Thursday, February 28, 2008

Complementary Colors

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, fifth edition, a complementary color is “a color that combined with a given color makes white or black.” This is something you can test on your own. Use yellow, red, blue, green, orange, and purple. Mix two colors at a time in as many combinations as you can think of. What are your results?

To make the idea of complementary colors easier to understand, I am linking to a color wheel. Go look at it before you continue reading.

Complementary colors lay exactly opposite each other on the color wheel. In the simple color wheel you just look at, yellow is complementary to purple, red is complementary to green, and blue is complementary to orange.
When complementary colors are place next to each other, both look bright. This has been used to great effect in many paintings. Below, look at van Gogh’s use of red and green in Night Café (above).
Renoir’s use of blue and orange in Boating on the Seine.
Yellow and purple in Degas’ Woman Drying Her Hair. (This was painting at the end of Degas’ life when his eyesight had begun to fail.) Look how much more intense the yellow in the wall is than the red when placed against the purple of the woman’s body.

Try placing complementary colors side by side in your own painting and notice how bright the colors look.

Return to main page.

No comments: