__Complementary color scheme


Choosing A Set Of Colors For A Painting

So now we know what happens when we mix paints to make colors for a painting, But  how do we choose the right colors to make a great painting.  well there are tips and techniques that many artists know and these can be easily explained using the color wheel we have just created.

Next you will learn how to choose 2, 3, or 4 main colors which will look great in the same painting. If you didn’t do the color wheel exercise above, now would be a good time to do it as we will be using the color wheel a lot in the next section.

Complementary Color Schemes

Complementary are colors which are opposite each other on a color wheel. Like the red with  green, blue with  orange and yellow with purple. I find knowing this to be the most important trick to find balance for my art work. The complementary color scheme offers stronger contrast than any other color scheme, and draws maximum attention.

The most basic and striking effect is to use complementary colors. 

You can find complementary colors by drawing a line from any color through the center of the wheel to the opposite color. In the example above the line goes from yellow, through the center to purple. The line will always go from a primary to a secondary, or from tertiary to tertiary.

Complimentary colors will always be a primary and a secondary, or two tertiaries.

Opposing colors  are of similar intensity. and intrinsically highest contrast. This scheme is a  warm color against a cool color and is part of what it is so interesting, for example, red versus green. red and green
When using the complementary scheme and you want harmony, it is important to choose a dominant color which covers most of the page, and use its complementary color for accents. (look at the example of the red roses and green leaves to see what I mean). The red is dominant and it only needs a small amount of green.

Using one color for the background and its complementary color to highlight important elements, you will get color dominance combined with sharp color contrast. This works very well when you want something to stand out.

Note in the photograph above that there is a quite a bit of grey newspaper wrapping the flowers. Pure red and green would be overpowering for the eye, so the photographer has added the grey. Not only that, but the news paper has small amounts of red and green and tiny bits of blue which pulls the whole composition together in a harmony that is very pleasing to the eye.

These opposing or complimentary colors create:

  • High contrast
  • High stability
  • Balanced effect
  • Harmony
  • Warm and cool contrast


Vincent van Gogh and Henri Matisse. Look at lines and colors. In the examples : see if you can see more lines and shapes, the photos  are “moving”New so spend some time on it.