Color Schemes

Watercolor Schemes Split-Complementary

Watercolor schemes – Split-complementary is a color scheme using three colors on the color wheel as follows:

  • One Primary plus two Tertiary colors that sit on either side of the Primary color’s true complement, or
  • One Secondary plus two Tertiary colors that sit on either side of the Secondary color’s true complement.

To locate a split-complementary scheme on the color wheel, an isosceles triangle could be drawn with the narrowest angle pointing to a Primary color (or Secondary color). The other two points at the opposite end of the isosceles triangle would point to the two Tertiary colors forming a split-complementary harmony.

Because each of the “split” colors has some of the other primaries in them, a broader color capacity with a more pleasing harmony is achieved. This color scheme also allows for mixing a larger range of neutrals and grays by varying the proportion of each color.

In a composition, make one of the split-complementary colors the main color. Add interest by mixing small amounts of one of the other “split” colors into the main color to create neutrals and grays. Add accents using the remaining “split” color. Place two of the “split” colors side-by-side or near each other at the focal point of the composition to draw the viewer’s eye to the center of interest.

Color Wheel Split-complements

  • Yellow > Red-Purple < > Blue-Purple
  • Blue > Red-Orange < > Yellow-Orange
  • Red > Yellow-Green < > Blue-Green
  • Green > Red-Orange < > Red-Purple
  • Purple > Yellow-Orange < > Yellow-Green
  • Orange > Blue-Green < > Blue-Purple

For corresponding watercolor paint names for the above see What Watercolors To Buy.


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