9Muses Art Center

Key Terms:

  •  Analogous Colors – these are colors that are adjacent, or next to each other, on the color wheel.

           Complementary Colors – these are colors that are directly opposed to each other on the color wheel.

  •  When thinking about analogous and complementary colors on the color wheel, it's best to limit yourself to primary and secondary colors. A primary color is a color used in the mixing of other colors (i.e. red, blue, and yellow), while a secondary color is a result of mixing your primaries (orange, violet, and green).

  • On the color wheel, orange and yellow are analogous. Orange and blue, on the other hand, are complementary. Mixing analogous colors can lighten or darken a color while maintaining that color's intensity. Adding a complementary color will typically darken or lighten a color while dulling its intensity.

  • Colors also have warm or cool properties. Warm colors include red, orange and yellow, while blue, violet and green are cool colors. Warm colors are often associated with heat, anger, intensity, and passion. Cool colors typically are associated with cold, sadness, and calm. The same color can also have warm and cool variations, for example, a warm red will lean more toward orange in its intensity, while cool red will have more of a blue or purple quality.



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Acrylic Composition

The most important part of a painting is developing the composition. The placement of elements is essential to keep a viewer interested. The Rule of Thirds refers to the placing of important compositional elements (ex. horizon, focal point) along imaginary lines that split the piece into thirds. 

Encouraging the eye to move in a circular pattern around the page is done by including both horizontal and vertical shapes. Also try to break up space by using a variety of heights, angles, and texture. The more thought you put into your piece the better the final outcome will be.

Positive and Negative Space

  • Positive space refers to the focal point for the primary subject of a painting.

  • Negative space refers to the area around the main subject. Creating interesting negative space is just as important as interest in the positive space.


Depicting any object or location accurately requires placing the elements properly within their surroundings. This requires the artist to consider how people perceive distance, size, and direction of movement. These are the pieces that help determine proper perspective.

Perspective Drawings have what is called a horizon line. This is usually considered the visual point that the viewer is seeing in the distance from his eye level. A horizon line, whether visually there or not is necessary to create perspective in a picture.

One Point Perspective - drawing means that the picture has a single vanishing point and lines remain parallel to one another. All lines leading toward the horizon should converge at this single point. This point usually falls opposite the viewer's eye on or just above the horizon line. (ex. A train that appears to vanish in the distance).

Two Point Perspective - refers to having two vanishing points located arbitrarily on the horizon line. In two-point perspective, only the vertical planes will remain parallel to one another. This is necessary for example when depicting a view of a building from two different sides simultaneously such as from a corner view.

Three Point Perspective - has two vanishing points on the horizon line and one additional third vanishing point from way below or way above the object to be depicted. None of the planes in the picture are parallel.

example: When the viewed object is observing from below (also called a worm's eye view) the vanishing point moves in a downward direction from far above. These cause the bottom to be larger and the top to be smaller. Such as a tall building viewed from the ground looking up.

Distance and Detail

Certain qualities work together in depicting depth and perspective. Subjects appear to be smaller, darker or more subdued when they are far away. Texture and detail become more prominent the closer an object becomes. Things also appear brighter and larger when up close. Quick layout sketches can help you make better decisions about size and composition. Distance can also be created by the use of shadows and highlights. These help create roundness and a 3-dimensional appearance. Choosing the best colors for your picture is important in determining the mood your picture will have and if it accurately depicts distance.

If you would like to learn to paint with acrylics, come in and see us. This is just one of the fine arts classes taught at 9Muses Art Center. Classes are taught by professionally trained staff.  Check our Calendar for more information.


The most important element of painting is understanding color. All colors are created from some  combination of the 3 primary colors: Red, Yellow, and, Blue

Secondary colors are created by mixing together equal parts of 2 primary colors.

Secondary colors:

  • Red + Yellow = Orange
  • Yellow + Blue = Green
  • Blue + Red = Violet


When learning to mix colors while painting, few tools are as important as the color wheel. A color wheel helps by identifying complementary and analogous colors and can aid in deciding how to mix colors together.

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