How do we choose paint colors for our new painting? There are so many colors to choose from! We would like to use them all.
When I was learning to oil paint, I didn't know what colors to use. So, I just used the colors the instructor suggested.
When I started watercolor, I filled a rectangular palette with lots of paint colors. It was a bit cumbersome. I was always hunting for the colors.
So, I got a round palette. It held 38 colors arranged like the color wheel. I filled it with colors. It was easy to organize and find the colors.
But it was still confusing. There were so many colors! Which colors should I use for each painting?
Studying the work of professional artists and reading everything about how to choose paint colors, gave me some revelations.
The revelations were;
Using too many different colors in one painting can cause confusion. All the various colors don't give the eyes a place to rest.
Even if all the colors are very attractive, many different colors won't work well together in one painting.
The viewer's eyes jump from one color to another in a disconcerting manner. Fewer colors in one painting create peace and harmony.
I came up with a plan ---
About 30 years ago, I learned this method of choosing the colors for each individual painting. Today the method still works for me.
Make a color wheel. Poster board or any heavy type of paper will work fine for making a color wheel.
Paint the color wheel with the colors we use the most often.
There are twelve colors on the color wheel, a warm and cool version of each of the six basic rainbow colors.
There was still a debate in my mind about exactly which colors to use. The colors out in the middle of the wheel were some of the alternate colors still on my palette.
This is the color wheel I made over thirty years ago. It's a little worn, but I still use it today for selecting the colors in both my watercolor and oil paintings.
This seem like a bit of work, but believe me it is very worthwhile.
Professional artists often use these eight color schemes.
These are the templates I cut out of newsprint years ago. Today I still use these same templates to choose the paint colors for each individual painting.
First - Choose the main color in the focal point according to our reasons for doing the painting.
Most artists have a good idea of what they want to convey in each painting. Do we want a happy or sad painting, a bright or somber one, do we want nature's natural colors, etc.
Second - Choose the second color.
Individually place each color scheme template over the color wheel. Place each template so the selected focal color shows through a cut-out in the template.
The second color we choose will almost always be a complimentary color.
The only exceptions would be in the monochromatic and analogous color schemes.
A scheme with complimentary colors will make it easy to mix neutral, dark colors for the painting.
We will mix black, brown or grey from the selected color scheme. The mixed colors will always harmonize with the rest of the painting.
They won't look out of place because they came from the original color scheme. Plus, we can save some money because we don't have to buy any neutral colors.
Third - Choose an additional color. This color will normally be used in the smallest amounts in the painting.
Some painting color schemes may include another color or two like the analogous scheme.
Here is how I chose the painting color scheme for the turtle painting.
First, I chose orange-red for the focal point, turtle. I used Burnt Sienna for the orange.
Second, the compliment blue-green was the perfect color for the tropical water. Mixing the two colors made the dark colors for the turtle and the ocean floor.
Then, a third color, yellow was great for the sunlight areas of the painting.
After we select a painting color scheme, we will know what colors to put out on our palette.
Note, a straight compliment color scheme will consist of only two colors. But we can mix a huge number of colors from two.
Keep the color scheme in sight while painting, as a reminder to not use any other colors. If we want more colors, mix them from the selected colors.
A color scheme of limited colors will keep us on track, so we don't paint confusing colors. It will make a painting that displays 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!
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