How Do You Know What Colors Go Well Together?

Amber, a medical student, told us that her biggest frustration is, “learning what types of flowers or colors go well together.” In this post, I’d like to focus on the latter part of that question about color. (Don’t worry, we’ll cover the first part too in a future post).

How do you know what colors go well together? Color is a huge topic, especially when you’re just digging into thinking about color and your flowers for the first time as a bride. You have probably noticed that some colors look good together and others . . . don’t. That is why you’re here, no doubt: to avoid having a bouquet with colors that just clash or look entirely blah.

Color theory in bouquet design is a huge topic, but that doesn’t mean you can’t plan something amazing yourself without getting an art degree. When it comes to bouquets and colors that go well together, here are three BIG FLORAL TIPS you can use to come up with a combination that is personalized and looks good.

Tip 1: Pick a Color Pattern
You want to start by choosing a color pattern. This will be a group of one or three colors that have a certain relationship to each other on the color wheel. If you decide to go with a single color scheme, you should include three distinct shades of the same color to end up with an overall three color scheme.

Your color scheme tool: the color wheel. A color’s shades get lighter toward the middle.


alt= "pink and white wedding bouquet"
Pink, white, and cream colored wedding bouquet


Why three colors? Of course, this is a rule of thumb, but three color schemes are great because they keep your design focused. Too many colors and your bouquet will look like a Crayola box. Too few and it will just be boring. Three carefully chosen colors with good relationships to one another is a very safe way to know you’re diversifying without going overboard.

This is a powerful rule that can really take away some of the stress of knowing how many colors to use.

When it comes to bouquets, here are the four big patterns to consider. If you use one of these major schemes, you can be confident that your scheme will be coherent, intentional, and solidly based on a foundation of color theory.

Monochromatic: using a single color to create a cohesive look (that again, you can soften with either white or green or use three shades of the same color for added texture). This has a rather formal, styled (as opposed to natural) feel. Focusing on lighter shades will soften the scheme whereas heavy use of darker shades will make it bolder.

Complementary/Contrasting: using colors opposite each other on the wheel to create a bolder, contrasting effect. In bouquets, given the rule of 3, usually the scheme includes one color (e.g., yellow) and then the two colors adjacent opposite colors to the first color to the first color (e.g., blue-violet and red-violet which are adjacent to violet, yellow’s opposite on the wheel). This creates a natural feel, as high contrasts are naturally common in plants. Complementary schemes work better in bouquets using more foliage which enhances the natural feel while softening the color contrast.

Triadic: using three colors that are evenly distributed around the wheel. This one, when done very well, has a distinguished but slightly playful feel to it. The three primary colors (red, blue, and yellow) or the three secondary colors (orange, purple, and green) are a good place to start.

Harmonious/Analogous: using colors that are next to each other on the wheel for a more blended look that is a bit more natural feeling than a monochromatic, while still feeling carefully styled. This option gives you more room to play with colors than the monotone, though it still is an easier one to do well.

Tip 2: White Can Be Any Color
A red monochromatic color scheme. White serves as a light shade of red.


alt= "white and pink wedding bouquet"
Monochromatic wedding bouquet


Considering the color wheel again, you might be wondering where white fits on it. The answer is that white is in the middle, where all the colors are their lightest. This means that white actually acts as the lightest shade of every single color on the wheel for purposes of determining your scheme. In practical terms, this means white will work in any of the schemes listed above, and it can take the place of any color in any of those schemes (since it serves as a shade of any color).

For example, let’s imagine that you’re using a harmonious scheme with red, yellow, and orange. You can use white as a substitute for some of the red, so that there’s just a bit of actual red in your bouquet and lots of white instead. Or, you can decide to replace the red with all white, so we don’t ever actually see any “red” at all. In another example, say you want a monochromatic scheme using three shades of red. White can serve as one of your shades, so you could do a rich burgundy, red, white scheme or a softer red, pink, white scheme.

If you include white, keep in mind that it has a clean feel and creates a feeling of space between colors. Heavy use of white will tend to create a more formal, elegant look, which makes it a very popular choice in monochromatic schemes.

Tip 3: Use Foliage To Control Your Amount of Color
Greens vs. No greens. Note how the eye focuses on the flowers, leaving the green as a neutral framing color.


alt= "blue and white wedding bouquet with foliage"
Blue and white wedding bouquet with foliage


In floral arrangements, green foliage is neutral in color, so it doesn’t count toward one of the three colors in your color scheme. Foliage will not break any of the color schemes, whether or not green is a part of your scheme. This doesn’t mean that green doesn’t play an important role in your bouquet’s color scheme (in addition to being important for a wide variety of other reasons as well). In terms of color, by including more “neutral” foliage, you effectively control just how much flower color is in the bouquet. The more foliage, the more subtle your color choices will appear. Foliage can also create space between complementary colors to soften the contrast.

Foliage tends to enhance the natural feel of a bouquet, so including more foliage will enhance a natural look. That is why you often see quite a bit of foliage in bouquets using a complementary scheme.

Note, that green flowers are not color “neutral” the way foliage is. If your flowers are green (such as green roses, green gerbera daisies, green amaranth), you can and should count it as a color in your color scheme.

So, with these tips in mind, how do you pick which color scheme works for you?

It’s time to ask yourself one big, and not so easy question: what style do I want to convey with my color? What colors you want to use in your pattern is shaped by the style and feeling you’re actually trying to create in your bouquet. When a scheme doesn’t look right, it’s often not because the color scheme is inherently bad—it’s because it clashes with the aesthetic and feeling of the wedding surroundings. This makes it feel out of place.

You want to be mindful of how you can consciously use your colors to deliver the experience you want for your guests. So taking a “big picture” approach here is a safe way to go.

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