Artwork Not Working? Try A Limited Color Palette

Rainbow Vomit

All artists have been there at some point. Everything seems to be working except the color choices. It can be frustrating, especially if you’re working with paint or other traditional materials. But if your painting or illustration looks like a unicorn shat all over your canvas or design, then you have a problem.

Take a Good Look

Does it look like a crayon box barfed all over your new cat painting? All the colors of the rainbow and those in-between on your t-shirt design? Does it physically hurt your eyeballs to look at it? Get rid of some of those colors. Let’s take a look at an example, since I am a visual learner and I am sure you are too.

Below we have one of my designs. Good composition, etc. but that doesn’t matter a hill of beans since she looks like a clown reject.

Now take a look at the same design, but with a limited color palette.

Much more appealing to the eyes…and your customers. But if you do like the clown reject look, great! Just be prepared for some extra hard work at selling it.

Tips and Tricks

I usually limit my colors to NO MORE THAN 6. I think the rule is 10, but even that seems like a lot to me. Try keeping it at 6 and see what happens. Don’t cheat on this by using every hue imaginable for all six colors as well. You’re best bet is sticking to ??? colors to anchor down the brights.

Second use colors that work together, like all cools or warms. Also, please please PLEASE avoid red and green. I know they are happy wonderful Christmas colors but UGH. Also, avoid using too many complimentary colors or your art work will look like a college mascot.

Helpful places to look for color schemes:

Below are some sites I used when I have no idea what colors to use or if I am looking for something different.

Pinterest – I use this one so much. There are a lot of great ideas on this site.

Adobe Color – This is my second go to site for color ideas. It can be wonky to use, but once you get the hang of it, it’s pretty awesome.

Canva – Though I have my issues with Canva, they do come up with some pretty colors to look at. Their color generator is kinda sweet. You can upload a photo and then generate a color scheme for you.

Google – This one seems rather stupid, I know, but google it.

Remember, more is not always better, especially in terms of color. And if you’re trying to sell your artwork, you want it to appeal to as many people as possible. I am not telling you to sell out to appease the masses, but if you want to actually SELL SOMETHING, it has to appeal to more people than just you and your grandma. Stick to 6 harmonious colors and go from there.

Stay tuned for more art tips and tricks!


Have no idea where to start in terms of art supplies? Check out this blog post.


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