choosing colours
Art Tips

Choosing Colours For Your Paintings!

Hi and welcome to my blog!! I often get asked ‘How do you start to pick out colours to paint?’ So, I thought I’d write some notes on choosing colours to see if it helps anyone.  

choosing colours pastels

Choosing Colours – Where To Start

There are generally two schools of thought when it comes to when you choose your colours: 

  1. The Planners – these artists spend hours and often days contemplating their reference image to decide exactly which colours they want to use and lay them out prior to putting any colour on their canvas/paper. 
  1. The Wingers – these artists just want to start painting and will have a good idea in their minds as to what they want to use but will pick colours out as their painting takes shape. 

Then there’s the middle(ish) ground which is where I reside!  

choosing colours pastel painting of cat
Pastel Painting Of A Cat – work In progress

My Approach

I have pretty much zero patience (just ask my husband – we’re having an adult discussion about a purchasing decision and while he’s still researching and mulling it over I’ve got the item on prime delivery arriving the next morning!! This can cause some ‘interesting’ discussions!) 

However I have also had several ‘learning’ paintings where I’ve picked up a spur of the moment colour only to use it and completely ruin a perfectly good painting – and why does this always happen when you’re nearly finished???

So my middle ground is to look at my reference image and pick out the main colours.  

Always using a dark, mid-tone and light shade for each colour – this gives depth and will aid with the three dimensional feel of your painting. 

Before settling on these colours I test them on my test paper – tape a scrap/strip of the same paper you are using on to the side of your easel next to your painting, this way you are viewing your colour choice with the same lighting as your painting. 

Working from dark to light I place the tonal colours on the paper individually and layered so that I can see if they’re going to work. 

Once I’m into my painting and I realise there’s another shade in there I can test it out on the test paper before putting it on my painting – reducing errors and massive amounts of frustration and choice language!! 

I’ve recorded a little video to illustrate what I mean! 

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