Simple color wheel mixed from Quinacridone Gold, Phthalo Blue, Ultramarine Blue, Permanent Rose and Alizarin Crimson

Accent Color

Complementary Accent Color

The use of a complementary accent color is a simple rule to keep in mind when you start to plan the color arrangement in your paintings. It is a powerful tool to add impact to your work.

For a complementary accent color to have the necessary impact, the painting should be of an analogous nature (using a group of adjacent colors from a small band of the color wheel). The accent color is the complementary to the overall color of the analogous group.


Consider the atmosphere you wish to convey with your painting and select your dominant analogous group with that in mind. The weathered patina of an ancient facade would suit a warm red / orange / yellow dominant arrangement whereas an evening landscape or fleet of fishing boats would be more suited to dominant cool blue / greens.

This is a simple system and always yields good results.

Our first accent color group uses an analogous group which includes all the greens from blue/green through to yellow/green. They are contrasted with their complementary cool red.

Dunedin Clouds uses a range of greens stretching into blue and contrast this with a small patch of red at the focal point.


A similar color arrangement is used in this painting. The roofs on these waterfront buildings are a rich magenta, given more impact by the surrounding mass or blue/green.


A warm analogous group from red through to yellow/orange was chosen to portray the rusty exterior of this old truck. A small area of blue above the front wheel and on the sign behind the cab relieve the overall warmth and reinforce the focal point.


Warm pinks, reds and oranges in this old door and weathered wall are contrasted with a small amount of Phthalo blue/green in the glass window panes. The wall and door are a mix of compound and saturated colors within our analogous group.

Yellow/Greens through to Blue/Greens form our analogus group here. Complementary Red is used as the accent color

Warm Yellows, Browns and Oranges contrasted with a small amount of complimentary blue

An analogous group from cool red to orange are contrasted here with a small amount of green.

Blues from Ultramarine through to Phthalo contrast here with complementary orange


Our analogous group here range from Ultramarine through Cobalt to Phthalo Blue. The contrasting warm orange is a mixture of Quinacridone Gold and Alizarin Crimson washed over with some Permanent Rose.

Color Definitions

Saturated Colors are all the pure colors found around the outside of the color wheel. They are either primary colors or a mixture of no more than two primaries. – red, orange, red/orange etc.


Compound Colors are a mixture containing all three primaries – all the browns, ochre’s, khakis etc.


Analogous Colors are any group of colors adjacent to one another on the color wheel – red, red/orange, orange.


Complementary Colors are colors opposite one another on the color wheel – Red and Green or Blue and Orange.



The next painting you do, try not to be too influenced by the colors of your subject. Instead, decide on an analogous group that suit the subject, then inject a small amount of the color opposite this group on the color wheel to fire up your center of interest. It’s a simple formula giving great results.



Author: John Lovett


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John Lovett


John Lovett is an Australian artist working in oils, watercolor and mixed media. Since commencing his career John has held over thirty five solo exhibitions and taken part in many joint ones. John’s work is represented in private and corporate collections in Australia, United Kingdom, Europe, Asia and USA. John’s passion for his work and his open easy approach to teaching make his books, DVD’s and workshops thoroughly enjoyable, extremely informative and always very popular. His articles are regularly featured in “International Artist” magazine.      



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© 2017 John Lovett (all text and images unless otherwise stated)