Lesson 3 - Armature Bouquet in Complementary Colors a Study of Contrast

Complementary Colors

colors that sit opposite each other on the color wheel

The science behind why these colors look good together...

The Smithsonian Institute explains why our brains like seeing complementary colors together ....

"Complementary colors are especially pleasing to the eye because different types of photoreceptor cells, which contribute to color vision, perceive different types of light in the color spectrum, Apartment Therapy explains. To put this to the test, try staring at a sheet of blue paper for a few minutes. Then, quickly look at a white wall. You’ll see a faint orange after image—blue’s opposite color. That’s because the cells in your eyes became fatigued, slightly suppressing the visual spectrum you’ve been staring at. What you perceive on the wall is the white spectrum of light, minus a tiny bit of blue, which your brain processes as orange. For the interior decorator or painter (or in our case florist), this means complimentary colors are especially dynamic since they play off of one another’s intensity. Your eye wants to see that explosive pop of yellow alongside the purple wall; the complementary colors seem to sooth and balance, since they simultaneously stimulate different parts of the eye. It’s a natural example of opposites attracting." https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/the-scientific-reason-complementary-colors-look-good-together-114030051/


the difference or the amount of difference between things

We can achieve contrast in our arrangements through many ways such as the amount of light or dark colors, large or small, smooth or textured, many or few of a type of bloom.

One way that is sure to achieve contrast is to use COMPLEMENTARY COLORS. Leonardo Da Vinci noted that "each color is more distinctly seen, when opposed to its contrary, than to any other similar to it."

Contrast is one way to create dimension and movement in a bouquet. We used contrast in both the monochromatic and analogous color schemes over the last two lessons. Using complementary colors creates a more striking contrast.

Light and Dark Color Contrast

lighter colors stand out while darker colors recede

A way to really see the value (light or dark) contrast try taking a picture of your arrangement and then edit it to black and white. The flowers with lighter value will come forward and show up and the darker value flowers will almost disappear.

This becomes important when talking to clients about a color palette. A bouquet with too much contrast and not enough variation to create a bridge will look spotty or like it has holes in it when photographed. Knowing how to communicate this to your client in an educated manner helps them to understand why certain colors may work better than others. For example, a burgundy and blush bouquet may need a few tones, tints and shades to lower the contrast.

You will find a phenomena with reds in wedding work. Reds tend to disappear in photos. If I am using red in a bouquet I will suggest to use all red or to add tints, tones and shades very close to it as I bridge up to lighter shades of pink. I often make my clients aware of this if they ask for a burgundy and blush reception. It is important to show them how that dark red will be seen as holes. Red must be photographed close up to be seen so that shot of the installation far away will most likely erase the red.


One of my favorite uses of complementary colors is to create either a Monochromatic or Analogous arrangement and then hop to the opposite side of the color wheel and just add a splash of that color.

This splash creates creates a balance that pulls my eye from being too stuck in one mix of color. So if I am designing an analogous bouquet with blues, violets and burgundy I would grab a toffee rose or two to bring in the warmth of yellow/orange to the palette. To me this adds a sophistication to the bouquet that most are not expecting consciously. However, their eye wants to see that color as we read above.

In this bouquet it is primarily monochromatic in tints, shades and tones of pink. Adding a touch of red and green as well as purple and orange pushes this bouquet into an exciting and unexpected combination but is harmonious to the eye. Notice how the lighter pinks lunge forward and the darker pinks recess.

This contrast in value creates dimension in the bouquet as well as movement.

A word of caution when using complementary colors....

Again, my favorite color combinations are analogous color schemes mixing tones, tints, shades and saturations and then splashing the arrangement with a complementary color. However, I try to use a muted or more subtle tone of that complement. Using a toffee or caramel yellow verses a bright yellow is a more harmonious way to create the contrast without shocking us.

Watch the video for a spiral technique bouquet using a chicken wire armature tutorial and an example of designing in a complementary color scheme.



Now that you have watched the video it is time to practice. You will need flowers. You will choose flowers in tints, tones, shades or saturations (chroma) of complementary colors. You can choose any two complementary colors and its tints, tones, shades, saturations and values. I would suggest you choose one of the colors as a primary and use 2/3 of that color and 1/3 of the complementary.

I would like you to show each flower type you chose and tell me the category it is in before starting your practice. You can take a picture each week and fill out the sheet at the end of this lesson.

Don't forget to video your entire process.

I want you to observe yourself. This is ONLY for your personal use so no need to be nervous. I am not going to watch it.

Take a Photo

After you are done the bouquet you will take a picture from all angles of you holding it and send add it to an email in Teachable. We will do a critique of everyones bouquet during our meeting each week. Critiques are meant for learning. It can be hard to go through them but remember that you will be critiquing your work as long as you are in this business. It is a sign of growth ability if you can learn to take in positive critique. We will talk more about this in our meeting.

13 spacing flowers or greens

8 textural or filler flowers

8 medium flowers

5 medium flowers

3 medium flowers

5 medium flowers

5 lateral flowers

5 small round flowers

3 small round flowers

5 dancing or gestural flowers

3 dancing or gestural flowers

3 draping flowers

0 large round flowers

Links to another tutorial using similar complementary color theory principles:


Complete and Continue