Creating Contrast with Colour
If I had to put into words, the most useful thing that I have learned since I started painting, I would have to say, it is that 'Contrast is Key'.
When I started focusing more on having contrast in my paintings, my paintings improved dramatically.
Without contrast a painting fails to make an impression. Our eyes will often skim right over it if there is nothing to grab out attention. Contrast creates interest, it captivates our eyes. It adds that bit of drama or excitement that makes a painting stand out.
Essentially, contrast is about creating areas within a painting that are different to each other.
There are many ways to add contrast but one of the easiest ways is through your choice of colours.
You can create contrast by using complimentary colours on the colour wheel (i.e. blue and orange, red and green, violet and yellow).
Another option is to vary the hue of colours. Using a highly saturated colour against a more muted colour creates a visual pop. Just think of how great bright colours look up against greys.
And then there is value contrast. Value contrast is the degree of variation in a painting between light and dark.
In the early layers of a painting, creating contrast is one of my primary goals. I often start with high contrast because I know that as the painting progresses I can tone it down.
In the following excerpt from a painting video, you can see me adding the second layer to a multi-layered abstract acrylic painting. In this layer, my main focus is on getting some dark and light colours down. I'm also inspired by a sketchbook colour study that includes contrasting cool and warm colours.
Here is the video:
As I progressed this painting, I added even more layers and in doing so I introduced other ways to add contrast. Smooth v. rough tectures, organic v. geometric shapes, opaque v. transparent paint and so on. I'll see if I can find another video that demonstrates this but for today I'll leave you thinking about how your colour choices alone can create contrast.
Back again tomorrow Xx