Color Code: How I Choose my Color Palette?

How I choose my color palette for my food photography & styling. Why I use Adobe Color CC color wheel to select different color harmony between monochromatic, analogous, triad, complementary, compound or shades.

If you are already familiar with my photography posts, then you know how much I love Adobe Color CC. I’m quite sure you might get tired of me talking about colors (previous post here). Again. I know I’m a broken record.

Instagram screenshots @healthylauracom behind the scenes

My Instagram @healthylauracom stories screenshots (behind the scenes)

However, I still can’t let it go since the color wheel is one of my food photography essentials. That’s why this time I’m going to share how I analyze and build my color palette (I don’t have a Ph.D. on color theory, and I’m not an expert. I just show you how I choose the color palette.😊)

Adobe Color CC _ Color Wheel_ Food Photography & Styling_ Healthy Laura

Adobe Color CC color wheel

If you go to the Adobe Color CC website, you can find the color wheel. I like to choose my color palette between are monochromatic, analogous, triad, complementary, compound or shades. Since photography has quite a lot in common with paintings, then we can always use the same color schemes. According to the book Color Theory: An Essential Guide to Color from Basic Principles to Practical Applications by Patti Mollica.[1] we also have schemes of split complementary, analogous complimentary, saturated, neutral and saturated neutral.

Chia pudding (same pudding recipe, just used red currants instead of blueberries & raspberries)

Right now I try not to over complicate it and stay with Adobe Color CC basic schemes. It looks like there’s so much information out there that sometimes I find it quite confusing and I really can’t cover all the topics in this short blog post. That’s why at the end of the day like to trust my instincts and go with some kind of feeling. Sometimes I upload some of the images to Adobe Color CC to get some inspiration for the custom color palette.

What do I do? I choose the color harmony between basic color pallets (monochromatic, analogous, triad, complementary, compound or shades) and then use NEUTRAL backgrounds (white, grey, black, brown) or backdrops with SIMILAR food colors.

Analyze Instagram grid_ Color Theory_ @healthylauracom_ Food Photography & Styling

I used the Color Kuler website to analyze my Instagram @healthylauracom grid. I usually choose grey & grey-blue(ish) backdrops.

 

Example 1: Monochromatic

I try to use food with the SAME hue (monochromatic colors). They say that the key here is that the primary color can be integrated with neutral colors (black, white, or gray).[2] Luckily that makes it a little bit easier.

TIP: Try to use TINTS, SHADES, and tones. Choose one KEY color for this scheme.[3]

Adobe Colors CC: Monochromatic colors example

For example, here I tried to choose yellow(ish) hue with honey, almond slices & apples. I also got some brown tones with cinnamon and toasted almond slices.

 

Example 2: Analogous Colors

I try to choose food with a similar hue. I play around with the color wheel and try to group three food colors that sit beside each other.[4]

TIP: Avoid combining WARM and COOL colors of food.[5] 

Adobe Colors CC: Analogous colors example

For example, here I tried to choose green mint leaves, avocado, and broccoli that all had different green hue. I got my yellow(ish) color with these buckwheat pancakes.

 

Example 3: Complimentary Colors

I try to use OPPOSITE colors on the color wheel & play with different food contrast.[6]

TIP: If you use red or yellow food colors, then desaturate the opposite cool colors.[7]

Adobe Colors CC: Complimentary colors example

For example, here I tried to choose green leaves and pink(ish) prawns for my color palette. Once I already have my RAW image file, then I can play around with HSL & color panel in Adobe Lightroom.

Garlic Prawns_ Healthy Laura_ Food Photography & Styling

Garlic Prawns (Paleo & Keto)

 

Example 4: Triad Colors

I try to use three or more colors that NEIGHBOR each on the color wheel.[8]

TIP: Choose one color to be used in more significant amounts than others.[9]

Adobe Colors CC: Triad colors example

For example, here I tried to choose green leaves, purple(ish) pink beetroot, and yellow beetroot. It’s probably not the perfect example, but at least I got some inspiration. 😅 I find it quite hard to make a color palette with triad colors.

 

Example 5: Compound Colors

I try to use colors on both sides of the opposite hue. It’s similar to the complementary color scheme, but they have less “pressure”.[10]

TIP: Play around with hue and shades.

Adobe Colors CC: Compound colors example

For example, here I tried to choose dark green broccoli, kale, and purple beetroot. I got some hue and shade from the broccoli and beetroot itself. The broccoli and beetroot have some darker tone and lighter colors.

Beetroot Soup_ Healthy Laura Food Photography & Styling

Beetroot Soup

 

Example 6: Shades[11]

I try to use foods with different color shades.

TIP: Pick one basic color and play with light & shadows.

Adobe Colors CC: Shades colors example

For example, here I used only frozen red currants, but it has different red tones. However, I tried to play around with brightness and value, hue & saturation. Again, here is quite a big part of the process Adobe Lightroom (especially the HSL panel) where I like to play around with brightness & shadows to get my #foodcolorcode.

Frozen Red Currants

Adobe Lightroom HSL Panel

Also, feel free to use the HASHTAG #foodcolorcode and TAG me on Instagram @healthylauracom when you use some of these color tips. I love to see how you play around with colors. Some of you have already used my free cheat sheets in practice and I have seen some AMAZING autumn images out there that I have featured on my stories. I’m so proud of you and great job! 🙂 

My Instagram screenshots @healthylauracom

If you would like to know more about my food photography tips, then can download my FREE cheat sheets bundle (click here). 

Learn Food Photography_ Cheatsheets Bundle _ Healthy Laura _ Food Photography & Styling

My Free Cheat Sheets Bundle

Pin it! 🙂

Some other websites I sometimes explore to get some inspiration for my color palettes:

– Color Palettes website;

– Udemy courses. 

References:

[1] Color Theory: An Essential Guide to Color-from Basic Principles to Practical Applications by Patti Mollica

[2]Color Wheel PRO. Classic color schemes.

[3]Color Wheel PRO. Classic color schemes.

[4]Color Wheel PRO. Classic color schemes.

[5]Color Wheel PRO. Classic color schemes.

[6]Adobe. Use the Adobe Color Themes Panel.

[7]Color Wheel PRO. Classic color schemes.

[8]Adobe. Use the Adobe Color Themes Panel.

[9]Color Wheel PRO. Classic color schemes.

[10]Adobe. Use the Adobe Color Themes Panel.

[11]Adobe. Use the Adobe Color Themes Panel.

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