The juxtaposition of complementary colours (i.e. putting these colours side-by-side), produces a strong contrast between one complementary and another. This produces a maximum contrast that can be very unpleasant to the eye because colours are an optical reaction to particular rays of light reflected back from the object. In the picture below, you can see how certain colours put together results in an inharmonious effect. 

Now try this experiment to see the effects and strange reactions of colour. Stare at the red shape (shown below) for a few seconds and then close your eyes and look over to the blank space beside it, you will see a green shape the complementary of red. This experiment can be repeated with the blue circle and the violet heart in these instances blue will produce an orange circle and violet will produce a yellow heart.


 Colour Harmony     

 Using colours to produce harmony in your painting is best achieved by using complementary colours that are near each other in the colour spectrum. It is said that this rule adds a 'melodic scale' (to use a musical analogy) when colours of one tone are obtained, and this is what nature does intuitively. Try this experiment using three simple paintings. Choose a different base colour for three identical sketches (i.e. red, blue and yellow.)  In the first painting use red. Mix all the other colours used in that painting with the red. Then, do the same with yellow and the blue. You should begin to see a harmony develop in each painting that produces an overall tonality, as shown here:






This page was last updated on 09/17/02.