pixel gif watercolorists of whatcom  
pixel gif
Make your mark. Sign it. Share it.

Decisions

 Supplies
Subject
Composition
Drawing
Transfer Drawing
Prepare Surface
Preserve White
Apply Paint
Manipulate Paint
Recover White
Quit
Critique
Sign
Name
Digital Copy
Mat and Frame
Share
Artist's Statement
Inventory
Price

Artists

 Carolyn Avera
Scott Brown
Janet Clay
Jean Christensen
Barbee Folenius
Julie Olsen

Resources

 Glossary
Tutorials
Suppliers
Quotes
Projector Tips
Copy Machine Tips
Photoshop Elements
Art Organizations
 
Contact Us

Composition: Color Schemes

Introduction

Color schemes are sets of compatible colors based on the color wheel. For an example of a color wheel, click here.

Some effective color schemes include monochromatic, complementary, double complementary, analogous, and analogous complementary. Several triadic schemes are also common. The triangle connecting three colors does not have to be equilateral, but two of the sides must be the same length. On a twelve-hued color wheel, there are twelve versions of each color scheme. The three color families of yellow, red and blue can also be used as effective color schemes. Limit your colors to seven hues of each family. For example, if you choose the red family, your color scheme will include blue-violet, violet, red-violet, red, red-orange, orange and yellow-orange. Another variety of color schemes can be created by simply eliminating any four analogous colors on the color wheel and using the remaining eight hues.

Monochromatic

monochromatic diagram

One color that is lightened with water to make a range of tints or darkened with black, sepia or Payne's gray to make a range of shades.


Monochromatic Full Range

monochromatic diagram

One color that is lightened and darkened in value and dulled in intensity by mixing with its complement. Although the complement is used to mix semi-neutral colors, it's hue does not appear in the composition.


Complementary

complementary diagram

Complementary color schemes use hues that are directly opposite each other on the color wheel. Red and green, blue and orange, yellow-green and red-violet are each examples of pairs of complementary colors. Complements enhance each other when adjacent, and they neutralize each other when mixed. These color schemes also use a full range of semi-neutral hues that are created by mixing the complements in various proportions. Both complements appear in the composition, but one should be dominant.


Double Complementary (Tetradic or Rectangular)

double complement diagram

The double complementary scheme is made up of two adjacent colors and the two adjacent colors directly opposite them on the color wheel (Yellow, yellow-green, violet, red-violet. These color schemes also use a full range of semi-neutral hues that are created by mixing the complements in various proportions. This scheme works best if you let one of the four colors be dominant.


Analogous

analogous diagram

Analogous color schemes use any three or four adjacent colors and the light and dark values that are created by adding water or black, sepia, or Payne's gray. Choose one color to dominate and a second to suppport. The third color is used (along with black, white or gray) as an accent. One example would be Orange, red-orange, red, red-violet.


Analogous Full Range

analogous diagram

These color schemes utilize three adjacent colors and light and dark values of each plus semi-neutrals created by mixing each with its complement. Although the complements are used to mix semi-neutral colors, their hues do not appear in the composition.


Analogous Complementary

analogous diagram

The analogous complementary scheme uses four colors: a key color, two colors adjacent to the key color, and the complement of the key color. If red is the key color, the adjacent colors could be red-orange and red-violet. The complement of the red would be green. The key color should be dominant. One of the adjacent colors should be subdominant and the other subordinant. The complement should be used as an accent color.

All three analogous colors are neutralized with the complement of the middle analgous color.


Analogous Complementary 2

analogous diagram

This color scheme differs from the previous Analogous Complementary scheme in that each of the analogous colors are neuralized by their own complements. Although six colors are used for mixing, only four of those colors actually appear in the composition.


Triadic (pure colors, equally spaced)

triadic diagram

Triadic color schemes use any three colors that are equidistant on the color wheel (every fourth color on a 12-hue wheel) and the light and dark values of each. One color should be dominant. Red, Yellow and Blue would be an example.


