artist painting color schemes

take the stress out of color selection

  • Select your color schemes with confidence.

Artists love color. But, there is such a bewildering array of colors.

Limit the number of colors in each painting.

Your paintings will have more cohesion and harmony.

Your viewers will find them pleasurable to look at.

A good color scheme will use only three or four colors for each painting.

Any additional colors are then mixed.

The paintings will exhibit color harmony when any additional colors are mixed from the original colors.

Selecting Color Schemes for your paintings by Carol MayCreate Harmonious Paintings

artist painting color schemes

take the stress out of color selection

  • Select your color schemes with confidence.

Artists love color. But, there is such a bewildering array of colors.

Limit the number of colors in each painting.

Your paintings will have more cohesion and harmony.

Your viewers will find them pleasurable to look at.

A good color scheme will use only three or four colors for each painting.

Any additional colors are then mixed.

The paintings will exhibit color harmony when any additional colors are mixed from the original colors.

Selecting Color Schemes for your paintings by Carol MayCreate Harmonious Paintings

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the secrets of color selection

first you need a color wheel

  • The color wheel is our key to mastering color.
  • The best option is to paint a color wheel from the colors you use on your palette.
  • Then you automatically know what colors to use from your palette after you have selected your color scheme.
Paint a color wheel with your favorite paint colorsPaint a color wheel

you may purchase a ready-made color wheel



make some color templates

Make yourself templates of the common color schemes painting artists use today.

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

Pictured here are the templates I made years ago. And I still use them today for every painting.

The color schemes I use most often are the Compliment + 1/2 Left and the Compliment + 1/2 Right.

My second most used template is the Split Compliment.



how to choose your painting colors

Try each template over the color wheel to find a template that suits your individual painting.

first choose the color of the main subject

Here the main subject was the turtle. Burnt sienna, a red-orange was his dominant color.

Then choose a complimentary color

The compliment of burnt sienna is the blue-green. We need complimentary colors to mix the dark colors.

choose a third color

Yellow was great for the sunlight areas of the painting.

Complimentary plus a half right is one of my favorite painting color schemes, artist Carol MayCompliment + One Half Left

Some color schemes may include another color or two.



get ready to paint

  • Clip the template to your color wheel.
  • Refer to it and lay out the selected colors on your palette.

The color schemes will keep you on track and give you beautiful, harmonious paintings. 






artist's color schemes

These have been my go-to color schemes for over twenty years and I am happy to share.

  • Let your artistic license run wild.
  • Painting is fun!

monochromatic

One of my earliest painting lessons was to do a painting with only one color.

The lesson was to teach us to see and use values in our paintings.

Monochromatic paintings are done with only one color.

White will give you various tints of the color.

Adding black will create various shades of the color.

This orangutan is basically orange, so it is the closest monochromatic painting from my current work.

Monochromatic painting of a Baby OrangutanBaby Orangutan


complimentary colors

Compliments are any two colors directly across the color wheel from each other.

Complimentary colors can be used for high contrast paintings.

Complimentary colors are also used for mixing darks and other neutral colors.

In this painting I used the color yellow-green with its compliment red-violet.

White softened the colors for a lovely rose painting.

Using Complimentary Colors for a flower painting of white roses by artist Carol MayPeace


double compliment

Here I used the same two compliments as the rose painting.

But to give the painting more variety, I added a color next to each compliment.

This gave me some brighter colors for the highlights by adding yellow.

The addition of purple gave more depth to the darks.

Some artists call this a rectangular color scheme.



split compliment

A split compliment color scheme uses the colors on each side of the direct compliment.

Here I chose orange and new gamboge yellow with ultramarine blue.

Blue and orange are compliments for making the darks to darken the feathers, his dark beak and eye.

Yellow was used for the highlights on his chest.



compliment + one half right

Compliment plus a half left (the turtle painting, above) and compliment plus a right half are my favorite color schemes.

Complimentary colors are any two colors directly across from each other on the color wheel.

Move two spaces to the left or right for a third color.

The additional colors in the painting are mixed.

Orange and blue are mixed to create the browns.

The greens are mixed with the yellow and blue.

Compliment plus a half right used for a wren with morning glory flowersWren with Morning Glories


triad

The triad painting color scheme uses three colors spaced equally around the Color Wheel.

A triad color scheme gives a balanced painting.

Turn the color scheme template and select any three equally spaced colors that suit your subject.

This painting uses the primary colors red, blue and yellow.

The greens and dark colors were easily mixed from these primary colors.

Using a triad of primary colors - art by Carol MayCardinal 'n' Dogwood


semi-triad

The semi-triad painting color schemes use two primary colors with the addition of a secondary color.

Primary colors are always ideal for mixing other colors.

If you use single pigment colors, the secondary colors are also good for mixing.

This azalea painting uses blue, violet-red and yellow-green.



analogous colors

An analogous color scheme is made of three or more adjoining colors anywhere on the color wheel.

They may be either warm or cool colors or a combination.

Analogous colors have automatic color harmony because they are adjoining colors on the color wheel.

This sea shell painting is from actual shells. Their natural colors were in perfect harmony.

Sea Shells painted with analogous colors by artist Carol MaySea Shells

now it is your turn -

  • Make your own color wheel and painting color scheme templates.
  • Or purchase a Color Wheel with Color Schemes by Grumbacher.



may you have many beautiful paintings!




more about color

  • Landscape Paintings for Sale

    You can bring peace and beauty into your home with original paintings and fine art reproductions of landscape paintings for sale by the artist.

  • Choose Paint Colors for each painting

    How do professionals choose colors for paintings? Learn how to choose paint colors and create beautiful, harmonious paintings with only three or four colors.

  • Choosing Paint Colors for your Artist's Palette

    Choosing paint colors for your artist’s palette. A warm and cool version of the six rainbow colors are an excellent choice of colors for your palette.

  • How to Mix Paint Colors

    Mix paint colors to make your paintings sing with color. Painting will be fun and you’ll save money by mixing your own greens, blacks, warm and cool colors, etc.

  • Color Wheel - The Artists' Best Friend

    The color wheel is the artists’ best friend and favorite tool. Use primary, secondary, tertiary, warm, cool and complimentary colors for successful paintings.

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