Skip to Content

Why do artists use analogous Colours?

Why do artists use analogous Colours?

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.

Establishes unity

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.

Gradual shifts

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.

Contrasting accents

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:

Claude Monet

Impressionist Claude Monet painted his famous water lilies series using blues, purples, and violets:

Painting Analogous Colors
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:

Painting Analogous Colors
Bedroom in Arles Yellows, yellow-greens, greens, blues

Claude Lorrain

Baroque painter Claude Lorrain used red, orange, and yellow hues for his sunset landscapes like Pastoral Landscape:

Painting Analogous Colors
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.