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Introduction to Shading with Complementary Colors

Hues and pigment recommendations
My palette includes no commercial mixes and only one secondary colour but I have included in the list secondaries that others might like that I feel are of some benefit. You will notice there are no colours like Naples Yellow, Payne's Grey or Sepia, all of which are simple mixes that can be replicated with a few moments' work, often to a better result (for instance choosing between Titanium White and Zinc White to mix Naples Yellow so that it is opaque or transparent as you prefer). All colours are given with their Colour Index Number to enable you to look for and identify the pigments recommended below, very important considering the plethora of commercial and proprietary names for paints. I would look upon any artists' range that does not provide these numbers with extreme suspicion in this day and age.

Green-Yellow - complement Red-Violet
Azo Yellow Light (PY3)
Also called Arylide Yellow Light and Hansa Yellow Light. Be sure to look out for the number PY3, as a similar colour PY1 is not as lightfast.
A bright, light yellow with a slight green bias. It is fairly transparent so makes a good glazing colour.
Complement: try Quinacridone Violet with some white.

Cadmium Lemon (PY35 or PY37)
If you would like a more opaque example of a green-yellow this is the colour to look out for, however its covering power will still not be very good.
Complement: as above.

Orange-Yellow - complement Blue-Violet
Cadmium Yellow Light (PY35)
The cadmium yellows are totally lightfast, fairly opaque and regrettably expensive.
Cadmium Yellow Light should be slightly biased to orange but check before you buy, it may be the green-yellow variety mentioned above.
Complement: Dioxazine Purple plus white should work well.

Cadmium Yellow Medium or Deep (PY37)
Different manufacturers formulate slightly different versions of this family varying from a fairly light orange-yellow to a near-orange. I prefer the medium shade, as it is the most versatile.
Complement: as above but with less white.

Yellow-Orange - complement Violet-Blue
Cadmium Orange (PO20)
A bright, opaque yellow-orange. An almost indistinguishable hue can be mixed from Cadmium Yellow Medium and Cadmium Red Light if you want to save the hefty pricetag.
Complement: Ultramarine with a touch of white should work well or you could try Cobalt Blue.

Benzimidazolone Orange H5G (PO62)
Similar to Cadmium Orange, it is slightly more transparent. Again, a very similar colour can be achieved by mixing.
Complement: as for Cadmium Orange.

Red-Orange - complement Green-Blue
Perinone Orange (PO43)
Also called Indo Orange Red.
Can vary slightly from an almost true orange to red-orange.
Complement: try Phthalo Blue with a little white added.

Benzimidazolone Orange HL (PO36)
A good example of why you need to know and check Colour Index Numbers, the name could represent two quite different oranges.
Apparently a very close match for true Vermillion.
Complement: as for Perinone Orange.

Orange-Red - complement Blue-Green
Cadmium Red Light (PR108)
The cadmium reds are very lightfast and similarly expensive to the cadmium yellows with good covering power.
Cadmium Red Light is an intense, fiery orange-red.
Complement: Viridian or Phthalocyanine Green BS with white added should be close.

Cadmium Red Medium (PR108)
Also an orange-red, but slightly less bright and intense than Cadmium Red Light. I would choose either one, not both.
Complement: similar to Cadmium Red Light's but slightly darker.

Quinacridone Red Y (PR209)
A useful transparent medium-valued orange-red, much less expensive than the cadmium colours and better for glazing. Complement: see above.

Violet-Red - complement Yellow-Green
Pyrrole Red (PR254)
Varies from fairly unbiased to having a minimal violet leaning. Very reliable pigment.
Complement: as for Naphthol Carbamide.

Naphthol Carbamide (PR170)
Sometimes called Naphthol Crimson.
A fairly bright red with a slight violet bias. A useful colour similar to Pyrrole Red.
Complement: try a mix of Azo Yellow Light and Phthalo Blue.

Anthraquinoid Red (PR177)
This colour would make an excellent replacement for Alizarin Crimson with better lightfastness.
Complement: Phthalocyanine Green YS should work okay or you could mix a green as above.

