Chapter 1.1: Colour Theory and Floral Design

By Molly Bull  |  September 18, 2020

Close up shot of the colour theory wheel. Part of the wheel is shown in this picture. It shows the orange, yellow, and part of the green shades on the colour wheel.Colour theory is a practical combination of art and science that’s used to determine which colours look good together (“Color wheel – color theory and calculator | Canva Colors,” 2020). The colour wheel is the basis of colour theory, because it shows the relationship between colours. You can use a colour wheel to find colour harmonies by using the rules of colour combinations, which determines the position of the colours in order to find ones that create a pleasing effect (“Basic Color Theory,” 2020).

Before understanding combinations, it is important to cover the groupings on the colour wheel. These are known as primary colours, secondary colours, and tertiary colours. Primary colours (red, blue, yellow) are the 3 pigment colours that cannot be mixed or formed by any combination of other colours (“Basic Color Theory,” 2020). All other colours are derived from these three hues. Secondary colours (green, orange, purple) are colours formed by mixing the primary colours. Tertiary colours (Yellow-orange, red-orange, red-purple, blue-purple, blue-green & yellow-green) are the colours formed by mixing a primary and a secondary colour. That’s why the hue is a two word name (“Basic Color Theory,” 2020).

Another important subtopic to know about are shades, tints, and tones. A shade is created by adding black to a base hue, darkening the colour (“Color wheel – color theory and calculator | Canva Colors,” 2020). This creates a deeper, richer colour. A tint is created by adding white to a base hue, lightening the colour. A tone is created by combining black and white with a base hue (“Color wheel – color theory and calculator | Canva Colors,” 2020). Like tints, tones are subtler versions of the original color.

At last, we arrive at the partially complex subject of colour combinations. These are often used to achieve colour harmony in a design. A complementary combination consists of two colours that are on opposite sides of the colour wheel, which creates a strong contrast (“Basic Color Theory,” 2020). Monochromatic combinations include three shades/tones/tints of the same base colour, which creates a more subtle effect (“Basic Color Theory,” 2020). An Analogous combination has three colours that are side by side on the wheel, using one dominant colour with the other two as accents (“Basic Color Theory,” 2020). Triadic colour combinations consist of three colours that are evenly spaced out on the wheel, which creates contrast (not as strong as complementary), and is more versatile due to the larger colour selection (“Color wheel – color theory and calculator | Canva Colors,” 2020). Finally, a Tetradic combination includes four colours that are evenly spaced out on the wheel (“Color wheel – color theory and calculator | Canva Colors,” 2020). These schemes are bold, challenging, and work best with one dominant colour.

Colour theory can go even deeper, but these concepts are an excellent starting point for all kinds of artists and designers. It is important to be aware of such theories and principles while being creative, especially when working with a whole spectrum of flowers, in order to accomplish a pleasing visual.

Basic Color Theory. (2020). Retrieved August 25, 2020, from
Color wheel – color theory and calculator | Canva Colors. (2020). Retrieved August 25, 2020, from