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Painting Art Ezine: Download Your Christmas Present
December 16, 2022

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How to Choose a Painting Color Scheme

Color is one of the awesome joys of painting!

As great as color is, too much color is not so good. Artists can get into trouble when we buy so many paint colors. Our paintings get into trouble when we put all the colors into one painting.

When I first started painting, I would try to use all the colors I owned. If I bought it - it should be used, right? WRONG!

We all learn from experience. Good art advice can prevent a lot of pitfalls.

Color is fun, but too many colors in one painting make the viewers feel uncomfortable. A good painting will display color harmony.

How do we get color harmony in our paintings?

We use only three or four colors for each painting. How do we do that? Select a painting color scheme and stick to it.

Three or four colors may not sound like many colors. Any additional colors, plus the neutral colors are mixed from your selected colors.

All the painting colors are related to the original three or four colors. They automatically display a beautiful color harmony.

How to choose a color scheme.

The recommendation is to make yourself a color wheel from the paint colors you keep in stock. The second best option is to purchase a color wheel. A color wheel from the colors you use to paint is the better option.

Then make yourself some color scheme cut-outs the same size as your color wheel.

Download the PDF file (below) of 8 popular color schemes and print your own color scheme templates.

How to use the color schemes

First consider your subject. What do you want to be the main color in the painting?

Suppose you wanted to paint a sunflower. The main color would likely be yellow. The painting could be done with a triad of colors, yellow, red and blue. A semi-triad would also work, yellow, red and green.

It is always best to choose a couple of complimentary colors. Complimentary colors will enable us to mix our dark and neutral colors.

All of the color schemes include compliments, except for the analogous color scheme. A monochromatic scheme obviously would not have a compliment. Monochromatic paintings are painted with the one color, plus white and black.

Red and green are compliments that will easily make dark colors. Blue and orange are another set of compliments that will make a warmer dark brown color that is suitable for the sunflower. What about the yellow for the flower?

Blue, orange and yellow will enable us to get all the colors in the sunflower. We can easily mix a variety of darks and greys for the shadow and highlights in the center of the flower.

Yellow and orange give us the variety of colors in the petals. When we want a darker orange, we just touch it with a bit of blue. And vice versa, use a bit of orange to subdue the blue sky color.

You might be wondering about the green leaves? Blue and yellow easily make green. More yellow makes bright greens and more blue makes darker greens. A bit of orange will calm down the greens, so they look more natural.

Selecting a color scheme

• Choose the main color for your subject.

• Add a complimentary color.

• Choose an additional color or two.

Oil and acrylic painters will always have white on their palette. Do not use any tube blacks or greys. Always mix them from the chosen color scheme. This produces color harmony in our paintings.

Download the PDF file of eight painting color schemes.

Print them out and use them with your color wheel to select the colors for your next painting.

See examples of Painting Color Schemes.

Next month “Selecting Watercolors."

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