Colouring Your Plate

food styling, photography, entree, saladAutumn is officially here. Orange is the colour of the season. It symbolizes change and creativity. As leaves are changing colour, so are many ingredients. Dressing up your dish with the right fashion is the first step in creating a pleasant culinary experience.

We always say, “Eyes Eat First”. Finding a colour harmony for your plate will not only help stimulate your guests’ taste buds, it can also unleash their imagination.

The food world is filled with all kinds of colours. The combinations are endless. However, many homecooks and professional chefs are not trained photographers or graphic designers.

And, most of the time, our choices are limited by the ingredients. How can we spice up the palettes without distorting the original concept of the recipes?

There is no randomness. It needs careful crafting. Yet, you can easily elevate your dish with just a few sleight of hand tricks:

food styling, photography, entree, saladTip 1: Rule of Three

Similar to “Rule of Thirds” in photography, “Rule of Three” is a guiding principle in creating a colour scheme, particularly in interior design. This principle also works well in food photography and culinary plating as THREE is the smallest number to create a pattern and make an impression to human minds.

As you are visualizing your plate, paint your dish with THREE types of colours: dominant, natural (like white or black) and accent.

Sticking to only three colours is easier said than done as most recipes have multiple ingredients. Just remember: less is more. Try your best to keep it simple and as close as possible to three.

Tip 2: How to pick the DOMINANT colour

What is a dominant colour? It could be a very technical concept if you are a colour theorist. Yet, the simplest understanding is: it is THE ONE COLOUR that stands out in the presence of others.

food styling, photography, chicken, cucumberThe next question is: should the dominant colour come from the hero of the dish or should it be in the background? The answer is: it depends.

If your recipe comprises of ingredients with strong, warm and bright colours like crispy duck skin and juicy mandarin slices, the pick is easy. ORANGE seems to be the obvious winner.

But, if the ingredients are composed of light GREEN or plain WHITE, it becomes a bigger challenge. One solution is: use kitchenware or background to match ONE of the ingredients and make that the dominant colour.

Tip 3: Get the best out of your ACCENT colour

Simply adding a splash of an accent colour will enhance the appeal of your dish. Never overdo it though. Ideally, keep the accent colour to less than 10%. And, it is usually a bright and vibrant colour.

The accent colour can come from your sides or you can use garnish like red chilli or green onion to engage your guests.

food styling, photography, chicken, cucumberTip 4: Create a contrast

Have you noticed most books are printed with black text on white background? It is because dark colours create a difference with bright colours. For example: DARK GREY vs ORANGE. Alternatively, you can arrange ingredients of contrasting colours in alternate layers to create that same effect.

My last word: Only YOU know what is best for your own work. So, never set any limits or boundaries for your creativity. Break all the rules if you want. Happy colouring!

DISCLAIMER: I am just sharing my hands-on experience as an amateur/hobbyist. I am NOT a trained designer. If you are interested in colour theories, you should dig deeper into the web or pick up a book on this particular topic.

Related Link:
A Food Artist’s Dream