Splitting Things Up

I’ve had fun lately with colors and acyrlic pouring. You’ve seen a monochromatic pouring I completed recently, and you’ve looked at the complementary color scheme I used for for Christmas pourings. Now, I’m moving on to slightly split complementaries — and I say slightly because I’m not attempting to match colors exactly to those on the color wheel. My color studies are for fun, so I’m quickly grabbing whatever colors I have and using them rather than spending a lot of time mixing and matching exactly.

What is a split-complementary color scheme? Let’s start first with complements. Complementary colors are those that are opposite one another on a color wheel. Most of us probably learn these basic pairings in grade school. I had a very limited art education, but it did include information on complementaries.

Red – Green

Yellow – Violet

Blue – Orange

Each pairing is composed of a primary and a secondary. Just as an aside, if you combine these two opposing colors in oil painting, you’ll get a lovely brown. The red-green pairing is so common, in fact, that it’s actually referred to as “Christmas Brown” by many oil painters. As another aside, take these browns and add white to create skin tones for portraits.

But, that’s neither here nor there. The acrylic pouring I’m sharing today is not complementary, but split complementary — or reasonably close. A split complementary you see, takes one of the two colors in the pairing and splits it up, moving to the colors on either side of its position on the color wheel. In this instance, I’m using a traditional wheel with 12 colors:

When it came time to choose colors for my acrylic pour, I chose red as my primary. Green would be its complement, so splitting that up, I had red, blue green, and yellow green for my color scheme. Again, though, I didn’t spend time carefully mixing the perfect blue green or yellow green. I just looked through my box of Apple Barrel craft acrylics, and chose three that were fairly close. Those paints were:

  • Cardinal Crimson
  • Tuscan Teal
  • Limeade

I’ll admit that from the start, they didn’t sound too appealing, but this was all for fun, and so — along with the addition of white — I started my pour. Here’s the result:

Maybe the colors are a bit odd in combination, but I actually like this pouring. I think I like it because it’s a bit different. We don’t ordinarily see these colors together, so they definitely attract attention. The pouring is also brighter and bolder than many of my previous attempts. I was quite surprised when my husband saw this and commented on it — favorably. He’s not into anything abstract, so it’s unusual for a piece to catch his eye.

For quick reference, here are two additional “split complementary” schemes based on primary colors.

First, with yellow as a primary:

  • Yellow
  • Blue-Violet
  • Red-Violet

And, using blue as a primary:

  • Blue
  • Red-Orange
  • Yellow-Orange

Split complementary schemes can also be based off of the secondary colors and their “splits” across the color wheel.

Using orange:

  • Orange
  • Blue-Green
  • Blue-Violet

Using green:

  • Green
  • Red-Violet
  • Red-Orange

Using violet:

  • Violet
  • Yellow-Orange
  • Yellow-Green

NOTE: Tertiary colors — a mixture of primary and secondary colors — are always correctly named with the primary color first, so we have, for instance Yellow Orange, not Orange Yellow. You probably already know that. I didn’t know that until I started learning color theory a few years ago. I found it interesting so I thought I would pass the information on.

I’m definitely enjoying this chance to play with colors using my inexpensive acrylics. There are so many interesting schemes to EXPLORE… and that’s what this year is all about for me, remember. Exploring, uncovering, digging out facts, and finding artistic treasure along the way.

Now, which scheme should I try next? Picture me gleefully rubbing my hands together as I eye all those colorful acrylic paints.





    1. Thanks. I tried another “split complementary” yesterday. It turned out to be the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen! I was using black with the colors. It just didn’t work at all, but it became the inspiration for Tuesday’s blog post. 🙂 It will be publishing in a few minutes.


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