Artists use analogous colors for several reasons. Analogous colors are groups of colors that are next to each other on the color wheel, such as blue, blue-green, and green. Using analogous colors creates color harmony, allows artists to convey mood and emotion, and establishes unity within a painting. Understanding why artists use analogous colors can help you appreciate the thought and planning that goes into a work of art.
What are analogous colors?
Analogous colors are groups of three or more colors that sit next to each other on the color wheel. Some examples of analogous color schemes are:
- Red, red-orange, orange
- Yellow-green, green, blue-green
- Blue-violet, violet, red-violet
Analogous colors are similar in hue but have different values, intensities, and temperatures. For example, yellow and yellow-green are analogous because they are next to each other on the color wheel. However, yellow has a warmer, brighter feel while yellow-green is duller and cooler.
Analogous color schemes create rich, vibrant images when used together. They are often found in nature, like a bed of wildflowers or leaves changing in the fall. Artists carefully select analogous colors to recreate the energy found in nature or evoke a similar mood.
Benefits of using analogous colors
There are many reasons why artists rely on analogous colors when planning the color scheme of a painting. Some key benefits include:
Creates color harmony
Analogous colors naturally look pleasing together. Picking colors that sit side-by-side on the color wheel guarantees that your painting will have a harmonious, cohesive color palette. The colors complement each other beautifully without clashing.
Conveys mood and emotion
Different sets of analogous colors can convey different moods. For example:
- Warm analogous colors like red, orange, and yellow feel energetic and fiery.
- Cool analogous colors like blue, blue-violet, and violet feel tranquil and soothing.
- Bright analogous colors feel joyful and upbeat.
- Dull or dark analogous colors feel somber or melancholy.
Artists plan their analogous colors to match the mood and emotion they want to portray.
Using several variations of the same hue ties the different elements of a painting together. Analogous colors create a sense of visual continuity that makes a painting feel cohesive and unified. This allows artists to add variety while maintaining harmony.
How artists use analogous colors
There are several ways artists ingeniously use analogous colors to accomplish their creative vision:
Main color and accents
A common technique is picking one color to dominate and accenting it with analogous hues. For example, a painter may choose a dark teal as the main color and accent it with lighter teals, blues, and greens.
Background and foreground
Artists often use one set of analogous hues in the background and a different set in the foreground. This creates subtle color contrast while keeping the overall palette consistent. For example, a warm sunset sky in the background could contrast with cool blue-greens in the foreground.
Local color and shadows
When painting an object, artists depict the local color (the inherent color of the object) in analogous hues. They add shadows and highlights in colors from the same side of the color wheel. This allows the object to stand out while remaining part of the overall color scheme.
Artists can slowly transition between the colors in an analogous scheme to subtly blend hues. This gives paintings a sense of movement. For example, they may shift from yellow to yellow-orange to orange to red-orange within a sunset sky.
While most of the palette consists of analogous colors, artists may add a few complementary (opposite) colors as accents. This contrast makes the analogous colors look even richer by comparison.
Tips for using analogous colors
If you want to experiment with analogous colors in your own paintings, here are some tips:
- Choose a dominant hue as your starting point and build your palette around it.
- Pick 3-5 adjoining colors on the color wheel for variety.
- Vary the values and intensities – don’t use all bright or muted shades.
- To accent your color scheme, add touches of complementary colors like yellows to blues.
- Use a color mixing guide to help you blend between hues.
- Try the “split complementary” scheme, with colors adjacent to your complement.
Examples of analogous colors in art
Here are some examples of master artists expertly using analogous colors in their paintings:
Impressionist Claude Monet painted his famous water lilies series using blues, purples, and violets:
|Water Lilies and Japanese Bridge||Blues, purples, violets|
|The Water Lily Pond||Light blues, periwinkles, lavenders|
|Water Lilies||Cobalts, aquas, cornflower blues|
Vincent van Gogh
Post-Impressionist Vincent van Gogh relied on yellows, greens, and blues for his painting Bedroom in Arles:
|Bedroom in Arles||Yellows, yellow-greens, greens, blues|
Baroque painter Claude Lorrain used red, orange, and yellow hues for his sunset landscapes like Pastoral Landscape:
|Pastoral Landscape||Reds, oranges, yellows|
Analogous colors offer artists an intuitive way to create harmonious, emotive palettes. By mastering how to blend adjacent hues on the color wheel, painters can develop color schemes that convey mood, unify a composition, mimic nature, and create variety within their work. Analyzing how the artists skillfully used analogous colors allows us to appreciate the thoughtful, deliberate color choices that bring their masterpieces to life.