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How to use color effectively to create Impact and Harmony

Sunset - abstract acrylic painting by Paulina Ponsford

Hello my friends!

One of the questions that I get asked often is how to use color. Many people love color but are afraid or timid to use it in their paintings. Today I’m going to share with you some basic information on what I do and how I use color to create impact and harmony in my paintings.

I am a self-taught artist, and what I share with you in this blog are the techniques and strategies that work for me. If you follow me on my YouTube channel (Paulina Art), or Facebook, you already know how much I love to use bold colors in my paintings.

What helps me to choose colors that will create impact and harmony is the Color Wheel, a simple and effective tool. The color wheel is a circle in which colors are organized to illustrate the relationship between Primary colors (Red, Blue and Yellow); Secondary colors—a mix of two primary colors (Green, Purple, and Orange); and, Tertiary colors—a mix of a Primary and a Secondary color ( such as Magenta and Teal).

The 1st color wheel was created by Isaac Newton, the color wheel has evolved since then. The color wheel is used in fashion, in home decorating, in film, in photography, basically everywhere where we have color; for artists, it is a great and inexpensive tool. You can print a color wheel from your computer, you can have it on your phone, or you can paint your own! When I have students that have never painted before, the first exercise we do is to paint a simple color wheel.

The colors directly opposite to each other are called Complementary colors, for example, Green and Red (a popular combination around Christmas time and perfect for Christmas paintings). When using Complementary colors (opposites on the color wheel), you are creating impact. The colors that are directly beside each other are called Analogous, and what they create in a painting is harmony—for example, Blue and Violet; Orange and Yellow. If you want to create both, impact and harmony, then decide what your main color will be, then choose the complementary (opposite) color, and an analogous color as well. This is the combination of colors that I like to use the most in my paintings, including portraits and abstracts.

Let us review the color wheel: the colors opposite to one another on the wheel are Complementary, they will create impact when paired together. The colors beside one another on the wheel are Analogous, they will create harmony when paired together.

I hope this was interesting or at least informative. Please comment below and let me know if you would like more information on how to use color. I have attached a video below with this information and more!

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