painting color schemes

i use for my paintings

  • Here are some of my personal painting color schemes.
  • I love color. That is one of the big reasons I am an artist.
  • I had to come up with a plan to control my painting colors.

how i choose painting colors

  • I put each template over my color wheel until I find a template that suits the individual painting.
  • Then I clip the template to my color wheel and I refer to it when I lay out my colors and do the painting.

The color schemes keep me on track and give me beautiful paintings.

I have been using these color schemes for over twenty years, so I wanted to share them with you.

Tutorial on how I choose painting color schemes, Giraffe animal painting by artist Carol May

How I use the color schemes

first - choose the color of the main subject

Complimentary plus a half right is one of my favorits painting color schemes by artist Carol MayCompliment + One Half Left

If I was painting an orange, my main color would be orange.

Here my main subject was the turtle. I chose red-orange, burnt sienna for his flippers.

second - choose a complimentary color

We need complimentary colors to mix the dark colors.

The compliment of burnt sienna is the blue-green.

I needed a lighter color for the sunlight sides of the turtle.

I moved half way left on the color wheel for new gamboge, the yellow I used.

my painting color schemes

compliment + one half right

Compliment plus a half left and compliment plus a right half are the color schemes I most often use.

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

The addition of a complimentary cool color always adds zing to the painting.

It gives me dark colors for value contrast.

complimentary colors

Place your color scheme template on the color wheel and see all the beautiful color combinations that are possible.

Complimentary colors can be used for high contrast paintings.

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

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

I softened colors with white and got myself a lovely rose painting.

double compliment

Here I use the same two compliments as in 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 lemon yellow.

Adding dioxazine purple gave more depth to the darks.

split compliment

This is an example of another complimentary color scheme.

I chose orange with new gamboge and ultramarine blue as the complement.

The paint colors I use on my palette.

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


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

A triad color scheme gives a balanced painting.

Turn the color scheme template and select any three equally spaced colors that suit your subject.

In this painting I used the primary colors, red, blue and yellow.

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

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


The semi-triad painting color scheme uses two primary colors with a secondary.

The primary colors are always ideal for mixing other colors.

If you use single pigment colors, the secondary colors are good for mixing, also.

Here I used blue, violet red and yellow green.

analogous colors

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 adjoining colors.

I did this sea shell painting from actual shells that I set up. Their natural colors were in perfect harmony.

Sea Shells painted with analogous colors by artist Carol MaySea Shells

now it is your turn -

Visit the other color pages. Make your own color wheel and color scheme templates.

May you have many beautiful, successful paintings!

visit more color pages

The Color Wheel is the foundation of understanding color.

The Colors I Use On My Palette

How To Choose Your Painting Colors

How To Mix Your Paint Colors

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