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Contrast:- Contrast refers to arrangement of opposite elements to create visual interest, impact and drama. Artist can employ contrast to direct viewer’s attention to a particular point of interest. Different colors may be used to create color contrast in an image. In fact more than one types of color contrast may be identified in a composition.

Types of color contrasts:- Following types of contrast may be employed.
1. Contrast of Hue

2. Contrast of value (light-dark)

3. Warm-cool contrast

4. Complimentary contrast

5. Simultaneous contrast

6. Saturation contrast

7. Contrast of extension (proportion)

In discussion of individual types of contrast, you may find more than one types of contrast, but concentrate on the point which is under discussion

1. Contrast of Hue:- Contrast of hue is created by using any type of color harmony discussed earlier (Anatomy of colors II). Strongest contrast is created by using fully saturated colors in complimentarysplint compliments or triangular color harmonies.In the images below, first image show a contrast of three primary colors in full intensity of colors. The second image shows the same colors with a low contrast as the colors have been desaturated.

A lower level of contrast may be created by two methods, either by desaturated colors or by employing analogous color harmony even with fully saturated colors as shown below.

2. Contrast of Value:- Contrast of value depends on relative lightness-darkness on gray scale i.e. depends on tinting or shading of a color. In the images below, left sided image appear to have low contrast due to addition of tint.

In the images below the second image appears to have a low contrast due to addition of shade in it.

The following images show the effect of desaturated on analogous colors scheme.

Light colors on a light background will always appear darker than the same light color on a darker background. Conversely, darker colors appear lighter on a darker background than the same color on a lighter background.

The is illustrated by the following diagrams.

In ‘ posterization’, each band of values is identified and assigned a separate color. In this way, posterization can be used as a tool to define form in an image by use of value contrast.

3. Warm–Cool


color contrast:- Psychologically warm colors are associated with feeling of energy, excitement and they ‘pop up’ whereas cool colors give a sensation of calm and tranquility and give a feeling of ‘receding in to background. In the following picture by Mike Grandmaison, placing warm colors in front and cool in the background adds to the spatial depth of the landscape.

The earliest example of using warm-cool color contrast can be seen in Baroque’s paintings in 17th century . One of his landscapes is as given below.

It should be kept in mind that the perception of warm color ‘popping up’ and cool color ‘receding’ is T

lost if colors are not fully saturated. In the following two images, warm color appear to ‘come forward’ in the first image but appear to ‘recede back’ in the second image where colors are not fully saturated.

4. Complimentary color contrast: Complimentary colors are those which lie exact opposite to each others on color wheel. Most of the time they occur in pairs of warm-cool as well except  the borderline hues of magenta and green. The use of complimentary color contrast create a dramatic effect and has been used by painters and photographers effectively.

Van Gogh in his description of his painting ‘The Night Café, Arles’, 1888

I have tried to express the terrible passions of humanity by means of red and green. The room is blood red and dark yellow with a green billiard table in the middle; there are four citron yellow lamps with a glow of orange and green. Everywhere there is a clash and contrast of the most disparate reds and greens….’

However,  the jarring nature of this visual effect is exactly that – jarring. So, if you want to create a painting that is more harmonious you can still use these principles but on a more subdued level.

Some of the photographs shows these types of contrast are given below. First is  from Jay Patel photography.

The second picture is of Mikelle Moore

This section ends here as it was getting prolonged. Next time Other three types of color contrasts would be discussed


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Replies to This Discussion

Fantastic description, very useful, thanks so much


Thanks for appreciation

Good article Aamir. Picture Social has removed the ability to add a picture in a reply. This will reduce participation.

I am glad you liked it Ron. I think there is something wrong with you computer as I still can see an icon to add picture in reply. Some times back this happened to me as well and I had to post a question on main page. Camera clicker was helpful in guiding me.

Ultimately it turned out that my java was outdated and needed to be updated. 

Here is one of my paintings from a photo that I think is an example for this subject.  The green has variation in saturation and the red and yellow contrasts against cooler colors of blue and green. 

Yes I agree, nice selection of colors and contrast. This has given it a vibrant look which goes well with the festive mood of the picture.


Amazing Deals!

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