo).
For the split-complementary scheme, use any color on the color wheel + the two colors adjacent to its complement (yellow & blue-purple & red-purple). Example: floral palette of green, red-purple and red-orange.
Look around - it's everywhere!
I hope this overview of color theory for acrylic pouring was interesting and helpful! I'm sure that now your selection of colors will be much more deliberate, effective and rewarding! It's time to practice, and you can do it not only by experimenting with pours and paintings but also by simply looking around and analyzing color schemes in designs, labels, advertisements, headlines, etc!
The simple principles I told you about today underlie the color palette of practically everything that surrounds us daily. And it's not surprising, because the right color design makes us feel a certain way, catches our attention and helps with sales. It works, it's amazing, and now it's your turn to use it!
Check out this super helpful Color Wheel Harmony that summarizes everything you've learned today.
Few more tips at the end:
♥ play with the proportion of colors in the same contrast, try letting one color dominate.
♥ experiment with different value and saturation of the same colors.
♥ if you are not sure about a certain color combination, test it on a small piece of paper before pouring.
If you are looking to get some information about essential supplies for pouring, check out this post, and here are my Acrylic Pour Painting – Tips and Tricks - must read for beginners!
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