Colors in ikebana. Arrangement "Bringing out the color of container" © Ekaterina Seehaus

3 Main Elements of Ikebana Flower Arrangements: #3 Color

Color wheel used for the illustration of the color theory
The Basic Color Wheel

Use of colors in ikebana flower arrangements.

Color, last but not least of the 3 main elements of ikebana. Understanding color is fundamental to most of the visual arts. Color transforms our perception of the reality. This topic was explored for hundreds and maybe even thousands of years. From cavemen extracting pigments from plants and minerals to the impressionists obsessed with the color theory human recognized expressive power of color.

Without going too far into the theory let us focus on the fundamentals. The two main approaches to the use of color are either building harmonic color combinations or bringing out contrasts.

Here is the color wheel, which is nothing more than a “rainbow wrapped in a circle”. The opposite colors on the color wheel are called complimentary (which I always found a misleading name). Those colors contrast each other the most. The colors located next to each other form tonal ranges and give harmonic impression together. All pretty basic, right?

Single color ikebana arrangements.

Orange automn Ikebana arrangement by Ekaterina Seehaus
One-color autumn Ikebana arrangement. © Ekaterina Seehaus

As a matter of fact  you do not have to use several colors in your flower arrangement. You can focus on one color only and see what it will do. Most probably other aspects such as different texture or forms will become more visible.

And it is not only the plant material that participated in this color feast. Your container and the background play their role and could bring interesting accents into the composition. Above is my take on the orange as the autumn color. Green leaves are removed from the branches to avoid any destruction from the focus on the orange color. To keep it dynamic I added what would be called in Ikebana “artistic tension”: by balancing the main branch in seemingly unstable position. Got to have challenges 🙂

Ikebana arrangements in one tonal range.

5 Different Materials Ikebana Sogetsu arrangement by Ekaterina Seehaus
One color range Ikebana arrangement “5 Different Materials” or Maze-zashi © Ekaterina Seehaus

Let us widen the color range: say from deep orange to yellow. This informally looking summer arrangement is in fact a Sogetsu school exercise called “5 or more different materials” or Maze-zashi in Japanese. With the use of many colors and materials a Maze-zashi arrangement could look pretty busy. Therefore staying in one color range is a safe bet for a beginner Maze-zashi arranger. The trick here is to check at the end whether “light and wind could go through the flowers”. The idea is to keep it natural, light, without over-designing and just play with the colors.

Contrasting colors in ikebana arrangements – bringing our the drama.

Moving on. Lets talk contrasting colors in ikebana. This is a slightly more adventurous territory. If you are into fashion you could think of it as “color blocking” of flower arrangement. The strongest contrast is between colors located straight across from each other on the color circle. If you choose darker shades with more depth the contrast will be stronger. Here I am showing a few variations with lighter colors.

Opposite colors Sogetsu Ikebana arrangements Ekaterina Seehaus
Opposite colors yellow-blue/violet Ikebana arrangements. © Ekaterina Seehaus

A side comment: you do not need to focus only on the color of flowers. Often you can create very effective arrangements by accenting colors of foliage, branches, seeds, bark, roots… or any other elements you find interesting.

Opposite colors yellow/green-pink/violet Ikebana arrangement. Ekaterina Seehaus
Opposite colors light green-pink/violet Ikebana arrangement. © Ekaterina Seehaus

Contrasting colors in ikebana are quite entertaining to arrange. They are catchy and strong. If you want a focal point for your room then go with a contrast arrangement. But no pressure. If you want to start in a safer territory or if you simply want to have something zen and relaxing for your living space then a single tonal range arrangement is more appropriate.

Either way, just try it and have fun with it!


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