04. Complementary Color Harmony


Thank you all for completing the analogous color harmony assignment. Now that you have a sense of how colors with shared qualities interact with each other we will explore complementary color harmony properties.

Through this assignment you’ll learn:

  1. What the term “complementary” means in the color and design/art world context.
  2. How to execute a complementary color harmony.


Complementary colors are colors that are opposite each other and do not have an inherent familial relationship. What that means since they are directly opposite each other on the color wheel they do not have a built in relationship. Some examples of complementary color pairings are red and green, blue and orange, and yellow and violet. Below are graphic examples of complementary sections of the color wheel:

Why might we want to employ complementary colors in our work? Knowing which colors are complementary to one another can help you make good color decisions that can help you direct the viewers eye around your piece in the manner you intend. For instance, complementaries can make each other appear brighter, they can be mixed together to create effective neutral hues (often ruddy browns or greys), or they can be blended together for shadows.

  1. On your 18″ x 24″ paper, please create a painting of a predominantly complementary color harmony. By predominantly, I mean that the painting can include other colors, but the overall color impression of the piece should be that of complementary color pairs. The edges of your paper, as with all of our exercises, should be taped off and have clean 1″ borders. Your artwork should take up as much of the picture plan as possible. Here are some student examples for inspiration:

    And here are a two famous art historical examples of complementary color harmony in action:
    “Untitled” by Keith Haring

    “San Giorgio Maggiore by Twilight” by Claude Monet
  2. As usual, please post a photo your results in the comments section of the corresponding post, along with your thoughts on how the exercise went. (What went well? What did you struggle with? If you couldn’t mix a color and had to use one straight out of the tube, why do you think that was? Etc.) The post can be found directly on our homepage and a direct link to it is https://coloranddesign.community.uaf.edu/2020/02/03/04-complementary-color-harmony/ ‘Ž.
Print Friendly, PDF & Email