Using an Analogous Color Scheme to Create Harmonious Paintings

I will say first and foremost that a colour scheme is not really that important. I rarely start a painting with a predetermined colour scheme in mind. The colour scheme itself does not really create harmony, it is just a word used to describe colours which we think work well together. This is subjective and it changes from person to person.

In painting as well as in interior décor, graphic design, photography, fashion design, garden design, and all artistic expressions, the choice of colors determines the mood of the creation, the level of energy that will be conveyed, and if it’s pleasant to the viewer or not.

As you are choosing the color scheme, you are determining the outcome of the whole project.

The point is, colour is not so simple that you can just apply a standard color scheme and all the colours will be in harmony. Unfortunately, painting is never that simple.

True colour harmony relies on a complex interplay between all the colours in your painting. When mixing your colours, you should think of it as a beautiful dance as you move between all the different tints, shades, tones, temperatures and hues. Each colour on your canvas needs to ‘fit in’ in order for your colours to appear harmonious, regardless of whether you have applied some kind of popular colour scheme or not.

But, with that being said, there is a reason we put names on these arrangements of colours. People in general find them pleasing to look at. So it is important to understand the popular colour schemes as it will help you better understand how we perceive colour.

This post follows on from my previous post about a complementary color scheme.

What is an Analogous Color Scheme?

An analogous color scheme utilizes colors which are close together on the color wheel. For example, blues, greens and purples, or reds, oranges and yellows.

These colors are considered to have a close relationship and when used next to each other could produce a pleasing harmony.

Using Analogous Colours in a High Key

An interesting thing about colors is that the harmony between colors seems to increase as they get lighter in value. This is because there is less contrast between colors in a high key.

When you combine an analogous color scheme with a high key, you can often produce a very pleasing harmony of colors.

This can be demonstrated using Claude Monet’s paintings of water lilies. The first two paintings below utilize analogous colors and are in a middle to low key (the paintings are relatively dark). Take note of the color harmony.

Now compare those two paintings to the following two paintings which utilize similar analogous colors, but in a much higher key.

You may also like