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Friday, February 26, 2016

Color Experiment Reveals Exciting Color Combinations


It is generally recommended that artists be consistent in their work. One of the variables included in the evaluation of consistency is color scheme.  I have used a fairly consistent color scheme for some time, a triad that I can use to produce a pretty wide range of colors. Some samples are shown above and at right.
Woman with a Wrapped Hat
Making Tortillas
Every now and then I have used my normal palette of colors with one additional color to produce a painting that has a different twist.  In "Woman with a Wrapped Hat" I added a spring green color in the background plus I shifted the color in the woman's face to be more integrated with her hat and scarf.  Similarly, I added a muted green color in the background of "Making Tortillas" and shifted the color in her skin to integrate more with her clothing. 

As you can see the subject matter, theme, and style of these paintings are consistent with my other paintings, but they are still unique. I've noticed these have been accepted into a wider number of exhibits and received more awards than many of my other paintings.  I also find these paintings a bit more fascinating to look at. 

As a result I decided to test out some new color schemes to see if some might be good additions to my portfolio adding interesting color twists. I started by painting a color saturation chart so I could see the range of values I could achieve with each paint color. The chart is shown at left. To be able to better see the value of each color I took a photo of the chart, desaturated the photo, and used the black and white version to determine the value of each square. With that information I can tell approximately how light and dark a color scheme can achieve and whether the range will support the dark and light range (value pattern) I want for a painting.

For example, the darkest warm colors on the left of the chart are the red in the 6th row and the purple in the last row. The darkest of the cool colors in the second column are the 4th, 6th, and 7th blues. Similarly you can see which colors can't get darker than medium dark. If using paints that are all light to medium dark, then combinations of these will not be darker than medium dark. The exception is when black is added in a monochromatic color scheme.

Next I selected 9 color schemes and painted the same pairs in each scheme. These are shown below. Some have a test color swatch created for the color scheme inset with the painting. By creating a test color swatch I can see which color combinations were darkest and lightest making color placement choices easier. 

Monochromatic Yellow
Monochromatic Blue
Quin Red/Green Gold Complement
Muted Turq/Quin Red Complement
Yellow/Violet Complement 
Split Complementary-
Analogous Yellow to Crimson

with Cerulean Blue
Secondary Triad

Tertiary Triad
Split Complement-Reds/Cerulean

I think having these color scheme samples will prove beneficial when doing future paintings. This exercise also gave me practice painting an object in a non-conventional color which I think results in more exciting paintings. You might find this type of exercise interesting to explore if you are looking to make some changes in your artwork.

Interested in learning more about April's art inspirations, tips about her painting process, or art business tidbits? Want to know when her art is in exhibits? Consider joining her friends and collectors by signing up for her twice-monthly email.

Copyright April M Rimpo 2016 All Rights Reserved. You may share my work with attribution and a link to this source site, but all other uses are prohibited.


  1. WOW, terrific post April, so much information. Thanks for the peek into how you work. Love seeing the different schemes. bookmarking this one!

    1. Well you made my day, Sheila. I'm delighted it was helpful enough to be bookmarked. Thanks.


I look forward to hearing from you. - April

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