Can someone take a guess at which color relationship is being illustrated here? Complementary colors are easy to remember because they are directly across from each other on the color wheel. Red and green are complements, blue and orange are complements, and violet and yellow are complements. Tertiary colors directly across from each other on the color wheel are also considered complementary pairs.
Complementary colors: red and green What function might these colors serve in the painting?
Here’s another red and green color relationship in a very different style. Do you think the colors serve the same function here?
This is a landscape painting by Georgia O’Keeffe that employs a blue/orange complementary color scheme. The large swath of orange in the foreground frames the blue background and helps emphasize the shape of the rock as well as the mesa in the distance.
Analogous colors are colors that are next to each other on the color wheel. They often share a base color, like yellow or red. Analogous colors look good next to each other because they share similarities in appearance. Artists often use analogous color combinations to create works that are gentle and pleasing to the eye.
Shiele used a combination of rusty, warm oranges and yellows but the way he applied the paint leaves the viewer feeling unsettled.
Gaugin showed his love of the Tahitian Landscape and its people using warm, vibrant analogous colors.
This color combination used by van Gogh is also calming and pleasing to the eye.
Another color relationship is called the split triad. Starting with one of the six base colors or tertiary colors, draw a line across the color wheel to that colors’ complement. Now, look to either side of that color. The two tertiary colors that lie on either side of the colors’ complement are part of that colors’ split triad. You can see where split triad gets its name, because the colors create a triangular pattern and split in the middle.
Gerome used rusty red, blue, and green to bring attention to figures in the foreground.
Hot pinks, yellows, and greens seem to vibrate against each other and some of the cooler, muted blues.
Miro creates a sense of frenzy using reds, blues, and greens with flashes of yellow.
Moore, a member of the Pre-Raphaelite movement, used calming blue-greens to create this portrait of a badminton player.
Muted greens and browns were applied using smooth and textured strokes to recreate a dense forest.
Genki used black, brown, and creamy tones to give the viewer a sense of peace and calm.
Color Scheme Examples
Artist: Henri MatisseDate: 1907Boy with Butterfly Net
Artist: Gwendolyn KnightDate: 1991Pleas and Thank Yous:100 True Stories
Artist: Georgia OKeeffeDate: 1956Pedernal – From the Ranch #1
Artist: Egon SchieleDate: 1918Portrait of Paris vonGütersloh
Artist: Paul GauguinDate: 1891Tahitian Landscape