Color Schemes  -  COMPLEMENTARY

Some of the principles of complementary color schemes were already cover in the Color Theory: Conclusion page.  However, more can be said in the context of other color schemes, thus understanding the concept as it relates to others.

The complementary color scheme is made of two colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel.  See Complementary Colors.  To get the most out of this scheme, use a warm color against a cool color, for example, orange against blue-violet. The complementary scheme is by nature high-contrast.

When using the complementary scheme, it is important to choose a dominant color and use its complementary color for accents. In the example of the "Poplars along the River Epte, Autumn" Monet used green as the dominant color and red to accent the composition.  This red is found throughout the painting, but it does not become a dominant color in any place.  By using these principles, you accomplish high contrast, force, vitality and definition.

This is the color scheme that offers the most contrast, and consequently, draws maximum attention.  The drawback is that it is harder to balance than previous schemes, particularly when warm colors of low saturation are used.

To maximize the results with this color scheme:

Claude Monet
Rouen Cathedral, West Façade, Sunlight, 1894
Chester Dale Collection
Copyright ©2003 National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.

Claude Monet
Poplars along the River Epte, Autumn
1891.  Private collection


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