Color: #2 Complements

Drawing using a complementary color combination

1. Choose a simple subject. Determine its local color. Find the complement of that color on the color wheel. I chose yellow-orange for the local color which makes the complement blue-violet.

2. Make a measured line drawing of the subject. Use a light touch because you will be erasing. I used both of my colors in the outline drawing.

3. Begin by shading in the local color. Use the side of your pencil with a light touch, adding more pressure where you see the color is more intense. You will use this color throughout the entire drawing.

4. Don’t forget your cast shadow! Add the complement. Use the same technique as with the local color, varying the pressure where you see darker and more intense areas. These areas are usually found in the form shadows and cast shadows. Notice how my cast shadow has both colors in it.

5. Continue to layer the complementary colors over one another. Most of your drawing will have a combination of the two colors. Notice how the most intense aspect of a color appears in the reflected light and not the direct highlight.  As you gain confidence with the drawing increase pressure.  In the picture below I am going back in with my local color and increasing the pressure where I see intensity.

6. Use your eraser sparingly. Here I am removing color from highlighted areas with a pencil-form eraser.

This sketch will take you under two hours. Try other complementary combinations. Remember, stay with just drawing your subject until you feel good about measurements and that everything is in its proper place. This way when you begin using color you can concentrate on color and not correcting the drawing.  Enjoy making your drawing, relax into it, have fun.

One thought on “Color: #2 Complements

  1. Meredith,
    You are a true and generous teaching artist! I tell everybody to go to your website and follow your blog if they want to learn more and go deeper with their own art practices. Keep ’em coming, we all benefit from your observations and teaching!


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