Color choices – are there rules?

I have a confession to make – I never use a color wheel. Are there rules for color choices? Absolutely, there are basic guidelines. However, the truth is I just follow my intuition. I learned about primary, secondary, tertiary colors in art and design courses. I painted color wheels as exercise. Do I ever refer to it when coloring? The answer is never. Color theory is a good background knowledge. Everyone should read about it, understand it. After that, trust your instinct and go freely wherever your heart desires.  You don’t need rules to limit your creativity.  I believe there’s no right or wrong with art. If you love it then it’s not wrong. Experiment, go outside the box. How else do you know it doesn’t work. Now, people who loves their color wheel, please continue to do what makes you happy.

Mood to convey

My color selection is sometimes influenced by the mood I want to convey. Do I want it to be warm, hot, and fiery? If so, reds, oranges, yellows will dominate the page. Coloring of a swan using warm color palette

Another example of predominately warm colors (From Creative Cats by Marjorie Sarnat)

An example of warm colors from Creative Cats by Marjorie SarnatCool blues and greens portray a much cooler mood as in this side of the swan page from Imagimorphia by Kerby Rosanes.
Coloring of a swan using cold color palette

Here’s a cooler looking cat from Marjorie Sarnat’s Creative Cats. As you can see I still use pops of reds and orange but the overall mood is cooler than the one above.

Now to complicate things, there are warm blues and cold blues and warm greens and cold greens and so on. At this point, I stop asking if this blue that I feel like using is warm or cold. Rules are made to be broken. When I color, I am the boss!

Color challenges

Once in a while I like to challenge myself by limiting my color choices and see if I can make it work. This is really fun. This could be practical too as not everyone owns set of 150 colored pencils. You can create just as wonderful piece of color art with a few colors. I really like sepia (shades of reddish brown) A sepia toned photoand Chinese white and blue porcelain called “qing-hua”.Example of Chinese blue-white coloringSomeday I will try to do a coloring page of all browns or all blues. If that’s too extreme, try selecting 3-5 colors and have fun forcing your creative brain to think harder to work within your limit. You will learn to better use shading and other techniques to create variations.

Are there colors that absolutely can’t go together?

I personally cannot think of any, although it might look a bit shocking if you are not used to a particular color combination. It also depends on what other colors are on the page to support. There are often times I come across a piece that jolts me and I said “Oh wow!” Those usually have some form of color shock! It is also personal, a combination that looks gorgeous to someone might totally turn off someone else. You can’t please the whole world. So my advice is be brave, get out of your comfort zone. Enjoy being yourself, whatever please you at the time.

Happy coloring!

Demonstration of the effect of warm versus cold color palettes by Betty Hung using the two swans from Imagimorphia by Kerby Rosanes"

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