A basic colour wheel can help you understand the relationships between different colours. Two of these relationships are supplementary and complementary colours.
Supplementary Colours are those that are next to each other on the color wheel. Together, they create a sense of calmness as they work well together.
An artwork with a lot of supplementary colours can seem peaceful and pleasant, as in this painting by Claude Monet which uses blues, greens and yellows, all supplementary colours.
|Claude Monet, water Lillies|
Complementary colours come from the opposite side of the colour wheel. These colours bounce off of each other, that is, they have maximum colour impact. An artwork with a lot of complementary colours will look busy and striking.
You can see this in this painting by Van Gogh, where he use purples in the sky to bring the light out even more. the oranges in the sky bounce off their complement - blue.
|Vincent Van Gogh, Starry Night, c. 1889|
Usually artists use a combination of these relationships to draw your eye towards certain parts. For example, a painting with a lot of greens, blues and purples might have a few yellows, reds and oranges added to really stand out.
You can see this in this beautiful painting of water lillies by Monet:
|Claude Monet, Water Lillies, 1916|
Keep an eye out for our colour course for more about colour! (Coming soon!)