Flower Color Theory
Although I have a degree in the fine arts, I always tell people that I have learned more about color, texture and visual rhythm from floristry. Since naturally occurring floral colors and shapes aren't as unlimited as those on a painters palette, there is some parameters when picking a floral palette. This often leads to repetition of the same palette across a wedding season. (With no help from the popularity of Pinterest I might add.)
As an alternative, I have been working on a flower color theory based on noticing the the subtleties of nature's palettes. By taking into account the naturally occurring palette at your venue, you can use color theory build a unique color scheme that actually compliments the space.
Step 1: Find your palette
Pick 5 colors naturally occurring in the surrounding landscape (or of a specific flower, family heirloom, art piece or anything you want to base your palette of of) If you are having trouble identifying the separate colors, take a picture and upload it to the palette generator at Coolors.co.
You will know you are on the right track when you can find the palette repeated in the details of the landscape like in the photo bellow. It's also very common to find naturally contrasting colors, meaning colors on the opposite side of the color palette. For example the orange tones and the blue tones in this beach palette are contrasting colors.
Step 2: Customize your palette
Here's were your creativity comes in. Choose two to three colors in the palette to alter in the ways listed bellow according to color theory. You can make your choice based on colors that are hard to match with flowers, like browns or grays, or colors that you simply are not particularly attracted to and want to avoid using. If you are not sure which colors, your decision may become more clear after playing around with the palette.
Choose to do one of the following with those colors:
- Lighten (add white) or darken (add black)
- Saturate (intensify the hue)
- Contrast (turn it into the opposite color on the color wheel)
- Warm (add orange) or cool (add blue)
- Analogous (choose colors that are close to the remaining colors on the color wheel so they are all similar in hue)
- Round out (see where other colors are on the color wheel and make triangles)
Try different variations and see what emerges using paint or an online color palette tool. The main thing is that a few of the colors match the original palette and a few are changed. This way the scheme will compliment without blending in too much.
Since this aspect of color theory is more art than science, bellow are some examples of color palettes drawn from three California landscapes and the resulting arrangements.
1. Beach: Contrasting
In this beach inspired palette, I've changed two of the colors into their opposites. The yellow in the sand becomes a purple and the muted blue of the ocean becomes a muted mauvy orange.
2. Forest: Saturated
The original forest palette was taken from the tones in the leaves, trunk, dirt and forget-me-not growing bellow. By brighting and saturating the colors in the tree trunks (colors that could not be represented by flowers anyways) I added an ivory and deep burgundy tone that pops against the backdrop. By using ferns that might actually grow in the landscape and greens that match the those in swatch, the bouquet is tied back into the surroundings.
2. Desert: Softening
With this desert palette, I added white to two of the cactus flower colors to add a peach and butter yellow that soften the look. The use of lacy ranunculus also provides a textural contrast to the harshness of the cacti.
If nothing else, I hope this guide helps you notice the incredible palettes already available in the plants, rocks and landscapes you encounter on your adventures. Happy coloring!