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Tips & Tricks

Using Color Theory To Make Your Photos More Appealing & Harmonious With Photoshop

By Kishore Sawh on November 14th 2014


With a little study of art history and maybe some formal art instruction, color theory is bound to arise very quickly. How much time you spend on it can vary, as color theory collectively covers vast numbers of concepts, and in no small amount. In fact, the study of color theory could have you reading through volumes of information.

When broken down to the most basic facets though, you will be presented with the color wheel first created by Sir Isaac Newton, and what it does, color harmony, and then theories on how colors interact with each other. It’s a whole lot of information that you frankly don’t need to be entirely aware of, but would benefit from learning and incorporating the basics.


In this Phlearn episode, Aaron Nace goes into a little practical knowledge of color theory, and the importance of using its complementary colors to create a compelling image, and how to input those colors using Photoshop. Complementary colors are ones to be found opposite each other on the color wheel, so having a visual reference is immensely helpful. color. is a highly useful resource for just this.

[REWIND: Into Eternity | An Emotional & Haunting Timelapse Inspired By A Man Who Ended His Life]

Essentially what you’ll see demonstrated here delivered in Aaron’s hallmark charming and entertaining fashion, is the implementation process of some color theory using Photoshop. Using a screenshot from Adobe’s color wheel site and adding it as a layer to your working image, you can sample the precise colors you want to incorporate from the wheel. Getting this done requires a series of layers and a few small tricks which Aaron will seamlessly teach you how to use.



Whether you want to plan your shoots keeping the color theory of complementary colors in mind, or you want to take one of your photos and make it more memorable and visually harmonious, color theory is something to always consider, and this is great way to implement it after the shutter release button’s been clicked.

As always, if you are a fan of Aaron’s teachings (and who isn’t?), be sure to check back here for updates, and follow along with Aaron on YouTube and Phlearn. You should also consider becoming quickly adept at Photoshop with the Phlearn Photoshop 101 & 201 sets as they are extremely comprehensive, and will have you quickly doing things with Photoshop you may have otherwise thought too complex, or didn’t even know you could do.

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A photographer and writer based in Miami, he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Basit Zargar

    Love the article !

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  2. John Cavan

    Usual good job by Aaron, but am I the only one thinking that his source image has a bit of the warp tool involved in it? The bricks are looking a little funny leading into the tummy of one of the models.

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  3. Stan Rogers

    Just “volume”, Kish — Johannes Itten’s “The Elements of Color” is very accessible to anyone who’s interested (and it’s been the go-to work for so long that it should be available in any library worthy of the name), and there’s an awful lot of “whoa — THAT explains a lot” packed between the covers. (Unfortunately, it’s gotten a little bit pricey to buy lately. It’s a bit of a collector’s item for the hipster designer’s “so Bauhaus it hurts” bookshelf, especially in the slightly-thumbed-through used paperback format. No, I don’t understand it either.)

    (Oh, and do note that Itten’s “The Art of Color” is a highly-technical treatise that will leave the layperson with fewer clues than they had before, and likely require some sort of post-reading medical intervention. It is not the same book at all, but if you’re a dye chemist, or planning to become a dye chemist, it’s the one you want.)

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  4. Greg Silver

    I didn’t see the link to the Adobe Color Wheel (which I think is a fantastic tool not only for photography but any graphic design work) so I’m posting it here:

    It’s simply amazing to see how complimentary colors can change a mood or emotion of a photo or artwork if used properly.

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