Exercise: Complementary colours

colour-wheelI am inordinately pleased with my colour wheel and because I made it, I feel I’m much more likely to remember it and refer to it.

It took a while to do but I am reasonably satisfied with the colours. I changed the red primary from brilliant red to Alizarin crimson so that I could get a more violet colour between red and blue rather than brown.

In the centre I repeated the colours and added a little black, giving a slightly darker tone.

I now know how my printer manages to reproduce all the colours with Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black cartridges.

comp-3Consider the twelve colours from Chevreul’s colour circle and lay each colour next to its opposite or complementary colour on a grey ground…

In pairing up these opposite colours from my wheel, I get some fantastically vivid combinations that sing out, as well as some more subtle earthy combinations and even a set of a colours that make me think formal Gentleman’s Club!

comp-2The colours seem to be more intense together than they are on their own. I guess they are somehow sharing qualities and changing each other. This must be Chevreuls colour theory at work.

These colour pairings are equally effective with white mixed in, and continue to make a lot of impact. I think I see a  Matisse-like palette where I have added more white (as in the second row of each pair). More subtle and soft but still powerful, I wouldn’t in any way describe these as pastel colours.

comp-1Note the colours shown in the photos are quite distorted…  even though I photographed them in natural light with a half decent camera. This says a lot about the difference between what the camera sees and the eye perceives. I’ve made notes about the colours used and colours achieved in my sketchbook.


More tertiary colours

Make mixtures of each of the complementary colours. Make a notes of the colours mixed and describe the resulting colour. 

What a wonderful range of tertiary colours. I was glancing out of the window as I did this exercise and could see all the greens and yellows in the barley, wheat and rape fields.







Sketchbook play with leftover paint

What have I learnt from these exercises in colour?

  • I’ve started to gain an understanding of colour theory and how colours side by side have an impact on each other and how complementary colour pairings can create a sense of vibrancy.
  • I’ve learnt how to mix an amazingly wide range of colours from the three primaries plus white. My understaning of colour mixing has been extended conisiderably. When mixing the complementary colours I was sometimes taken by surprise by the outcome, particularly by the lovely tan colours that resulted from mixing purple and yellow.
  • Without realising it I have been painting with a very narrow palette and a world of new adventures in colour has just opened up!

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