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Digital Subscriptions > The Artist > May 18 > How to use complementary colours

How to use complementary colours

By focusing on strong complementary colours you can achieve vibrant results, as Marie Antoniou demonstrates with a lively painting of flowers in acrylic

I think it’s fascinating how such vibrant colour exists within nature. Whether outdoors or indoors, the natural vivid hues in flowers, fruits and vegetables make ideal subjects to use when exploring colour within your work. A basic understanding of colour goes a long way towards creating harmony within a scene or capturing the attention of the viewer through strong, bold, confident applications of colour.

Colour theory

Primary colours are colours that cannot be made. They are blue, red and yellow. When you mix two primaries together you create secondary colours.

Blue and red = purple (secondary colour)

Blue and yellow = green (secondary colour)

Red and yellow = orange (secondary colour)

The secondary colours of purple, green and orange are also know as complementary colours to the primary colour they sit opposite (above). They are at their most vibrant when placed next to each other.

Colour Wheel made using Daler- Rowney System 3 Original Acrylic Cerulean blue, cadmium red and cadmium yellow
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About The Artist

Welcome to our May issue packed with inspiring practical features to help you develop your skills in all media. Watercolourists will love Bob Rudd's invented colour schemes for dramatic landscapes, Amanda Hyatt's five steps to watercolour success, with an exercise to try, Ann Blockley's invitation to inject some magic into your watercolour washes, Paul Talbot-Greaves' deconstruction into three parts of the painting of a daffodil, and Deborah Walker's test report on a new Winsor & Newton watercolour paper. Paul Riley and Julie Collins show how to use pen and wash and ink and watercolour in powerful combinations, while Jo Quigley demonstrates why working en grisaille in acrylics can be so beneficial. Portraitists will learn different ways to obtain a likeness from Ann Witheridge and Will Teather; adapt your sketching kit with ideas from David Parfitt; try painting seascapes in water-mixable oils with Paul Weaver, and more. And don't forget to enter our summer sketching competition with fantastic monthly prizes!