Choosing your Color Palette / by Angela Bandurka

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When I get a commission to do a painting, after we talk and decide on the subject/theme, I'll send the client some sketches which then help us figure out aspect ratio which then helps determine a price for the piece. 

After that's done, I have get down to business. The first question is: what colors will I use to create the commission? I have a number of colors I could choose from, and I don't want to be too literal. After all, as artists, we have some flexibility in choosing our colors for a number of factors including mood, time of day, and even to match decor (many artists are horrified at this, but I take it to be a fun challenge :)


You don't have to slug it out alone! Whether you're just starting out, or are a professional in your field, inspiration for your color palette can come from anywhere: a painting you've always admired, or a poster on your wall, a piece of fabric, or an arrangement of items on a table. You can even buy books with coordinating color palettes in them. Some examples include: Color, by Betty Edwards; The Secret Language of Color; Color Scheme Bible; Color For Designers... and there are many more out there.

After a while you'll find yourself falling back on a few favourite palettes, but in the meantime it's just too much fun to play. 

Once I've settled on a couple of viable options as inspiration, I'll do mini color sketches in my sketchbook. Here is an example from a recent commission, you can even see my notes about what colors I used:

Click image to see it full sized.
Colors, from Left to Right:
LEFT: Dioxazine Purple, Viridian Green, Hooker's Green, Ultramarine Blue, Quinacridone Rose, Yellow Ochre, Titanium Buff, Titanium White
CENTER: Hooker's Green, Dioxazine Purple, Ultramarine Blue, Cadmium Red Medium, Cadmium Yellow Light, Titanium Buff, Titanium White
RIGHT: Hooker's Green, Ultramarine Blue, Viridian Green, Quinacridone Rose, Yellow Ochre, iTitanium Buff, Titanium White

This is an exercise that you can do for every painting or just for ones you're stuck on. Get all that thinking out of the way so you can just get to the fun stuff - slapping the paint on the canvas!

Which color palette would you choose? The left, center, or right option? I'll let you know what the client decides...