Positioning - Simultaneous contrast and patterning

With the last part of the theory section, we move from "what colour" (contrast), over "how much" (brighness) to "how to place".

Simultaneous contrast

The first thing you should consider when it comes to placement of colour is simultaneous contrast:

Basically simultaneous contrast is about how colours affect each other when placed in close proximity: as I mentioned in the brightness-section, lighter and darker colours need to be added in unequal amounts to appear balanced – when you place a bright colour next to a darker one, the brighter colour will shine while the darker colour will vane. This effect is especially pronounced when it comes to contrasting colours:

Yellow sections inside a larger purple block will shine, while the reverse will result in a dull greyish purple sections within the yellow, and the same thing happens when you position blue and orange next to each other.
The same effect isn't as pronounced with blue and orange, because of their closer brighness-value (2:1 instead of 3:1), but instead you can begin to notice a slightly glowing edge between the two colours.
Being more or less equally matched brighness-wise, the brightening/dampening-effect is hardly noticeable when it comes to red and green, but in return the glowing or even shimmering edges are much more pronounced (and no, it isn't just bad .jpg-compression ;)
- which is probably the reason why The Lego Group has used the red and green stripe as logo for Octan for so many years.

Again, this is one of the effects that you need to be aware of, either to avoid it or use it conciously to brightening or dampening things.


As with contrast and balance it is worth considering colour positioning as a linear scale from scattered to grouped. Both extremes have their possibilities and drawbacks:

Grouping: Mocs with extreme grouping of colours can easily end up breaking apart visually because the coloured sections simply don’t look as parts of the same whole: consider for instance a moc with two strong colours in either end: the design have to be very homogenous to keep the isolated sections together.
Mike Yoder, on the other hand, have used this effect on many of his old pirate crafts to create a 'cobbled together out of salvaged parts'-look.
Scattering: While extreme grouping tend to polarize the design into isolated sections, too much scattering simply dissolves the moc into a flickr of colours that confuse the eye.
Frankly I’m not sure that pronounced scattering is generally good for anything, although Peter L. Morris has made some pretty cool fighters with scattered colouring.
Both grouping and scattering of colours have benefits and drawbacks, but how can you control it?
Patterning: is a good way to organize an otherwise scattered colourscheme: arrange the colours into stripes or other designs repeated across the moc: bonus points for creating logos or symbols and repeating the colours at other sections of the craft.
Bleeding or inter-penetration: is a good way to break up larger chunks of colours by infusing sections or lines from the surrounding areas or colour-chunks – think jigsaw-puzzle.
Insulating: Finally, you might want to isolate areas of colour from each other to avoid excessive simultaneous contrasts, or simply to delineate (subtle) colour changes within very dark or light colourschemes.


That should be just about all the colour theory nessecary to get started! In the next part of the tutorial, we'll take a look at how you can use the theory in practice!

[return to colour tutorial index]

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