Graphic Designer & Illustrator


A place to share my point of view on the arts and entertainment. You can also catch me on Twitter @emerycmiller

Color Adventures: The Tetrad

I WANTED TO BREAK AWAY  from the standard Yellow Red Blue (or Split Primary) palette that I've been using for most of my landscapes. One afternoon, my friend Tony Weinstock suggested that I try a tetradic color palette. The following paragraphs will break down the techniques I used to achieve this. 

It's spring in California, so I know I need green. I started with two greens–Permanent Green (a warm green) and Winsor Green (a cool green). Opposite green on the 12 color wheel is red. I then chose two reds–Cad Red (a warm red) and Alizarin Crimson (a cool red). This is actually a Tetradic Color Scheme, consisting of two complementary pairs. A relatively warm and cool version of opposite colors. See infographic below.

All the areas in light, such as the lawn, the tree on the left, and the bench, are warm green and red mixtures, and the areas in shade are cool red and green mixtures. The violet tree on the right in full shade, was mixed with crimson, white and  maybe some green to neutralize it. It's relatively cool by contrast. The takeaway is that you don't always have to use blue for shadows. In fact, according to Nathan Fowkes, shadows in nature are warm, with the exception of the bluest glaciers.

I cheated a little because I already had a yellow orange ground ready to go in my pad. I let some orange peek through for interest. Notice that I didn't use any pure white. The resulting painting is cartoony and way out of the ordinary, but unusually pleasing. A fun experiment in color mixing! Share your Tetradic Color experiences in the comments below.