Monday, April 27, 2009



One very simple way to make your watercolors much more exciting and vibrant is to use the color wheel to your advantage!

This is a color wheel that I created a number of years ago. It shows the primary colors, secondary colors, tertiary colors, which side of the wheel is warm or cool, and what approximate value each color has. 

Colors which are opposite from one another on the color wheel are known as "complementary colors" (not complimentary colors as I see so many artists spell it!) By placing a color next to its complement, you can make it look brighter and more intense in color. This can make your flowers appear brighter, your darks appear really dark against foliage - and so much more. I find myself drawn to paintings in galleries, and when I try to figure out why that one has pulled me to it, I often find it is the artist's use of complementary colors.

Here you see two squares of Cobalt Blue - exactly the same hue. But when you surround Cobalt Blue with its complementary color on the color wheel, it appears more intense and bright than when it is surrounded by a color close to it on the color wheel.

Here we have Cadmium Red surrounded by a complementary color (green) and a color which is not the complement (violet). The red "pops out" at you when next to its complement.

One artist who uses complementary colors in very subtle but incredibly effective ways is PINO. Pino is an Italian artist who paints mostly portraiture in oils. Check out his website here and see how he adds complementary colors in the most unusual ways and places (check the woman's hair or clothing ).

Try using complements next to one another in your next painting and see if you like the effect this easy technique has on your finished product. Keep it in mind for when you want a color to really pop out and catch the viewer's attention. Complementaries are an easy way to enhance any color you are using in your paintings. 

Check back on Wednesday to see a painting I did with blues/purples and yellow. Using complementary colors makes it quite striking!


Kim said...

I love Pino too!'s like we are related or something. I still want a print of the girl fixing her hair one day.

I would like to be able to paint like that one day, actually.

Anonymous said...

Very cool!