Contrast is the opposite of harmony. To produce the maximum contrast you must juxtapose (put side by side) the complementary colours. This means using blue with orange, yellow with violet, and red with green. These colour combinations are useful when you want to add luminosity and liveliness to a unified tonality. When used without discretion this can produce harsh results, but used sensibly, they will add richness, light and vitality to objects. Examples of the colours used to enrich a painting are illustrated below. Notice how the use of complementary colours beside each other heightens lighting aspects.


Notice the warm toned window frame against a blue sky and the violet tablecloth with yellow plates.

Neutral Colours

Browns, blacks, greys and whites (along with other mixed colours), also play an important part in painting. Such 'neutrals' are used to lighten or darken pure colours. An example of this technique is as follows:

1.) Have a violet foreground with a yellow background; 2.) Add to this a dark figure between, serving to tone down the opposites of the two colours. This leads to what is considered to be a very effective rule to painting: putting light and dark colours beside each other injects a wonderful intensity to your picture.


Harmony through chiaroscuro (i.e. the treatment of light and shade in painting)

For our purposes, light is equivalent to saying 'white', and 'shadow' is the equivalent of black. Our perception of colours change according to the amount of light a given object absorbs or reflects. Bright blinding light tends to make colour look pale. Deep shadows tend to make it difficult to distinguish one colour from another. This means that you can actually 'modify' colours by adding varying degrees of white or black. For example, in the case of black, mix dark colours to produce less muddy shadows.

If you were to squeeze some colour from a tube and divide it into two parts-- adding white to one part and black to the other, it would create the illusion of light and shadow of a colour. This is the essence of colour perception.                    


Until next time...have fun creating works of art.




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