Choosing the Right Colors for Your Arrangements

Color impacts emotion by communicating a mood and creating atmosphere, from subtle and harmonious to striking and intense. Pick the right flowers and foliage for your arrangement by getting to know the basic principles of color theory.
Use Color Wheel to Select Garden Flowers

Use Color Wheel to Select Garden Flowers

Photo by: DK - Fresh Flower Arranging © 2011 Dorling Kindersley Limited

DK - Fresh Flower Arranging, 2011 Dorling Kindersley Limited

The three primary colors can be mixed in different combinations to create a spectrum of other colors. A simple circle, or color wheel, shows their relationship to each other and how colors influence each other when they are placed near, next to or opposite each other.

From: DK Books - Flower Arranging
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Among the most powerful components of any flower arrangement is its color scheme. Use the basic principles of color theory to create an inviting and attractive atmosphere with flowers and foliage.

Primary colors

The three primary colors - red, blue and yellow - sit equidistant from each other on the color wheel. They are the key anchors of the color wheel and, mixed together in different proportions, create all other colors.

Harmonious colors

Colors that sit next to or near each other on the color wheel make a visually pleasing combination because they contain elements of the primary colors they sit between. For example, purple harmonizes well with blue and red in a mixed arrangement because it sits between them on the color wheel. Pale purple, blue and pink blooms convey a light, gentle mood, while strong, darker tones of these colors are more intense and dramatic.

Each color also has a tonal value — a light and dark version of that color — that also creates harmony, but can influence the mood of an arrangement to make it warm or cool, or gentle or intense. Foliage, with its different textures and subtle variations of green, also helps different colors to blend well.

Contrasting colors

Colors that sit opposite each other on the color wheel have a powerful effect on one another. In nature, some complementary colors enhance each other and can look better together than apart. For example, the flowers in a red and green design, or a pink and lime-green bouquet, look more vibrant, saturated and pure when placed together than if arranged separately. Blue and orange flowers also enhance one another when mixed together in a design.

The Rules In Practice

Although there are not necessarily any colors that shouldn't go together, some combinations work better than others. For example, yellow and orange are a good combination, as are purple, red and pink. A good guideline is to limit yourself to three or four harmonious colors or two complementary colors; using too many colors can confuse the eye and weaken your design. A mass of one variety of flower in just one color can make a big impact if it is arranged well, too. Before you buy any flowers to arrange, look at the space where your design will be placed and think about which flower colors go best with its color scheme.

Using White In Arrangements

White flowers should be used carefully in arrangements because white can dominate some colors and dull others. White and red, for example, are both hard colors that can be jarring when placed together. Consider using cream and maroon flowers instead; they make an especially lush, luxurious mix when combined with foliage. Using green foliage or cream blooms can also soften and enhance white flowers. And when teamed with a limited palette of harmonious colors, such as blue, purple and green, white flowers can take on an almost iridescent, shimmering quality.

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