A Triad Color Scheme traditionally uses three Hues that are evenly spaced around the Color Wheel. Above, you can see every fourth color has been selected, leaving three colors between each.
Of course there are other types of Triad Color Schemes such as the Complementary Triad and Modified Triad. However, here we are taking a look at the most basic. Once you've mastered this traditional Triad Color Scheme, the others are simple to use. Let me show you how three colors can help you create harmony in any creative project.
Two Groups of Triad Colors
Generally, to get the cleanest color mixtures, it's wise to stay clear of using the Tertiary Colors for a Triad Color Scheme. That's because the Tertiary colors are already mixtures of three colors. As a result, if you blend them with other Tertiary colors they will quickly become muddy. However, it's great to use them as slightly mixed accents once you're familiar with the basic color palette.
As a result of avoiding the Tertiary colors as your main Triad Color Scheme, you are left with two choices. Therefore, you will be working with either three Primary Colors or three Secondary Colors.
First of all, as you learned earlier, when you mix Primary Colors, you get a gorgeous range of Secondary colors.
To review: Yellow + Red = Orange, Yellow + Blue = Green and Red + Blue = Purple.
In my example above, the Primary Triad was mixed from the three pure Hues. Obviously these pigments usually produce the most vibrant mixtures. However, bear in mind that you can use any other Yellow, Red and Blue you might have in your paint box. Of course, your mixtures will not look exactly the same as mine when you use other pigments.
Now compare the Primary Triad with our second example above. As you might have guessed, choosing three Secondary colors for your Triad gives you a whole different result. Notice how the Secondary mixture colors are more subdued and earthy. Keep this in mind when this is the effect you're wanting to achieve.
Painting aTriad Color Scheme From a Photo
In our first creative example, the photograph to the left, demonstrates a perfect Triad Color Scheme using the three Secondary Colors.
Indeed, if you wanted to paint from this photograph, you'd choose Green as the dominant Hue.
Next, to achieve the lovely range of subdued Purple colors and near Blacks of the flower petals, you would simply mix a bit of Green into the Purple.
And finally, the Green background would also have a touch of Orange mixed in for painterly variation. Notice the lovely vibrant Orange stamens in the flowers. They add a wonderful accent to the entire composition.
Triad Color Scheme Example in Fine Art
Above is another example of the same palette with a completely different emotional impact.
This stunning Impressionist painting by Claude Monet, uses the same Triad paint palette of Green, Orange and Purple as the flower photo above. In contrast, Monet was a genius at mixing his colors in a more painterly manner. His technique was to mix his pigments right on the canvas. As a result, the slightly blended colors create the brilliant sparkle of leaves in the morning light.
After looking at this painting closely, it appears his dominant color was likely Orange. This warm Orange is why there is an overall warming effect on both Green and Violet. The Violet in the sky and tree trunks is a warm but subdued Gray/Violet. This lovely Gray/Violet is the result of adding a bit of Orange and White to the Purple.