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Complementary colors: How to Understand color harmony

This Is A Key Knowledge To Transform The Quality Of Your Artworks.

Complementary colors - Artguilds
Complementary colors: If knowledge of painting tools is fundamental to achieve a result that meets our expectations, the same goes for colors. In this article, we will talk about color theory and harmony between colors. You probably already know what primary colors are, and you may also have discovered how to obtain secondary colors, but learning how to use them in conjunction is a different matter. What are the complementary colors, and how can you recognize them?
Complementary colors_Artguilds
Chromatic studies by Goethe

Complementary Colors: What are we talking about?

“Complementary colors are pairs of colors on the opposite side of the color circle.”
By using them close to each other, you can achieve the strongest possible contrast between two colors (chroma contrast). For this reason, they are often used in product design, graphics, and marketing campaigns, to make the message or product pop out with this contrast. The color circle also called the color wheel is a tool used to highlight the relationship between primary, secondary, tertiary colors, and so on. Consequently, you can use it to quickly find the reciprocal of each color: in fact, the complementary colors are located at opposite ends of the wheel. There are various types of wheels, these are two examples:
Complementary colors_Artguilds
Another key feature to keep in mind with these opposite colors is that when mixed they lose their hue and tend to create an intermediate greyscale color (because they tend to come close together on the color wheel, and the middle distance between the two is a perfect gray). For this reason, you have to be very careful to mix them!

Which Are The Complementary Colors?

Now that you have understood what complementary colors are and what the chromatic circle is, let’s try to understand how they relates each other. From now on, our guide will be the color wheel. I can start by showing you three main and simple rules: The complementary of a primary color is a secondary color. The complementary of a secondary color is a primary color. The complementary of a tertiary color is another tertiary color. Look at the following color wheel to check the three rules I have just written. Complementary colors_Artguilds

 The chromatic circle

As you can see we can immediately make examples and understand who is the complementary of whom: The complementary of a primary yellow is the (secondaryviolet obtained with magenta and blue. The complementary of the secondary green is (primaryred. The complementary of a tertiary blue-violet is a (tertiary) yellow-orange.

Complementary colors: Why Are they So Important?

A pair of complementary colors will always include a warm and cold color, let’s think for example of the magenta-green pair. By placing these colors side by side we will obtain the highest possible level of contrast. Many artists use this method to make the colors brighter, simply by painting their complementary side by side. Or, in the case of a sunset, using colors ranging from blue to orange will give a much more engaging and impressive result. Another really interesting possibility is to be able to control the level of saturation of the colors. By mixing two colors in equal parts (50%/50%) you tend to get to an intermediate shade, usually less vibrant and closer to the grayscale. The colors can be “controlled” and mixed in equal parts. Assuming we have an A color and its complementary B, we can try to put 10% of A and 90% of B, or 25% of A and 75% of B, or do the opposite and put 75% of A and 25% of B. In this way, we can see and evaluate how the mixing result changes by acting on the saturation level.


Now that you know how complementary colors works, you may also be intrigued by applying it in your next artwork. If you want to start off on the right foot you can read this artiche too: “Oil Painting For Beginners: 11 Paralyzing Mistakes You Can Easily Dodge If You Read This Guide” Enjoy strongest artworks 😀 !


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