Color Mixing Color Schemes Watercolor Exercises

Watercolor Split-Complementary Color Scheme

A watercolor split-complementary color scheme is a popular and effective option for adding visual interest and balance to your artwork.

In watercolor painting, the split-complementary color scheme can be an excellent way to create a cohesive and visually appealing painting.


Basically, it is an analogous color scheme with the addition of a complementary contrasting color.

To locate the colors, begin by selecting three analogous colors on the color wheel. Then select the middle color and select its complementary color on the opposite side of the color wheel.

For example, if the primary color is blue, the complementary contrasting color is orange and the analogous colors of orange are yellow-orange and red-orange. This is a four-color split-complementary color scheme.

For a three-color split-complementary color scheme with blue as the primary color, only the analogous colors yellow-orange and red-orange are used. Orange, the complementary contrasting color for blue, is not used in this three-color split-complementary color scheme.

Using these three or four colors together in a painting creates a vibrant and harmonious effect.


When using a split-complementary color scheme in watercolor painting, it’s important to keep a few things in mind:

  1. Choose your base analogous colors: These colors will be the dominant colors in your painting, so choose analogous colors that you love, and that will set the tone for the rest of the artwork.
  2. Use the complementary contrasting color sparingly: This color should be used in small amounts to create contrast and balance.
  3. Experiment with the analogous colors: These colors can be used in larger amounts to create interest and harmony in the painting.
  4. Consider value and saturation: To add depth and dimension to your painting, vary the value (lightness or darkness) and saturation (intensity) of each color.


Here are a few examples of four-color split-complementary color schemes:

  • Yellow, and the analogous colors red-violet, violet, and blue-violet
  • Red, and the analogous colors yellow-green, green, and blue-green
  • Blue, and the analogous colors yellow-orange, orange, and red-orange

In conclusion, a watercolor split-complementary color scheme is a versatile and effective option for adding visual interest and balance to your watercolor paintings. Experiment with different analogous colors and complementary contrasting colors to create a unique and vibrant artwork that reflects your personal style and creativity.


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Choose one of the following transparent and semi-transparent watercolor analogous color scheme groups with its complementary contrasting color:

A yellow, yellow-orange, and yellow-green analogous color group:

A red, red-orange, and red-violet analogous color group:

A blue, blue-green, and blue-violet analogous color group:

Compose small value-study paintings using one of the above analogous color groups and the complementary contrasting color, but to start do not mix the colors together.

Paint the unmixed primary color in the “focal point” central area of emphasis in the composition.

Then, paint the analogous colors in varying proportions surrounding the primary color.

Also, use a gray scale value finder as a guide for mixing a range of tonal values for the analogous colors and the complementary contrasting color.

gray scale value finder

Afterward, add the mid-tonal values and neutralized color mixtures in the outlying areas of the painting composition.


By spending time working with the watercolor split-complementary color scheme, you will eventually gain a deeper understanding of color harmony and contrast, and how to organize the colors and values in your painting compositions.

To learn more about transparent watercolors, click the link to my blog post “Which watercolor paints are transparent.”

See my YouTube playlist “Watercolor Color Schemes” for more videos. And, subscribe to my YouTube channel.

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