painting color schemes create cohesion and harmony in our paintings

  • Choose painting color schemes for your artwork.

Artist love color, but there is such a bewildering array of colors! How do we select the colors for our paintings?

what's the answer?

  • Limit the number of colors in each painting. A good painting color scheme will use only three or four colors in each painting.

The viewers will enjoy viewing our harmonious paintings.

Any additional colors are then mixed from the selected three or four colors. Our paintings will exhibit color harmony because all additional colors are mixed from the original color scheme.

Selecting a color scheme greatly simplifies things. We only have to put a few colors out on our palette. Plus, we know the colors will look good together.

Painting-Color-SchemesColor schemes create harmonious paintings.

what are the popular painting color schemes?

These schemes are often used in modern paintings. I always use these eight art painting schemes, directly below.

Painting examples of the 8 color schemes

How do we choose a color scheme?

monochromatic

Color-scheme-monochromatic

The simplest color scheme is the monochromatic scheme.

The name is self-explanatory. It is made up of only one color. It could be any color from around the color wheel.

The chosen color may be modified by adding a neutral dark to create different shades of the original color.

We may also add white to create various tints.

complimentary

Color-scheme-compliment

A complimentary color scheme is probably the most used.

It could be any pair of colors directly across the color wheel from each other.

Pairs of compliments provide a bold contrast of color and values. They make our paintings stand out.

Besides that they work wonderfully for mixing more colors.

double compliment

Color-scheme-double-compliment

A double compliment color scheme adds more variety to the painting.

Compare this scheme to the compliment scheme above with yellow and violet.

The yellow and violet make a bold statement.

The additions of yellow-green and red-violet add some lovely nuances to the painting.

split compliment

Color-scheme-split-compliment

The split compliment scheme uses the colors on each side of the direct complimentary color.

These explanations almost always include yellow. This is just to make the examples more consistent.

Any of these color schemes may be turned around the color wheel to include different combinations from the twelve colors on the wheel.

Analogous

Color-scheme-analogous

Analogous colors are several colors beside each other on the color wheel.

The set of colors may be warm or cool.

With a lighter set of colors like the ones pictured here, it can be harder to mix dark colors. But sometimes we don't need or want dark colors in the painting.

If the set of analogous colors are dark, they can be lightened with white.

Triad

Color-scheme-triad

Triad colors, a triadic scheme is any three colors set equidistantly around the color wheel.

A triad painting color scheme produces a balanced painting.

The most common set of triads are the primary colors; yellow, red and blue.

We can of course turn the color scheme around to include any other three colors.

semi-triad

Color-scheme-semi-triad

A semi-triad scheme includes three colors on half of the color wheel.

Whichever way we turn the color scheme, it will always include a primary color.

The two colors directly across from each other are always compliments.

They make an excellent pair for mixing the dark and neutral colors of the painting.

compliment + 1/2 right

Color-scheme-compliment-half-right

A couple of complimentary colors are the best set of colors for value contrast and mixing.

To get a compliment + one half right color scheme, we move two spaces to the right of either complimentary color.

The third color will add more interest to the painting. And it provides more variation in the mixed colors.

compliment + 1/2 left

Color-scheme-compliment-half-left

The compliment + one half left color scheme is the same as the above, only we move to the left from either compliment.

My favorite painting color schemes are the Compliment + 1/2 left and the Compliment + 1/2 right used in the Wren painting below.

The other scheme I use the most is the Split Compliment color scheme.


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examples of artist's painting color schemes

These have been my go-to color schemes for about thirty years and I am happy to share.

  • Let your artistic license run wild.
  • Painting is fun!

monochromatic

Color-Schemes-1Baby Orangutan

Monochromatic paintings are done with only one color.

White will give us various tints of the color.

Adding black will create shades of the color.

This orangutan is basically orange, so it is the closest monochromatic painting from my current work.

It was painted with Quinacridone Sienna. The addition of its compliment, (Ultramarine Blue) made the black and neutral shades.

One of my earliest painting lessons was to do a painting with only one color.

