Complementary colours are two colours that live on opposite sides of the colour wheel. They can really make each other stand out in a painting and catch the viewer’s eye without them necessarily understanding why.

They’re an easy option to use when first learning about colours or when you’re not sure of what colours to use for your painting.

Also, they look super cool together!

Complementary colours

One thing to keep in mind is that complementary colours cancel out or neutralize each other if you mix their corresponding paints together. So if you have a blue that’s way too blue, adding a touch of orange will drop the chroma/saturation and orange for blue. This works with any complementary colours and it’s absolutely wonderful when you need to make slight adjustments to your colours.

Just remember – if you want those colours of yours to stay super vibrant, don’t mix too much of their opposites in.

The important thing is to make sure you play around with your paints (even before they touch the canvas/paper), so you can actually see and therefore understand how it all works.

Complementary colours

Once you see this stuff in action it’s pretty cool! It’s a wonderful learning experience for your artistic brain and believe me, once this info sinks in it’ll be hard to push it out again – and that’s a really good thing!

Complementary colours

Obviously, more than two colours were used in this painting, but you can see that orange and blue are the clear favourites, while everything else supports them.

There is a whole lot more to colour theory and it can be rather daunting when you first look into it, but just start with complementary colours and go from there – I think it’s the easiest way to start with this crazy subject (at least it was for me!).

Question for you:

Are you confused or comfortable with the world of colour theory?


Hi, I’m Kat! An Australian fantasy illustrator and character artist.


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