Knights Valley Trees and Vineyards (untitled as of yet), about 8"x10"
© 2010 Karen Lynn Ingalls
Start with a limited palette
The simplest way to create color harmony is to begin with a limited palette. How limited? All you need is one yellow, one red, one blue, and white.
With those colors, you'll be able to mix oranges, purples, greens, and most everything in between. How those mixes differ depend on which yellow, which red, which blue, and which white you choose.
Your three colors, with white, become like a family. Whatever you mix with them comes from them – as I'm fond of saying, all those mixes have the same DNA. They are related. Hence – color harmony.
Now, say you're painting the image of a tree, and instead of mixing your yellow and blue, you pull out a separate tube of green for its leaves. You'll find it doesn't fit in with its surroundings. It's not related. It doesn't have the same DNA as the colors around it.
When you've worked with your three colors for awhile, and know well what you can do with them, you will also learn what you can't do with them. Maybe your red and blue make a plummy brown instead of a vibrant purple. Maybe your blue and yellow don't give you the brilliant spring green you're looking for. Don't feel stuck – that's when it's time to add in a new color. (Only one color at a time works best, so you really get to know all of the new possibilities now open to you.)
Note: In the little painting above, I used primary magenta, primary cyan, a light yellow ( a mixing, or printer's, palette), and Titanium white.