Colour Theory – Complementary colours



Last week we looked at the Colour Wheel which is the foundation of the colour theory. The complementary colours were mentioned in that article, however we didn’t look at those in detail.

20180523_195621When mixing primary colours (red, yellow and blue), the secondary colours occur (orange, green and purple). An easy way to remember which the complementary colours are, is to visualise the colour wheel. Those sitting opposite are called Complementary colours. See below; green is red’s complementary colour, purple is yellow’s and orange is blue’s.

Another easy way to memorise this is that its primary colour’s complementary is the one created by the other two primary colours. ie. red’s complementary is green (blue + yellow). Anyway, lets not make it to complicated. With practice you will be able to remember instantly, until then just open the Colour Wheel and have a look.

The amazing thing with complementary colours is they have the ability to “mute” the primary colours with which they are mixed. This allows you to easily add shadows to your paintings. It is very very useful when you are working with limited palette of colours (ie. red, yellow, blue).

…complementary colours…have the ability to “mute” the primary colours…

Try mixing red with some green. You will instantly notice that the red becomes darker, almost dirty, which gives the impression of shadow. You might want to experiment with the different combinations. I did my exercise recently; see the results below. Later this week we will look at a more comprehensive exercise.


Again just try to keep it simple.This is not an attempt to create a beautiful painting; we are just trying to explore how complementary colours work.  Allow for 1.0 hour.

  • A small brush (any type will do),
  • Yellow Acrylic Paint
  • Blue Acrylic Paint
  • Red Acrylic Paint
  • Canvas (canvas pad – easier and cheaper for this exercise)
  • A pencil and a rubber


A quick summary of the above is here:

  • See the primary and secondary colours on the Colour Wheel.
  • Those sitting opposite on the colour wheel are called complementary colours.
  • Mix complementary colours to create muted colours which can be used as shadows.

The Artist says:

28407451_1162363890564038_455176961_o“I have been passionate about painting since I remember myself. I started by just eexperimenting with colours, colour mixing and colour application. However , it’s not always easy to achieve what you want unless you know exactly what you are doing. Techniques are different for different media; colour theory though is the basis of painting and is the same for everything! I decided to teach myself the basics; and here I am sharing that with you!


Art is more fun when you meet the artists themselves! Visit THE ARTIST…


Love Sketching & Painting