Beginning Drawing Lesson 6 – Color Schemes

colored pencils

(Click HERE to download this lesson for printing)

A Quick Review

Let’s quickly review what we have learned so far…

First of all, we have discussed four of the seven elements of the visual arts:  line, value, shape, and color.

We learned that colors have three properties… hue, value, and intensity.

Hue is the property that gives it is name… such as blue, or orange, or red-violet.

Value, just as in a black and white artwork, refers to the lightness or darkness of the color.

Intensity refers to the strength or purity of the color…  you lessen the intensity of a color by adding it’s opposite.

Colors on the color wheel can be divided into warm colors or cool colors, depending on if it is found on the orange half of the color wheel, or the blue half.

Colors can also be classified as primary, secondary, or tertiary colors.

Primary colors are the main colors from which all other colors are mixed… the PRIME colors.  These are red, blue, and yellow.

Secondary colors are made by mixing two primary colors together equally.  These are orange (made from yellow and red), green (made from yellow and blue), and violet (made from red and blue).

Tertiary colors, also called Intermediate colors, are the colors made by mixing equal amounts of a primary with a secondary.  These include yellow-orange, red-orange, red-violet, blue-violet, blue-green, and yellow-green.

Another name for violet is purple.


Color Schemes

Through the ages, artists and designers have determines different colors schemes that are the “most pleasing to the eye”.   Although there are others, we are going to look at four of these color schemes.


Complementary Colors

Complementary colors are those which are placed directly opposite each other through the middle of the color wheel.

Complementary colors create a lot of contrast in your design or art work.  A lot of sports teams use opposite colors in their team logos, such as the Denver Broncos… blue and orange.

Complementary colors

Here is an example of two complementary colors, red and green.  When using a complementary color scheme you would use different values of the two opposite colors.  That would include green, dark greens, light greens, red, dark reds, and light reds.

Notice that I didn’t include red orange or blue green as those are different colors on the color wheel.

Any color scheme can also include white, black, and gray… as these are not part of the color wheel.


Analogous Colors

The next color scheme is made up of analogous colors… those that are neighboring on the color wheel.  When selecting analogous colors, you could include three, four, or five neighboring colors.

The example below shows three analogous colors, red, red-violet, and violet.

Analagous colors

Analogous colors create harmony in your art work, as these colors are closely related to each other.

Again, any color scheme can also include white, black, and gray… as these are not part of the color wheel.


Triad Colors

Triad colors divide the color wheel into thirds.  Triad colors create balance in your artworks.

Here is an example of a triad color scheme… the secondary triad, using orange, green, and violet.

Triad Colors

There is also a primary triad: red, blue, and yellow.

There are two tertiary triads:  red-violet, yellow-orange, and blue-green is one.

And red-orange, yellow-green, and blue-violet is the other.


Monochromatic Color Scheme

The last color scheme we will look at uses monochromatic colors… different values of only one color.

The word monochromatic can be broken down into two parts…

  • MONO means ONE…
  • CHROMATIC means coming from a COLOR


Here is a monochromatic color wheel showing different shade of each of the twelve colors on the color wheel.

The featured monochromatic color scheme is one using different shades of the color blue-violet.


Assignment #1

The first assignment is to complete the color schemes worksheet…  Here’s the download link for the worksheet:

        Click to Download ===>    Color Schemes Worksheet

The first step is to select one color from the color wheel as your base color…  all of your color schemes in this exercise will include that color.

I suggest that you choose either a primary or a secondary color, as you will have less colors to mix as you complete your worksheet.

In my example, I chose the color blue.

After choosing your base color, using colored pencils, shade in each design with the colors appropriate to that color scheme.

In the complementary color scheme, for example, you would choose whatever color is the opposite of your base color on the color wheel.  In my example, I used different values of blue and orange.  Of course, with any color scheme you can also use black, white, or gray.

Here are all four of my examples…

Color Scheme Worksheet

As you can see, although each design’s picture is the same, the different color schemes of give them a very unique appearance.


Assignment #2

Complete a multi-media drawing with ink and colored pencils using the color scheme of your choice.

(The colors do NOT necessarily need to be the same ones you used in your color schemes worksheet)


Learn the steps to best complete your drawing:

  1. Sketching lightly… lay out the basic shapes of the subject
  2. Continue the drawing by refining the contours of the subject
  3. Ink your contour lines with a black felt tip pen
  4. Clean up any unwanted construction lines with white eraser
  5. Use colored pencils to develop tone (shading)… select your colors based on a specific color scheme of your choice


Below is an artwork by one of my former students, Ralph Feather, using a Monochromatic Color Scheme. His artwork was done in mixed media as well, but included pencil and tempera paints instead of colored pencils.


Ralph Feather