Learn how to choose paint colors to create beautiful, harmonious paintings

  • How do we choose paint colors for each painting?
  • There are so many colors to choose from!

you're not the only one concerned about colors!

When I was learning to oil paint I didn't know what colors to use. So I just used the colors the instructor suggested.

are you making these mistakes?

About twenty years ago, someone gave me a watercolor calendar. It was intriguing and I wanted to try watercolors. So, I jumped in full-force!

  • Someone gave me a rectangular watercolor palette that I filled with paints. But it was a bit cumbersome. I was always hunting for colors.

So I got a round palette like the color wheel that would hold 38 colors.

  • I started buying watercolor paints and filled the new palette with lots of beautiful colors. It was easy to organize and find the colors in the new palette.

But ... it was still confusing with so many colors to choose.

How to choose paint colors for beautiful, harmonious paintings."Two Stripies" has only 3 colors; yellow, orange and blue.

choose paint colors for harmonious paintings

  • Too many different colors in one painting, cause confusion because there is no place for the eye to rest.

The viewer's eyes jump from one color to another in a disconcerting manner.

how could i choose the colors for each painting? Hmm ....

  • Reading thru my painting library I learned how to learn how to choose paint colors.

After studying the work of professional artists and reading everything I could get my hands on about color.

I came up with a plan ---

how to choose paint colors

#1 - make a color wheel

I used watercolors to make my personal color wheelMake a color wheel from your paints.

First, I made a color wheel.

Poster board or any heavy type of paper would work fine to make your color wheel.

I painted twelve colors on the color wheel from the paints I was using.

There is a warm and cool version of each of the six basic rainbow colors.

This color wheel is over twenty years old. I still use it today for choosing the colors for my watercolor and oil paintings.

#2 - make color scheme templates

  • Cut out color scheme templates the same size as your color wheel.

Professional artists often use these color schemes.

These are the templates I cut out of newsprint years ago. Today I still use these same templates to select my paint colors.

Complimentary color scheme
Double compliment color scheme
Choosing colors with a split compliment color scheme

the following 2 schemes are the ones I use the most often.

The compliment plus half left color scheme is one of my favorites.
My other favorite color scheme is the compliment plus half right.
A triad color scheme uses the primary colors.
Semi-triad paint color scheme
Analogous paint colors are next to each other on the color wheel.

#3 - select your paint colors

Try the different color scheme templates over your color wheel to select the paint colors for an individual painting.Choose a Color Scheme

Decide on the main color of the focal point of your proposed painting.

  • Place various color schemes over your color wheel. Always include the main color.
  • Choose a color scheme with additional colors that suit the rest of your proposed painting.

A scheme with complimentary colors makes it easy to mix dark colors.

After the color scheme is selected, I paper clip it to my color wheel. Only my selected three or four colors will show.

I keep the selection in front of me while I'm painting. Then I am not tempted to use all the other colors from my palette.

  • A limited number of colors in each painting gives the painting cohesiveness and color harmony.

Today I still use the same color wheel and templates to choose the colors for my paintings.

If it works for me, it will work for you!

choose paint colors like the professionals.

  • Make a color wheel from your paints.
  • Use the templates to choose your color schemes.

you can create harmonious paintings!

more about color

  • How to Mix Colors

    Learn how to mix colors. Mix your colors, don’t buy them. You will save money at the paint store. Create color harmony in your paintings by mixing your colors.

  • Choosing Artist Paint

    How to choose the best artist paint for your palette. Single pigment paint colors in a warm and cool version of the six rainbow colors are an excellent choice.

  • Artist Color Wheel

    The artist color wheel is their best friend and favorite tool. We use primary, secondary, tertiary, warm, cool and complimentary colors for successful paintings.