Quinacridone Carmine (PR N/A)
A deep violet-red, this is also a very good replacement for Alizarin Crimson if you can find it.
Complement: Phthalocyanine Green BS should be a nearly perfect complement for this, mixing almost to black.

Red-Violet - complement Green-Yellow
Quinacridone Red and Violet (PV19)
This same number is used to define a small family of pigments, with a host of additional names like Quinacridone Rose, Permanent Rose etc. They are all equally lightfast.
Varies from a fairly bright violet-red to a saturated red-violet.
Complement: because of its value, an exact complement needs to be mixed, try Azo Yellow Light and Phthalo Blue.

Quinacridone Magenta (PR122) Although defined as a red this is usually closer to a red-violet as the name would suggest. Complement: similar to above but lighter in value.

Blue-Violet - complement Orange-Yellow
Ultramarine Violet (PV15)
This is probably the best of the blue-violet pigments available today and Winsor & Newton's may be the most useful as it is lighter in value and very saturated.
Complement: although not dark enough Cadmium Yellow Deep is closest to the ideal complement. You could also try Yellow Ochre or Mars Yellow.

Dioxazine Purple (PV23RS)
Also known as Carbazole Violet, look for the RS (red shade) which is slightly more permanent.
A deep, slightly unsaturated blue-violet. A nearly identical colour can be mixed from Ultramarine and Quinacridone Violet.
Complement: see above.

Violet-Blue - complement Yellow-Orange
Ultramarine (PB29)
Occasionally still called French Ultramarine after its origin. The classic violet-blue pigment, dark valued and intense.
Complement: Cadmium Orange should work well or you can mix an orange of the right type.

Cobalt Blue Deep (PB73)
Probably the best of the other violet-blues available, this is slightly lighter valued. A rich, dark blue with a hint of violet. Unfortunately this and its sister pigment below are extremely expensive.
Complement: as above.

Cobalt Blue (PB28)
To the naked eye this is very close to a true blue but it usually has a slight leaning towards violet. Not essential on the palette but a useful mid-blue starting point.
Complement: Cadmium Orange or Raw Sienna should both work almost perfectly.

Green-Blue - complement Red-Orange
Phthalocyanine Blue GS (PB15:3)
Also called Phthalo Blue, Monestial Blue and Winsor Blue. There is a red shade, PB15:1, also available. If you only see PB15 you need to check it to see which type you have.
An intense, dark-valued blue similar to Prussian Blue, it is slightly more reliable but more importantly is slightly 'cleaner', resulting in brighter greens when required.
Complement: Perinone Orange is probably your best bet or again, a mixed orange of the same hue.

Cerulean Blue (PB35)
This is a very different blue to Phthalocyanine Blue GS being much lighter valued. Very useful for light mixed greens, replicating lighter blues and as a neutraliser for fleshtones.
Complement: Perinone Orange with the addition of white or a light-valued mixed red-orange plus white.

Blue-Green - complement Orange-Red
Phthalocyanine Green BS (PB7)
A beautiful intense example of this hue, Phthalocyanine Green BS also mixes the cleanest tints.
Complement: Cadmium Red Deep is not quite dark enough but close enough to work well. Any darker red will work fine even if the hue is not quite right.

Viridian (PG18) Can vary slightly but almost always a clean, saturated blue-green. The only green I have on my palette.
Complement: same as above.

Yellow-Green - complement Violet-Red
Green Gold (PG10)
One of the only true yellow-green pigments, this is unfortunately no longer manufactured.
Complement: If you already own this colour or can locate a tube, Naphthol Carbamide or Pyrrole Red should work as complements.

Chromium Oxide Green (PG17)
A useful medium-valued yellow-green noted for its opacity and muted character.
Complement: any of the violet-reds recommended above should work okay but also works with Cadmium Red Medium as their values are nearly identical.

That covers the twin-primary hue positions and their matching secondaries. With the addition of white and black, a selection of the above colours would make a fine palette: totally reliable, very lightfast and with a useful variation in opacity.

About the Author



That is the good old way to learn about colors and how to use contrast. Long time ago. We had multiple colors on our pallets to create forms with exciting lines....(I studied Art) Cool! RJ
JAN 20, 2020 - 03:26 AM