Complementary Colors: Red & Green

Complementary colors are a fundamental part of color theory that can vastly influence how you use color.

46 min. video

We define what complementary colors are, and how they can be used effectively to create color contrast in color art media.

Explained is the way the complementary colors are laid out in the color wheel, as well as how complementary colors can be implemented into paintings.

 Discussion led by Art Prof Clara Lieu and Teaching Artist Alex Rowe.

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Video Walkthrough

  • Complementary color pairs
  • Complementary colors make each other pop in a composition.
  • Complementary colors are opposites on the color wheel.
  • Grey is in between a complementary color pair.
  • Are the complementary colors in artworks just an accident, or are they deliberate planned with intent?
  • Take the time to notice color in real life, see where you can spot complementary colors every day.
  • Highly technical color theory is not always necessary for the practical application of art.
  • Joseph Albers’ color theory book
  • Explanation of the color wheel, the logic behind the arrangement.
  • Primary colors cannot be mixed.
  • Secondary colors are colors in between the primary colors.
  • Complementary color still life painting exercise
  • Complementary color still life underpainting technique
  • Magenta, cyan, and yellow are sometimes considered the “real” primary colors.
  • Complementary color chart gouache painting exercise.
  • Try using Naples Yellow as a substitute for white, it’s subtle and opaque.
  • Titanium white and other whites can feel cold and sterile at times.
  • Textures in Leo Lionni’s illustrations can be used to mute colors.
  • Complementary colors are layered in Leo Lionni’s illustrations, creating depth and texture.
  • Painting exercise: paint only with yellow, blue, red, and white.
  • A limited color palette really teaches you how to mix and get adventurous.
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Colors mentioned

  • Indian Yellow
  • Cadmium Lemon
  • Cerulean Blue
  • Naples Yellow
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