Complementary Colors

Mixing Complementary Colors

What are complementary colors?

If you look at the color wheel again, any color that is
directly across from another color, is the complementary

Another words, Red and Green are complementary.
3:1 ratio cadimium red to Phthalo green plus white will give you a gray Changing the ratio will give you either a dark green or a dark red.

Blue and Orange are complementary. 3:1 ratio Ultra Marine blue to Cadmium
orange plus white will give you a gray. Changing the ratio will give you a dark blue or a dark orange approaching a sienna.

Purple and yellow (violet) are complementary.
3:1 ratio deep violet to cadmium yellow plus white will give  you a gray. Changing the ratio will give you a dark violet or a dark yellow approaching ochre

If you put only a little purple into a lot of yellow, you get Ochre, because you are essentially graying down the


The interesting thing about Complementary colors is that, when used in a painting together in their own form, they complement each other.

  • They work well together even though they are at the opposite sides of the color wheel.
  • When placed next to each other they tend to make each color appear brighter.
  • When you mix them together along with white, they produce a
    neutral gray.

In these three cases, the ratio was 3:1.
Generally, the 3:1 ratio or very close to it will be right for most mixtures, as long as they are truly complementary. You’ll just have to experiment with the colors you have on your pallet.

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