Saturday, September 27, 2014

What is the Most Challenging Color Scheme?

'Mystery'                  12x15              pastel            ©Karen Margulis
painting available here $165
 It should be easy.  All you need to do is choose 3 or 4 neighboring colors on the color wheel. This makes up  an Analogous Color Scheme. How hard could it be then to pick the colors and get a good painting?  Not as easy as it looks.   We all have our favorite colors and color schemes (even if we don't know it or label it)   In looking over my work I have discovered that I never use a purely analogous scheme.

Analogous Color Schemes are restful. Since the colors are next door neighbors to one another they are harmonious and pleasing to the eye. This color scheme is often found in nature so it it a perfect color recipe to use for a landscape painting. Paintings using this scheme are serene, peaceful, calm.

But I find a pure analogous color scheme to be a bit too calm and serene.....they can easily become a bit too boring to my liking. When I find myself using analogous colors I tend to incorporate the complement and some discords for some color surprise.  This is known as Analogous-Complementary scheme and it is probably one of my favorites. I love using an the Analogous Color Wheel to help me.

How can we make a pure analogous scheme work ? I challenged myself to give it a try. It was difficult to stick with my chosen scheme of yellow, yellow-green, green and blue-green. I so wanted to take out some red- violet! I exercised restraint and in the end made it work. Here is what I learned:


My chosen colors are yellow, yellow-green, green, and blue-green


  • Choose one of the colors in the scheme to be dominant. I chose Yellow-green. 
  • Choose a second color to be a support color and use it in a smaller amount. I chose Yellow.
  • The third and fourth colors are used in an even smaller amount. These colors are accents. I used blue-green and green in the smallest amounts.
  • Contrast becomes important in an analogous scheme. Make sure the contrast of dark and light is strong enough.

My reference photo

This is the same scene using a Tertiary Triad color scheme
Changing the color scheme can totally change the look and feel of a painting. Have fun with color and take out a color wheel and challenge yourself this weekend! Pick the scheme that you never use and see what happens!

4 comments:

robertsloan2art said...

Thank you for this article! I hardly ever use an analogous color scheme either and for that reason. I've always got a complement somewhere, I like the drama.

What I also love is the full spectrum painting. It can work, I have to do it right but it can work. Some hues are only accents or even only in the underpainting but they are there.

Did you ever look at the world through a prism, see the little spectrum edging on every value contrast? That's always fascinated me and it's something I will paint someday as itself.

Rita Kirkman said...

Great post Karen! Very interesting to see the two different paintings. I'm storing this one away for future reference - might like to steal the idea for one of my own workshops! ;)

Karen said...

Thanks Robert! Interesting about the prism. I will look for they!

Thank's Rita! It is a fun exercise! My classes really enjoyed it!!

robertsloan2art said...

I just ordered a replacement prism - to do the prism painting I need to have it to look at the subject through it. That effect will be tricky with pastels but I think it's possible!

They're not that expensive, I found a nice glass one for about six or seven dollars on Amazon.