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Friday, July 05, 2013

How to Change Up Your Color Palette

'Down the Virgin River'          8x10      pastel     ©Karen Margulis
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It's all too easy to get into a color rut.  Especially with pastels.  This happens when you tend to use the same selection of pastel sticks for every painting. Especially if you are having success or enjoying a particular color palette. It is only natural to want to use the same colors that you are drawn to.

I found this happening to me in my recent paintings of the Southwest.  I have been painting a lot of red rocks. I was happy with the pastel sticks I was using. They were giving me the glowing red rock look that I was trying for.  I was also happy to be using the set of Terry Ludwig pastels I had chosen at the IAPS convention.

But I realized that all of the paintings were starting to look alike. I wanted to paint the canyons under other light and conditions and this required a change of color palette.   I chose a different set of colors and did a small color study with them to see how they would work together.

color study 2.5 x 3.5  pastel
I liked the color combination in the study so I used these pastels for my next painting of Zion National Park.  This was a good exercise and I am excited to try more color palettes to paint my Southwest series.  Here are some tips that have helped me:

  • Do small color studies to try out potential color palettes. I like to use 2.5x3.5 scrap paper.
  • Get color ideas from other art that you enjoy. You aren't copying the work, merely being inspired by other color palettes.
  • Choose a pastel stick that you never use and build a color palette around this color.
  • Pick the color that you use most often in your work.....now put this stick aside and don't use it at all in a painting. (this is hard to do!)

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