Pastel Tutorial: #5

#5 Split Complement. To find the split, locate a complementary combo on the color wheel, say blue-violet and yellow-orange, then take the two colors on either side of one of these colors. Those three colors are a split harmony. Either blue-violet, yellow and orange or yellow-orange, violet and blue.

In our example we are looking at a squash with a natural split harmony of yellow, orange and blue-violet. I added other objects which tie into the combo.  Use these three colors throughout the entire drawing.

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Find that dark arrow on the back of the wheel which points to complements. Shown here are blue-violet and yellow-orange and the ever-present mr. pepe. On either side of yellow orange are yellow and orange. Notice the narrow isosceles  triangle with split complementary written in. Little daggers point to the split.DSC_0007

Choose tints, tones and shades plus the spectral hues of each color. Remember, perception of hue has a strong subjective element to it. Your choices may be different than mine.


Tone with a tint of blue-violet.


Measure forms and indicate major changes in value.

If your drawing is strong, then placing values and hues will be more fun and you won’t have to make major changes later on.

Spend time with the drawing.

It helps to make a separate black and white drawing with graphite or charcoal first.


First color pass use a mid tone orange. I lightly shade (using the side of the stick) wherever I see orange, skipping around the entire drawing (not one fruit-at-a-time).


Placing darker values, begin with dark orange, then a tone of orange, then a darkish tone of blue violet.


Now,  go for the yellow, placing pure yellow and tones of yellow. Then back to pure orange and a tint of orange.


Now that mid tones and darks are placed, go for tints where light shines directly on the squash.

Use light tints to cool off areas with too much saturation as well as highlights.

I did not use any blending tools aside from the sides of the sticks for this drawing. I let the texture of the paper and pressure control the appearance. I layered a lot!

Let that toned blue-violet peak through the orange in some places. Close it out in others.


This is at a stopping stage. I’ve accomplished my goal of total implementation of the split. At this stage this piece is considered a pastel drawing. Further development and total resolution would yield a pastel painting.

 The trick with pastel is to keep it loose and airy yet fully resolved. Practice!


  • Split Complementary Harmony
  • Shading technique

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