Monochromatic paintings teach us to see and use values in our paintings.


complimentary colors

Using Complimentary Colors for a flower painting of white roses by artist Carol MayPeace

Compliments are any two colors directly across the color wheel from each other.

Complimentary colors can be used for high contrast paintings.

Compliments are also used for mixing darks and other neutral colors.

In this painting I used the color yellow-green with its compliment red-violet.

The red-violet mixed with the yellow-green gave the darker leaves. The mixture also gave the neutral colors for the background.

White softened the colors for a lovely rose painting.


double compliment

Here I used the same two compliments as the rose painting.

But to give the painting more variety, I added a color next to each compliment.

This gave me some brighter colors for the highlights by adding yellow.

The addition of purple gave more depth to the darks.

Some artists call this a rectangular color scheme.


split compliment

Split Complimentary painting colors, painting by artist Carol MayCritter Paintings

A split compliment color scheme uses the colors on each side of the direct compliment.

Here I chose Burnt Sienna and New Gamboge, a warm yellow with Ultramarine blue.

Blue and orange are compliments for making the darks to darken the feathers, his dark beak and eye.

Yellow was used for the highlights on his chest.


analogous colors

Sea Shells painted with analogous colors by artist Carol MaySea Shells

An analogous color scheme is made of three or more adjoining colors anywhere on the color wheel.

They may be either warm or cool colors or a combination.

Analogous colors have automatic color harmony because they are joined together on the color wheel.

This sea shell painting was done from actual shells. Their natural colors were in perfect harmony.


triad

Using a triad of primary colors - art by Carol MayCardinal 'n' Dogwood

The triad painting color scheme uses three colors spaced equally around the color wheel.

A triad scheme always makes a balanced painting.

Turn the color scheme template around and look at the different colors. Select any three colors that suit your subject.

This painting used the primary colors red, blue and yellow.

The greens and dark colors were easily mixed from the primaries.


semi-triad

The semi-triad painting scheme uses a primary color with the addition of a secondary color.

Color-Schemes-6Azalea Flowers

Primaries are always ideal for mixing other colors.

If we use single pigment colors, our mixed colors will be good for mixing more clean colors.

How to select the best colors for your paint palette.


compliment + 1/2 right

Color-Schemes-9Wren with Morning Glories

Complimentary colors are any two colors directly across from each other on the color wheel.

Move two spaces left or right for the third color.

Any additional colors in the painting are then mixed.

Orange and blue were mixed to create the browns in the wren.

The green leaves are mixed from the warm yellow and blue.

Compliment plus 1/2 right and the compliment plus 1/2 left (next) are my favorite painting color schemes.


compliment + 1/2 left

Color-Schemes-7Bold Freedom

This color scheme is very similar to the one above in the wren painting.

The difference is we moved from Ultramarine to blue-green, Peacock Blue.

The compliment is orange, I used Burnt Sienna.

Then, moving left one half brought us to the highlight color, a warm yellow.


how do we choose a color scheme?

  • That's what I used to wonder.
  • Nowadays it's easy to pick a color scheme.

first - we need a color wheel

The best option is to paint a color wheel from our paint palette.

We may purchase a color wheel, but we are already familiar with the colors we use most often.

When we choose colors from our homemade color wheel, we have a good idea what they will look like in our selected painting scheme.

second - make some color templates

Make templates of the eight painting color schemes.

I made some color scheme templates from newsprint about thirty years ago. Today, I still use them to select the colors for my paintings.

third - choose a color scheme

  • Try each template over the color wheel to find one that suits our individual painting.
Choose the paint color scheme.Try different schemes over our color wheel.

We usually have an idea of the general colors and mood of our intended painting.

Look for what will be the dominate color in the focal area.

Almost, always we need a complimentary color for mixing the darks in the painting.

An additional color is usually the one used for highlights or mixing more colors.

Get more details on choosing colors for a painting.

now it is your turn -

  • Make your own color wheel and painting color scheme templates.
  • Select your color schemes.
  • Then enjoy painting beautiful, harmonious paintings!


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