What colour combinations can I use that best suit a calming image?
Enrico Messina, US
Answer Dave replies
I once lived in a flat that had been decorated by a psychologist whose speciality was colour. Often startled at first, guests would later comment on how relaxed they felt in the deep-orange-walled sitting room. Our ideas about which colours are most relaxing are probably influenced by current trends and fashions, but it’s hard to go wrong with soft greens and blues, along with cooler reds and redviolets. Restrained use of saturated hues can go a long way to achieving a serene mood: you can save them for smaller areas of interest, helping to direct the viewer’s eye.
In my image, there’s quite a lot of olivegreens tones creating the forest setting, mixed with some greenish-grey that appears blue in context with the green. For the water shallows, I use a cool red tone that’s analogous to Venetian Red – one of my favourite colours to work with in traditional media. For the figure, I employ this same cool red tone as a base, and then make some thin passes with a blue-grey to cool it down and make her more pale. I use a little pale green as reflected bounce light on her arm, face and hair. The most saturated colour is the edge light on the mossy rocks, so I pull some of that over to the flowers in her hair to connect her with her setting. The final result feels richly coloured, yet still peaceful and contemplative in mood.
I’ve used many soothing greens throughout the image, yet I’ve brought in quite a bit of cooler red tones to warm up the human element. Flipping the hues with an adjustment layer results in an entirely new feeling with warm and cool areas transposed, yet the calm feeling remains.