What complementary colours can do for you!

  1. Look at the inner wheel – the complementaries are opposite each other:

Primary yellow is opposite its complement, purple;

Primary red is opposite its complement,  green;

Primary blue is opposite its complement,  orange.

(Because each complement is made from the remaining two primaries.) Think about this!

The outer wheel shows a warm and a cool variant of each colour.

2) So how can a knowledge of complementaries help your painting process?

  • Use a dot of complementary colour to tone down or “grey”a garish colour:

if your green is too garish add a pinpoint of red or burnt sienna,

 if your purple is too garish add a pinpoint of yellow (or terracotta)

 if your orange is too bright add a pinpoint of blue.

 When you paint a green tree add a little red to the shadow area ( which should be a darker blue-green already).

  • Use a complementary to make a colour sing out: a coral pink dress against a green field, ( with a coral pink toned ground peeping out all over the painting to create colour harmony and a glow)
Summer’s Afternoon

Use a yellow against its complementary purple:

Sunflowers and lavender in a blue basket.
Colours of summer.

Use an orange or orange-red contrasted with its complement blue:

Dandelion Clocks
  • Use a colour and its complementary to make a dramatic / effective / harmonious colour scheme, e.g. buildings in a soft warm yellow sunshine with a soft purple in the shadows.. terracotta coloured buildings with blue in the shadows..
Moroccan archway, palette knife and oils
Into the Medina
  • If you mix TWO COMPLEMENTARY COLOURS together you will get a neutral: brown or other neutral colour like grey. Red and green make brown or grey, yellow and purple make brown or grey, blue and orange make brown or grey.
Horse, horses, Camargue, France, equine
A Moment
  • Flesh colours are in fact a mixture of all three primaries – people are basically orange ( lighter or darker) in colour, toned down by a touch of blue. More about flesh colours in a later blog.

So enjoy those gorgeous colours and Keep Painting!

Published by jancalderwood

I am an artist and art teacher working in beautiful North Northumberland. See the Meet the Artist page on this website

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