In this month’s Artist Inspiration post, we are going to explore ways to find colour palette inspiration for your artwork. The colour palette you choose for a piece can set the mood and emotion as much as the subject matter can. This can be difficult, especially if you are using a specific photo reference where the colours are already determined and you are trying to take a unique approach by changing the colours. If you are familiar with colour theory, you can refer back to the basic primary, secondary, tertiary colour schemes, or even explore some analogous and monochromatic palettes. If those still aren’t quite what you are looking for, here are a few ways to find some colour palette inspiration.
Make Your Own Reference
When I see a colour palette in a photo, painting or in real life that I like, I make my own reference swatches in one of my sketchbooks and record the colour grouping for reference later. Doing this yourself, allows you to experiment a little and tweak the colours if you choose. It also give you practice replicating those colours. Another way is to collect paint swatches of the colours you like from the paint section in a hardware store and paste them into your sketchbook or pin them up on a cork board in your creative space for reference.
Apps, like my personal favourite, Adobe Capture allow you to collect the colours in a photo or scene and save them in your cloud library for later. This is particularly great if you are on the go and see a colour palette you like. The app accesses your smart phone’s camera and analyzes the different colours in the viewfinder with the app. You can move it around until it finds the colour scheme you like the take a snap shot of it. The colour grouping will then be saved into your library which you can access on all your Creative Cloud programs. One downside is that this app does require that you have an Adobe Creative Cloud membership. If you don’t have one, there are many other apps, free and paid that do similar things like Color Capture or Real Colors. The thing I really like about the Adobe Capture app compared to the other apps I have tried is that it will read many different colour schemes from one photo instead of just one. In that sense you have a little bit more control to find the colour scheme you really want or even a few options within the same photo or scene.
Create and Find Colour Palettes Using Websites
Adobe has another great resource for colour palettes on the Adobe Colour CC website which I believe works in conjunction with the Adobe Capture app. Unlike the app however, you can access this website resource without having a Creative Cloud membership. The main page of this website gives you the option to customize and adjust colours as you wish using the colour wheel. You can see how different colour combinations work together in a short amount of time. It gives you the option as well to access common colour combinations in the menu on the upper left side of the page. If this isn’t your thing, you can try the “explore” button at the top menu that will show you user uploaded colour swatch groupings.
Another website that takes a different approach is plentyofcolour.com. This site operates blog style and features beautiful colour rich photos. Photos are grouped by categories like colourful places & spaces, architecture, palette of the week features, or you can look by colour families.
You can also try Pinterest for colour palette inspiration. You can create a board and pin photos to it that have colour palettes you like. Pinterest requires you sign up for an account to do this, but accounts are free and you can make the board secret if you don’t want to share it with other users. You can also choose to follow other already created boards by other users.Buy Colour Theory Books
Colour theory books are not only a great resource to have for learning and understanding colour theory, but some of the better ones will also give you extra insight going into colour psychology. One resource I’ve had for years and often refer to is The Complete Colour Harmony by Tina Sutton and Bride M. Whelan. The book explores basic colour theory and psychology in an easily digestible way and has many colour grouping examples for inspiration.
If you want to go one step farther you can try the Color Mixing Bible by Ian Sidaway. The great thing about this book is that it shows you mixing different colours in oil, acrylic, watercolour, gouache, soft pastel, pencil, and ink. This is a great resource if you want to see how these mediums and their specific colours mix together to create certain colours without having to go through the trial and error yourself. While I still highly recommend you take the time to do this yourself, this can act as a quick reference guide until you have the time to do it yourself. It also can act as an instruction manual if you want to create your own with your own brands of media.
Starting your own colour palette reference library can be a great resource to refer back to when you are having colour creative block. Certain colour combinations may even inspire you to create something new and different you never would have thought of otherwise. Whatever you choose to do, don’t be intimidated. Colour inspiration can be found everywhere around you.