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Using An Analogous Color Scheme To Create Harmonious Paintings

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This post will be all about using an analogous color scheme to create beautifully harmonious paintings.

I will say first and foremost that a color scheme is not really that important. I rarely start a painting with a pre-determined color scheme in mind. The color scheme itself does not really create harmony, it is just a word used to describe colors which we think work well together. This is subjective and it changes from person to person.

The point is, color is not so simple that you can just apply a standard color scheme and all the colors will be in harmony. Unfortunately, painting is never that simple.

True color harmony relies on a complex interplay between all the colors in your painting. When mixing your colors, you should think of it as a beautiful dance as you move between all the different tints, shades, tones, temperatures and hues. Each color on your canvas needs to 'fit in' in order for your colors to appear harmonious, regardless of whether you have applied some kind of popular color scheme or not.

But, with that being said, there is a reason we put names on these arrangements of colors. People in general find them pleasing to look at. So it is important to understand the popular color schemes as it will help you better understand how we perceive color.

This post follows on from my previous post about a complementary color scheme.

What Is An Analogous Color Scheme?

An analogous color scheme utilizes colors which are close together on the color wheel. For example, blues, greens and purples, or reds, oranges and yellows.

These colors are considered to have a close relationship and when used next to each other could produce a pleasing harmony.

Analogous Color Palette | Analogous Paintings | Analogous Color Scheme

Using Analogous Colors In A High Key

An interesting thing about colors is that the harmony between colors seems to increase as they get lighter in value. This is because there is less contrast between colors in a high key. 

When you combine an analogous color scheme with a high key, you can often produce a very pleasing harmony of colors. 

This can be demonstrated using Claude Monet's paintings of water lilies. The first two paintings below utilize analogous colors and are in a middle to low key (the paintings are relatively dark). Take note of the color harmony. 

Claude Monet, Water Lilies, 1904
Claude Monet, Water Lilies, 1904
Claude Monet, Water Lilies, 1903
Claude Monet, Water Lilies, 1903

Now compare those two paintings to the following two paintings which utilize similar analogous colors, but in a much higher key. 

Analogous Color Palette | Claude Monet, Water Lilies, 1908
Claude Monet, Water Lilies, 1908
Claude Monet, Water Lilies (3), 1906
Claude Monet, Water Lilies, 1906

Which colors do you find to be more harmonious? Let me know in the comments. 

You can read more about using a high key in this post

Examples Of Paintings Which Use An Analogous Color Scheme

Here are some master paintings which utilize an analogous color scheme.

Please note that I have selected these paintings on the basis they mostly use analogous colors. There are some paintings which have some complementary colors thrown in there.

(You might be interested in my Painting Academy course. I go into more detail on what color is and how to use it effectively in painting.)

James Whistler, Note In Flesh Colour, The Guidecca, 1880
James Whistler, Note In Flesh Colour, The Guidecca, 1880
James Whistler, Nocturne, Blue And Silver, Chelsea, 1872
James Whistler, Nocturne, Blue And Silver, Chelsea, 1872
Analogous Color Scheme | Gustave Caillebotte, The Parquet Planers, 1876
Gustave Caillebotte, The Parquet Planers, 1876
Analogous Color Palette | Gustave Caillebotte, Seascape, Regatta At Villers, 1880-1884
Gustave Caillebotte, Seascape, Regatta At Villers, 1880-1884
Frederick McCubbin, Violet And Gold, 1911
Frederick McCubbin, Violet And Gold, 1911
Frederick McCubbin, The Pioneer, 1904
Frederick McCubbin, The Pioneer, 1904
Emile Claus, Summer, 1893
Emile Claus, Summer, 1893
Analogous Color Palette | Emile Claus, Cow
Emile Claus, Cow
Claude Monet, Morning On The Seine, 1897
Claude Monet, Morning On The Seine, 1897
Claude Monet, Misty Morning On The Seine, 1897
Claude Monet, Misty Morning On The Seine, 1897
Analogous Color Palette | Camille Pissarro, Sunset, 1872
Camille Pissarro, Sunset, 1872
Camille Pissarro, Street In The Snow, Louveciennes, 1872
Camille Pissarro, Street In The Snow, Louveciennes, 1872
Analogous Color Palette | Camille Pissarro, Road At Eragny, Winter, 1885
Camille Pissarro, Road At Eragny, Winter, 1885
Camille Pissarro, Orchard In Blossom, Louveciennes, 1872
Camille Pissarro, Orchard In Blossom, Louveciennes, 1872

Thanks for Reading!

Feel free to share with friends. If you want more painting tips, check out my fundamentals course.

Happy painting!

Dan Scott

Draw Paint Academy

Read more of my articles. 

2 comments on “Using An Analogous Color Scheme To Create Harmonious Paintings”

  1. This is the post that led me to discover your site. I was searching for examples of analogous paintings. After reading this one and looking around at several others, I went back to the very beginning and started reading each one. It’s been like being enrolled in an art class. 🙂 Now I just have one “year” left to go.

    Reply

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