how to choose painting colors

how to choose
painting colors

create beautiful, harmonious paintings

do your paintings have a disconcerting look?

  • Learn how to choose painting colors

There are so many colors to choose from. Which colors are the best ones to use?

You can create harmonious paintings when you know how to select the paint colors.

How to choose painting colors for beautiful, harmonious paintingsTwo Stripies - Banded Butterfly Fish

you are not the only person concerned about colors

When I was learning in oil painting workshops, I just used the colors the instructor said.


Then just before the turn of the century, about twenty years ago, someone gave me a Christmas present with watercolor paintings on it.

I was intrigued and I wanted to give watercolor a try.

Back then I never had heard of odorless stuff to clean my oil paint brushes. It was winter and I didn't want to open the window for ventilation.

So watercolors - here I came!

color pages **you are here

Color Wheel

My Favorite Colors

**How To Choose Your Colors

How To Mix Colors

Color Schemes


are you making these painting mistakes?

  • I started buying watercolor paints.

Someone gave me a used rectangular watercolor palette. I filled it with paints. But it was a bit cumbersome to me, I was always hunting for certain colors.

So I purchased a round palette that held twenty-four colors arranged like the color wheel. There was extra space in the corners to hold an additional eight colors.

It was easier to organize and find the colors in the new palette. I was so pleased with the new palette.

  • I filled the new palette with lots of beautiful colors.

do your paintings look helter skelter?

I liked all the beautiful colors, but it was confusing to paint with so many colors.

If you use too many different colors in one painting, the painting has no cohesiveness.

The painting is confusing because there is no place for the eye to rest. The viewer's eyes jump from one color to another in a disconcerting manner.

I needed to figure out how to choose painting colors!   Humm -

So I started reading, studying and pouring thru my painting library.

I needed to learn how to choose painting colors.

i had to come up with a plan!


the plan - choose paint colors like a professional

After studying the work of professional artists and reading everything I could get my hands on about color - I came up with a plan.

#1 - make a color wheel

I made myself a color wheel from the watercolor paints I was using.

I drew and cut out a circle of mat board.

Poster board or any heavy type of paper would work fine for making your own color wheel.

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

I made this years ago and I still use it today for all my paintings.

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

I used watercolors to make my personal color wheelI Made A Color Wheel
From My Palette Colors

#2 - make color scheme templates

Certain color schemes are commonly used by the professional artists. I cut out the color scheme templates from newsprint.

These are images of the templates. Today, almost twenty years later, I still use the same templates.

Complimentary color scheme
Double compliment color scheme
choosing paint colors with a split compliment color scheme
analogous paint colors are next to each other on the color wheel
A triad color scheme uses the primary colors
Semi-triad paint color scheme
The compliment plus half left color scheme is one of my favorites.
One of my favorite color schemes the compliment plus half right.

#3 - how to choose painting colors

Look for the main color of the focal point of your proposed painting. If the painting is a landscape, look for the overall main color of the landscape.

  • Put the color schemes over the main color you will be using.

Try the various color schemes over the color wheel, always including the main color in the scheme.

  • Choose a color scheme with additional colors that suit the rest of the proposed painting.

Mix any additional colors from your selected three or four colors.

  • Make sure the color scheme includes complimentary colors for mixing dark values.

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

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

I hang this on the wall to keep it in front of me when I am painting. Then I am not tempted to use all the other colors from my palette.

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

I have been using these templates for many years now to choose the colors for my paintings.

Today I still use the same color wheel and color schemes I made years ago.

you can choose your painting colors like the professionals.

  • Make a color wheel from your paints.
  • Use a template to choose your color schemes.
  • You will have beautiful, harmonious paintings.

more painting pages


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  2. Color Wheel
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