Triadic (pure colors, unequally spaced)

triadic diagram

Select one color to be your key color. Then skip one color on each side of the key color to locate the next two colors of the triad. If the key color is yellow, skip yellow-green and select green, then skip yellow-orange and select orange. For another variation, skip two colors from the key color. The triad will be yellow, red-orange, and blue-green.


triadic diagram

Finally, skip four colors from the key color to locate the other two colors of the triad. These two colors will be on either side of the key color's complement. For that reason this color scheme is often referred to as a "split complement." If yellow is the key color, the other two colors would be red-violet and blue-violet.


Triadic (pure colors and semi-neutral colors)

triadic diagram

These color schemes are composed of one pure hue and two semi-neutrals. An example is be Ultramaine Blue, Indian Red, and Hooker's Green. Another example is Cerulean Blue, Indian Red, and Yellow Ochre.


Triadic (semi-neutral colors)

triadic diagram

These color schemes are composed of all semi-neutral colors. Here are some examples: raw sienna, indanthrone blue and hooker's green; yellow ochre, burnt sienna, Payne's gray.


Polychromatic

polychromatic diagram

A polychromatic color scheme utilizes six hues spaced equally around the color wheel. Start with a key color, then proceed around the 12-hue color wheel, skipping every other color. This color scheme is sometimes considered a double triad or hexad. An example is Yellow, Orange, Red, Violet, Blue, Green.


Square

square diagram

The square color scheme is similar to the rectangle, but with all four colors spaced evenly around the color wheel. The square color scheme works best if you let one color be dominant. Choose a dominant color, then proceed around the 12-hue color wheel, skipping two colors at a time. An example is Yellow, Red-Orange, Violet, Blue-Green.

Irregular Quadrangle (clockwise)

irregular quadrangle diagram

The irregular quadrangle color scheme uses four colors: a dominant color for the background, its near-complement for the area of interest, and two "spice" colors that dance around the area of interest.

Choose a color from the upper half of the color wheel (yellow-orange, yellow, yellow green, and green). This will be the dominant color. Move clockwise around the color wheel to the third color from the dominant color; this is the first spice color. Proceed clockwise, skipping one color and selecting the next. This is the near-complement of the dominant color. Continue clockwise, again skipping one color and choosing the next. This is the second spice color. For example, if the dominant color is yellow-orange, the third color to the right (clockwise) is green. The near-complement of yellow is blue. The second spice color is violet.


Irregular Quadrangle (counter-clockwise)

irregular quadrangle diagram

The irregular quadrangle color scheme uses four colors: a dominant color for the background, its near-complement for the area of interest, and two "spice" colors that dance around the area of interest.

Choose a color from the lower half of the color wheel (red, red-violet, violet, blue-violet, and blue). This will be the dominant color. Move counter-clockwise around the color wheel to the third color from the dominant color; this is the first spice color. Proceed counter-clockwise, skipping one color and selecting the next. This is the near-complement of the dominant color. Continue counter-clockwise, again skipping one color and choosing the next. This is the second spice color. For example, if the dominant color is red, the third color counter-clockwise is blue-violet. The near-complement of red is blue-green. The second spice color is yellow-green.


Color Families

color family diagram

Unified paintings can be created by using only the colors in a color family. If you choose the red family, you could include the seven hues on the color wheel that contain red: bule-violet, violet, red-violet, red, red-orange, orange, and yellow-orange. The yellow family contains all the colors that have yellow in them; the blue family includes all colors with blue in them. If you use all the colors in a family, plus black to darken and water to lighten, you will have a single dominant hue and a great many variations, because each family contains both warm and cool colors, providing excellent contrasts.

Eliminating any Four Analogous Colors

eliminate analogous diagram

You can create a variety of color schemes by simply eliminating any four analogous colors on the color wheel and using the remaining eight hues.


Analogous Color Wedges

analogous wedge diagram

Any three adjacent colors can be used together for this scheme. In addition to the pure colors on the color wheel, the lighter and darker values of each color and the semi-neutrals of each can be used. Although all the colors in an analogous wedge could be used, usually only a few are selected. One of the pure colors should be selected as the dominant color, one as the subordinate color, and the third to be in between.

For example, the three pure colors could be red-orange, orange, and yellow-orange. The semi-neutral colors within this analogous wedge include yellow ochre, raw sienna, burnt sienna, light red, brown madder alizarin, burnt umber and Vandyke brown.



© 2009 Scott Brown. Website design by Clarion Design.