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 my painting's colors

I painted myself a color wheel from the paints I use on my palette. Then I cut some color scheme templates out of paper.  How to Choose Painting Colors.

I put each template over my color wheel until I find a template that suits the individual painting. I paper clip the template to the color wheel.

I refer to it as I lay out my colors and do my painting. It keeps me on track and gives me beautiful paintings.

I have been using these color schemes for about twenty years. I want to share them with you.

what i look for in a template

Complimentary plus a half right - painting color schemesCompliment + One Half Left

What do I look for when I am choosing my painting color schemes?

first - choose the color of the main subject.

As an easy example, if I was painting an orange, orange would obviously be one of my main colors.

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

second - i choose a complimentary color.

I need complimentary colors to mix the darks of the painting.

The compliment of burnt sienna is blue-green. So I chose my favorite turquoise watercolor, peacock blue.

I needed a lighter color for the sunlight sides of the turtle, so i moved half way left on the color wheel for yellow-orange, new gamboge.

examples of my painting color schemes

Giraffe painting by artist Carol MaySpots

compliment + one half right

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

If I don't use compliment colors plus a half left, I often use compliments plus a half right.

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 also gives me the opportunity to mix dark colors for value contrast.

complimentary colors

Place your color scheme template on the color wheel.

As you turn the template 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.

Blue and orange are compliments for making darks.

I mix the darks while I am painting.

They darkened the blue feathers and made his dark beak and eye.

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 color scheme gives a balanced painting.

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

The primary colors are the basic colors that all other colors come from.

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


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.

Sea Shells painted with analogous colors by artist Carol MaySea Shells

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 of warm and cool.

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.

now it is your turn -

Visit the other color pages.

Make your own color wheel and color scheme templates. Use them and you will always have beautiful, harmonious paintings.

May you have many successful, beautiful paintings. Happy painting!

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