Have you always wondered what the use of a color wheel is? When I was younger I always thought the color wheel was just a quick way to see which colors were complimentary. I also knew that the colors between the primary colors (blue, red and yellow) are the colors you will get when mixing them. Well, now that I'm more experienced, I know there is much more to it! If you didn't already know how to use the color wheel, then I would love to explain it to you, 'cause understanding the color wheel and using these theories in your art can really give your artwork an upgrade!
I will begin with the easiest one: the monochromatic. This is when you only use one color, but you can use saturation to create different shades of the color. This technique is best for single subjects, because it forces you to focus on the details. It gives atmosphere. It is also used a lot in landscapes.
Adjacent colors, so colors adjacent on the wheel. This is very peaceful and especially very easy and comfortable on the eyes. It is seen a lot in nature. Mark Rothko is an artist who usually works with three colors that are next to each other on the wheel.
This is when you use equally distant colors. This is very hard to pull off and best for cartoons or surreal scenes. It is very playful and has a bit of a childish effect.
When you use complimentary colors, you use colors that are making each other appear more beautiful and brighter. These are the colors opposite on the color wheel, like red and green, purple and pink, orange and blue, etc.
This is a very popular technique used by many great artists like Vincent van Gogh. Using complimentary colors is naturally pleasing to the eye, especially when you use one color predominantly. For example: don't use 50 procent red and 50 procent green. Use the weaker color the most, like 70 procent green and 30 procent red.
When you want to use the split-complimentary technique, you pick a color, like green, and instead of using the complimentary color red, you use the colors on each side of this color, so pink and orange. Or red, lighter green and blue. It gives you more creative freedom then what you would have when using only two complimentary colors. It also gives the painting a very lively and joyous feeling. A famous painting made with split-complimentary colors is 'The Scream' by Edvard Munch. He used blue, darker orange and yellow.
When using the douple complimentary technique, you use two pairs of opposing colors, best used for foreground/background. Try not to use each color equally. Using double complimentary is very hard to pull off but can give very pleasing results. For example: use red and green in the foreground and violet and yellow in the background. In the painting below you see how Vincent van Gogh used blue and orange (allthough it looks more like yellow, but okay) the most and a little bit of green and red.
Which technique do you prefer to use or to see in a painting? Let me know in the comments below!
I am a photographer, visual artist, (screen)writer and filmmaker. On my blog I write about the process of improving my skills, about grabbing every chance I get to become more experienced and about learning from ups and downs. Besides that, I write about everything that inspires me, like film, photography, paintings and psychology.
P.S. I am not a native English speaker, so my English is far from excellent. Sorry for that.