Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Color - Part 2

Tuesday Tips and Tricks

This TTT post is a continuation of the Color discussion we have started last year. This is Part 2. Here's  Color - Part 1 post, if you want a refresher.

Let's talk about color schemes. If you leaf through your sketchbook, you will likely note the similarity of colors on your various sketches. We tend to find something that works for us, satisfies our aesthetics to some degree, and we then run with it.

How can we expand our vision on colors, get out of out boundaries of habit? Regardless of the media we use - paint, markers, color pencils - we can use the logical relationships of colors on the color wheel to control and expand our palette. This is where basic color schemes are helpful.

Color schemes are based on color similarities or differences, and usually feature a dominant color. Color schemes based on similarity are monochromatic (one color in different values) or analogues (colors that are neighbors on the color wheel). Color schemes based on difference are composed of complementary or triadic relationships, they are opposites or triangles on the wheel. An exception is a pure color contrasted with a neutral – white, gray or black.

I will give an example sketch for each of the 8 color schemes here.

Note how much variety of middle tones Don uses in this sketch. This variety give the image richness even though it is monochromatic.

This is my sketch, I use an analogous color scheme from dark red-brown through orange to yellow. This set of colors creates harmony. One speck of green punctuates this harmony, but we will discuss this in the next chapter.

Complementary color schemes usually have an added benefit of simplifying the image, like here a fairly complex market scene appears calm and relaxed.

Many have seen this amazing yellow plane at Architectural Artifacts at our sketch crawl. What makes this sketch successful is its pure Triadic color scheme executed in primary colors. Yes, I made the brick wall more red and designs on the rug more blue to make the triad more obvious.

An interesting variety results when we can split a complement into two colors. The image become richer and more complex.

Notice how yellow, yellow-orange and orange are balanced out by blue-violet shadows and recesses give the eye a resting point.

In my color class I find that this color scheme - double complementary tetradic - seems the most puzzling for students. That's until they realize that this is just two pairs of complements that are adjacent or next to each other on the color wheel. Like here:  yellow and violet is one pair, and yellow-orange and blue-violet is the second pair. That's all there is to it, complicated name non-withstanding.

See how the main colors of this sketch red-orange, yellow, blue-green and violet are positioned on a color wheel. They form a rectangle, this makes it a tetradic color scheme. Tetradic is a well balanced scheme, and this quality can be used in composition.

I invite you to practice color schemes to get familiar with them. Draw a sketch with each one of them. If it is an Urban Sketch, share it with us on our Facebook group. If not, just use it as an opportunity to practice.

Our next color topic will be Contrasts! See you then!


  1. This is a very compelling discussion of color. It is a challenge to incorporate color In an urban sketch because of time constraints. I will think about the use of color first on my next effort. I appreciate these TTT's.

  2. Hi! Just would like to know what color is used in the monochromatic sketch? Thank you very much for your perfect explanations. Dylan

    1. Hi Dylan! I believe Don drew his sketch using his trade mark Faber Castell markers in various shades of gray plus a white china pencil on tan tinted paper. This is just this particular example. Monochromatic drawing can be in any color - red, green, etc. Thank you for your question! ~Alex


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