Triadic colors can seem pretty straightforward on the surface, but we’re going to take a little bit of a deeper dive to get a better understanding of what triadic colors are and why they are important.
What are Triadic Colors?
Triadic colors are colors that relate to each other on a triangle on a color wheel. So when we’re looking at the color wheel, if I were to draw a triangle between the red the yellow and the blue, the red yellow and blue would be considered triadic colors.
So red, yellow, and blue they make a triangle on the color wheel. Great! We have triadic colors!
But the triangle doesn’t always have to point towards yellow. So for example, if we made a triangle going between the orange, the green, and the purple, these are also triadic colors. They make a triangle on the color wheel, and these colors relate to each other in a triangular way. Therefore they are triadic colors.
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Advanced Triadic Colors
Now this is a very simple approach to what a triadic color is, but there are more complicated ways to think about triadic colors.
Let’s go to a color wheel that has a few more colors on it. Before, we went to red, yellow, and blue. But what if we went from a purpley-red to an orange-yellow to a greeny-blue? These would also be triadic colors.
You can basically rotate this triangle any way you want on the color wheel to find triadic colors. Triadic colors can be nearly any three colors. The term “triadic” simply represents the relationship of those colors on the color wheel.
Some people play with this idea of triadic colors by adjusting it a bit. For example, what if your triangle was not a perfect triangle? You can have triangles that are not equilateral. So you can have a skinny triangle and some would say it is still a triadic color.
The Fletcher Palette
For those of you color geeks out there, the Fletcher palette uses this concept of unequal triangles to find variable triadic color harmonies.
Fletcher came up with a system where he wanted to make colors match music harmonies. He was really into using triadic colors and he tried to match the colors to the structures of musical chords. So, he divided colors into major and minor keys using triangles and other shapes.
If you really want a thorough understanding of his system, I recommend reading the Fletcher Palette book. For the purposes of this article, I just wanted to give you an example of a way that triadic colors can be taken into a more sophisticated realm.
So to review, we covered what a triadic colors essentially are, and a few ways they can be used by artists to determine color schemes for their work. If you enjoyed this article, make sure to join our wildly popular art newsletter for art tidbits in your inbox every week.