Tuesday, October 8, 2013

PPP Day 8: Keep It Tight

A little "crayon art" to inspire you about color blending.

            One thing you can't ignore when talking about party decorations is color scheme. I think the tendency is to think that if you have chosen a theme, especially if it is character based, that you can use any color that appears in your theme. That isn't usually the case.

       Having too many colors is not only overwhelming, it can cause your theme to get lost. That would be a tragedy after you spent so much time carefully selecting it for all the right reasons! I have a general rule of thumb for how I chose party colors, I wouldn't say that it applies 100% of the time, but at least 90%, possibly more!

      Here it is: choose two primary/secondary colors and add a third, neutral color. If you aren't familiar with a color wheel, this is a great example:

Color wheel of clothes, via Academichic

    (If you have time and inclination, the photo caption is a link to a great article explaining color pairings. It is talking about clothes, but it applies here.) Technically, the only true complementary pairings are: red/green, blue/orange and purple/yellow. Did you pick up that those are the colors that are exactly opposite each other on the wheel? They produce the most vibrant colors and best contrast when paired together. Intermediary colors are blends of two primary. Examples are: green, turquoise, red orange, etc.

      However, you may be saying, "Clare, I am *not* having a Christmas party, or a Broncos tailgate! Give me some better advice." Well, you are still going to get good results when you pair colors that are only slightly off from being exactly across. Some of my favorite combinations are:

Blue and yellow: I used those for the Superhero shower and Raindrop shower. See how they are almost across but not quite?

Purple and green: I used a yellowy lime green and purple for the Butterfly baby shower.

Red and green: this one was sneaky! I used green as a sparing accent color for the Ladybug shower. I also got away with it at the Hungry Caterpillar shower. You probably didn't think of those as "Christmas colors"!

Orange and green: I used soothing sage and rust orange for the Perfect Timing shower. I didn't want high contrast for this one, so I chose to use more muted shades.

          Can you see how they are not directly next to each other on the wheel? But this is, like I said, not a hard and fast rule. I definitely think you can get great results when you use colors that are typically paired like yellow and green, (like I did for the Wild Things birthday) and red and blue (the red and aqua wedding!). It just depends on the feel you are going for.  The great thing is that there are few colors that don't look good next to each other if you find the right shade!

       I then usually add a third, neutral color. The generally accepted neutrals are: white, cream, brown (including tan), gray and black. Adding a neutral helps to "ground" the scheme and makes it easier to create "white" space (not the color, but more about empty areas that aren't colored) that helps to focus the eye.

        You can actually even use neutrals as a color scheme on their own, like we did for the "Flintstones" birthday. We went with black and brown as our main colors and added in tiny pops of orange and green.  It also worked when we used cream and black with pops of orange for the "Mustache Bash". You have to choose a third color (or even a fourth) to really give it some life, though. Neutrals also have their own shades: silver (a shade of gray), gold (a shade of brown), etc.

     Unless you are doing a rainbow theme party, I would limit myself to four colors at the absolute maximum. It can start to look a little crazy if you don't. I would start with the two main colors, add a neutral as a third and then see how it is looking. If you need (or just want) a fourth color, then try it. I find buying scrapbook paper is a cheap and easy way to see how my colors look together. You won't spend more than a dollar or so to find out if they are gorgeous or ghastly, or for free you can stand in the store and do it!

     Keeping your color choices to a minimum doesn't mean everything has to be an exact match. I use different shades of my main colors all the time. Sometimes you can't even find certain things in the right colors! But by restricting yourself to a few colors it will tie everything together and give you a much tighter, focused presentation that will be much more pleasing.

The important details:
1. Choose two colors. Complementary (directly across on the color wheel) will produce the strongest impact. Choosing one slightly to the right or left of directly across will also give a good contrast.

2. Add a third neutral color for balance.

3. If choosing to go with neutrals for your main colors, try adding a pop of a brighter color to add visual interest.

4. Try colors together by pairing scrapbook papers at Hobby Lobby or another craft store to get a good idea of your choices.

5. In most cases you will want to avoid using more than four colors. Three will give you the most "tight" presentation.

This is Day 8 of "31 Days of Perfect Party Planning." See the rest of the days here.

Linked up to "Thrifty Thursdays" at Living Well, Spending Less.


  1. Wow! I am not even planning a party, but appreciated the coordinating colors lesson! Now, I need a color wheel for when I do plan a party. Although most of my parties deal with AWANA and I use their 4 colors or some variation thereof.

  2. Sorry I haven't commented daily. I am really enjoying your tips. You are a great party planner. If only you got paid?! :)



Related Posts with Thumbnails