How To Choose The Right Color Palette For Your Artwork 🎨

Polychromos colored pencils choosing the right colors. Colored pencil tutorial.
Faber Castell’s Polychromos Pencils

I don’t know about you, but when I start a new project, I could spend half my day choosing colors! Especially if it’s a pet portrait commission that depends on the subject’s likeness.

Picking a color palette for your next project can be daunting!

Selecting colors requires observation and understanding of the color tones and shades. Here are some tips that I’ve learned:

  1. Observe your subject: Look closely at the subject you want to draw and notice the lightest color in your subject and then the darkest color. Look for the different shades (adding black to the color) and tones (adding grey to the color), and any highlights and shadows.
  2. Choose your color palette before you start drawing: You will save so much time choosing your colors first! Once you have observed all these colors in your subject, choose a color palette that works well with it. 
  3. There are apps you can use; one is called Colored Pencil Picker (when writing this, it’s a free app.) You pick the brand of pencil you have, upload your photo, and it gives you the name of the pencil or pencils to use. Crazy easy.
  4. You could use Photoshop. This is my preferred way to find colors. I prefer the dropper tool (Microsoft Word also has this option) to pick the color I want, then put it in front of a white background. I create my swatches from the colors on my screen. (See Photo)
My colors from photoshop that I use to match my pencils.
  1. Create swatches first: Draw the light, mid and dark tones plus any other mix of colors on a scratch piece of paper that is the same paper you’re using for your project. Have fun blending and playing with your colors! 🎨
  2. Using pressure: Vary your pressure on the colored pencil to create different levels of intensity in the color. Lighter pressure will create a softer and more subtle effect, while heavier pressure will create a bolder and more intense color.
  3. Blending your colors: Check out my last blog post on tips & techniques to blend colored pencils. Experiment on a scratch piece of paper.
  4. Always Experiment and Play! Don’t be afraid to experiment with different colors and techniques. Try layering colors, using different pressure and blending methods, and mixing colors to create new shades.

Remember, choosing colors for your subject using colored pencils is a creative process, so have fun and enjoy the process!

Happy Drawing, Fellow Artists! ✍️

Cheers, Molly 🌻

P.S. If you’d like to learn more about drawing and colored pencils, visit my website for more info about my Academy!