Neutral Colors Using Complements

Neutral Colors Using Complements

A question I receive often when teaching workshop is how to make neutral colors and use them in a painting.

First, let's define what is meant by "neutral colors." Neutral colors are not earth toned color like Burnt Umber or Burnt Sienna. Neutral colors are those where the color is made more gray (neutral) by the addition of the complementary color. 

Complementary color combinations are one of the most used, if not the most used color combination used by painters. It makes sense because there are only two color families involved. Complementary colors are those directly across from each other on the standard 12-color wheel.

Complementary colors accent each other when used in close proximity in a painting, but when mixed together they begin to neutralize each other, or begin to create a range of gray. Because complementary color combinations always contain one warm color and one cool color, the resultant gray will be warm or cool depending on the majority color in the mixture. A pure gray is created with a 50/50 mixture of each color.

If you haven't experimented with this before, then you should try it. It's fun to see what mixtures you come up with and how you can use them in a painting to contrast with the more intense colors.

If you'd like to learn how to paint with complementary colors, then please join me for a painting workshop: (You can view a list of 2018 workshops HERE)

  • June 25-27 Associated Artists of Southport, Southport, NC. To register contact Nancy Schulte:
  • July 13-14 Art Alliance of Greensboro, Greensboro, NC. To register contact Liz Busch:
  • July 27-29 Western Colorado Center for the Arts, Grand Junction, CO. To register contact Haley Van Camp:
  • August 8-10 David M. Kessler Fine Art Studio, Winston-Salem, NC. For information and registration Click Here.
  • August 23-25 Franciscan Life Process Center, Lowell, MI. For more information and registration Click Here.

As always, thanks so much for your support!


P.S. If you you'd like to learn how to utilize complementary colors in your work in the comfort of your home or studio, Design Fundamentals for the Artist is my online course:

Design Fundamentals for the Artist will provide you with a firm foundation on which to build all of your art making activities. For Information Click Here.

Price Reduced $50 through June!


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