Complementary Colors

Complementary (com-pluh-MEN-tuh-ree) colors sit opposite each other on the color wheel. Because they are opposites, they tend to look especially lively when used together. When you put complementary colors together, each color looks more noticeable.

TRY IT! Choose colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel. For example, you might choose blue and orange. Make a picture that uses both colors. Don't they make an interesting contrast? That's because the colors are opposites.

Analogous Colors

Analogous (uh-NAL-uh-gus) colors sit next to each other on the color wheel. They tend to look pleasant together because they are closely related.

Orange, yellow-orange, and yellow are an example of analogous colors.  How do you know that these colors are closely related? They share a color—each of them contains some yellow.

TRY IT! Choose a primary color and a secondary color. For example, you might choose blue and green. Don't they look nice together? That's because they are analogous. With just these two colors, you can create even more analogous colors—blue-green, green-blue, and others in-between. All of these will have a color in common: blue.

Neutral Colors

Neutral (NOO-trul) colors don't usually show up on the color wheel. Neutral colors include black, white, gray, and sometimes brown and beige. They are sometimes called “earth tones.”

In Circus,  uses many different neutral colors. You can see a few glimpses of red, blue, and yellow in this painting. But the overall effect is of natural brown and gray colors, like those you might see in rocks or in sand, dirt, and clay.

TRY IT! There are a few different ways to make neutral colors. You can blend black and white to make gray. You can create brown in two ways—by blending two complementary colors together, or by blending all three primary colors together.

Warm/Cool Colors

Warm colors are made with red, orange, yellow, or some combination of these. Warm colors tend to make you think of sunlight and warmth.

Cool colors are made with blue, green, purple, or some combination of these. Cool colors might make you think of cool and peaceful things, like winter skies and still ponds.