painting color schemes create cohesion and harmony in our paintings

Artist love color, but how do we choose a painting color scheme for our artwork?

What's the answer?

Limit the number of colors in each painting to only 2-5 colors. Then, we only have to put a few colors out on our palette.

We know the colors will look good together and the viewers will enjoy our harmonious paintings.

Popular artist painting color schemesColor schemes create harmonious paintings.

what are the popular painting color schemes?

These schemes are often used in modern paintings.

More colors can be mixed from the selected two to five colors. The artwork remain harmonious because the additional colors are mixed from the original selection.

My paintings show how I use the color schemes.

Monochromatic color

Baby animals are God's gifts.Baby Orangutan

Monochromatic is the simplest color scheme. The name is self-explanatory. It is only one color from anywhere on 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.

I don't really paint monochromatic. 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 monochromatic painting with only one color and white.

It's a good way to learn how to use values in our paintings.

complimentary colors

The complimentary color scheme is probably the most commonly used color scheme.

The complimentary color scheme is often used by artists.

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

Complimentary colors can be used for high contrast paintings.

They are also good for mixing darks and other neutral colors.

White softens them for pleasing tints.

A Complimentary Color Scheme used for a flower painting of white roses by artist Carol May

This painting used yellow-green with its compliment red-violet.

They mixed to create the darker green leaves and the neutral colors for the background.

White softened the colors for a lovely rose painting.

double compliment color scheme

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

Some artists call this a rectangular color scheme.

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 and add some lovely nuances to the painting.

Using Double Complimentary Colors for a hummingbird painting by Carol May

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

But for 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.

split compliment color scheme

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

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

These examples usually 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.

Split Complimentary color scheme, bluebird painting by artist Carol May

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 with a little in the water.

Analogous colors

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

Analogous colors are several adjoining colors on the color wheel.

The set of colors may be warm or cool or a combination.

With a lighter set of colors like the ones pictured here, it can be harder to mix dark colors.

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

Sea Shells painted with an analogous color scheme by Carol May

Analogous colors are automatically harmonious 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.

a Triad of colors

A common set of triad colors are the primary colors.

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

A triad scheme always creates a balanced painting.

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

Using a triad scheme of primary colors - art by Carol May

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

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

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

semi-triad color scheme

A semi-triad color scheme is 3 colors on one side of the color wheel.

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

Whichever way we turn a semi-triad color scheme, it always includes a primary color.

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

Complimentary colors are excellent for mixing the dark and neutral colors.

Color-Schemes-6Azalea Flowers

Permanent Rose and violet were excellent colors for painting the azaleas.

Primary colors are always ideal for mixing other colors.

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

How to select the best colors for your paint palette.

compliment + 1/2 right

Move two spaces to the right of either complimentary color.

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

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

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

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

Compliment + 1/2 right color scheme was used in a painting of a brown wren.

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.

It's easy to mix paint colors.

compliment + 1/2 left

Start with a set of compliments and move two space to the left of either complimentary color.

The compliment + one half left color scheme is the same as the above, except 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 above.

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


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

The difference is we moved from Ultramarine to the blue-green, Peacock Blue. It's my favorite watercolor blue-green.

The orange compliment is Burnt Sienna.

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

artist's painting color schemes

Painting is fun!

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

Let your artist's heart run wild.

use a color scheme for perfect color harmony

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