5 Essential Tips: Select Perfect Painting Palette
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 5 min read


  1. Choose a color scheme
  2. Consider your subject matter
  3. Select paints that mix well together
  4. Think about the mood you want to create
  5. Try before you buy

Palette selection for painting might feel like a daunting task, especially if you're just starting out. But don't sweat it; we've got you covered! With a little know-how, you can pick out the perfect palette to make your masterpiece. Here's a guide to help you navigate the colorful world of palette selection.

Choose a color scheme

When it comes to palette selection for painting, your color scheme is like your roadmap—it guides you in the right direction. But where do you start?

Pick Your Dominant Color

First, select your dominant color. This is the color that will be most prevalent in your painting. You might pick a bold red for a dramatic sunset, or a soothing blue for a calming seascape. The choice is yours, but remember, this color will set the tone for your entire work.

Choose Your Supporting Colors

  • Next up, choose your supporting colors. Think of these as your dominant color's best friends—they're there to compliment and blend seamlessly. If you've chosen a warm dominant color like red, consider supporting colors in the same warm family, such as oranges and yellows.
  • If you've opted for a cool dominant color like blue, supporting colors might include greens and purples. But remember: there are no strict rules in art, so feel free to mix and match as you see fit!

Don't Forget Your Accent Color

Finally, pick an accent color. This is the pop of color that will draw attention and add interest to your painting. Your accent color can be bold and vibrant, or subtle and understated—it all depends on the mood you're trying to create. An accent color is like the cherry on top of your palette selection for painting.

Remember, when choosing your color scheme, consider not only the subject of your painting but also the mood and atmosphere you want to convey. Trust your instincts—after all, you're the artist!

Consider your subject matter

Now that you've got your color scheme figured out, let's talk about subject matter. What you're painting can greatly influence your palette selection for painting.

Landscapes and Nature

If you're painting a landscape or a nature scene, you'll want to consider the colors found in the natural world. Think lush greens for forests, bright blues for skies, deep browns for earth, and so on. Remember, nature isn't just one shade of green or blue—there are countless variations to explore.

Portraits and People

When painting people, you'll need a variety of skin tones. Don't limit yourself to just peach or brown; skin tones can range from pale yellows to deep, rich chocolates. Again, variety is key when it comes to palette selection for painting people.

Still Life and Objects

If your subject matter is a still life or an object, consider its colors, but also think about the colors of its surroundings. A red apple isn't just red—it might also have areas of green, brown, and even blue, depending on the light and the environment.

Whatever your subject matter, remember to study it closely. Observe the subtle color shifts and variations. Not only will this help you with your palette selection, it will also add depth and realism to your painting.

Select paints that mix well together

Once you've considered your subject matter, the next step in palette selection for painting is to choose paints that mix well together. This is important because it allows you to create a wide range of colors and tones from a limited set of paints.

Picking Your Primary Colors

You'll want to start with your primary colors: red, blue, and yellow. These colors can't be created by mixing other colors, so they're essential to your palette. Choose vibrant, pure versions of these colors for the best mixing results.

Adding Secondary and Tertiary Colors

Next, consider adding a few secondary colors (green, orange, and purple) and tertiary colors (mixes of primary and secondary colors, like red-orange or blue-green). These can be mixed from your primary colors, but having them pre-mixed can save you time and give you more consistent results.

Don't Forget Your Neutrals

Finally, don't forget your neutrals. White is essential for lightening colors, and black can be used to darken them. You might also consider adding a brown or a gray to your palette. These neutrals can help with creating shadows, adding depth, or toning down colors that are too vibrant.

Remember, not all paints mix together well. Some colors can become muddy when mixed, so it's important to test your paints before you start your painting. This will help you understand how your colors interact and ensure you're happy with your palette selection for painting.

Think about the mood you want to create

After you've selected paints that mix well together, the next step in palette selection for painting is to consider the mood you want to convey in your artwork. The colors you choose can greatly impact the overall feel of your masterpiece.

Color and Emotion

Colors are powerful tools in conveying emotions. For example, bright, bold colors like red and orange can evoke feelings of excitement or passion, while cool, softer colors like blue and green can create a more calming, serene atmosphere. Dark colors, such as deep purples or blacks, can add a touch of mystery or drama.

Color Harmony

Thinking about color harmony can also help you select the right palette. Complementary colors (those opposite each other on the color wheel), can create a vibrant, high energy feel, while analogous colors (those next to each other on the color wheel), can create a more harmonious, relaxed feel.

Focus and Highlight

Lastly, consider what parts of your painting you want to draw attention to. Using a bold, contrasting color can help highlight these areas, while using a more subdued, blending color can help them recede into the background. Remember, it's all about balance.

Taking the time to think about the mood you want to create before you begin painting can greatly influence your palette selection. It's an important step that shouldn't be skipped.

Try before you buy

Moving on to the final step in the palette selection for painting journey, it's time to put your choices to the test. Just like you wouldn't buy a car without taking it for a spin, don't commit to a palette without giving it a trial run first.

Sample Swatches

Begin by creating sample swatches of your chosen colors. Observe how the colors look next to each other, and how they mix. You'll be surprised by how different a color can look on your palette compared to on paper. This process will give you a better understanding of how your palette will work in your painting.

Test Paintings

Next, create some small test paintings. This can be a mini version of your planned artwork, or just some random brush strokes. The goal here is to see how your colors behave on the canvas. Do they convey the mood you were aiming for? Do they blend well? If you're not satisfied, it's okay to go back to the drawing board.


Remember that the art of palette selection for painting is all about experimentation. Don't be afraid to try out different options. Who knows? You might stumble upon a color combination that you've never thought of before, and it could turn out to be your next favorite palette.

In conclusion, the journey to find the perfect palette is a personal and creative process. So take your time, have fun, and most importantly, enjoy the process.

If you're looking to further enhance your skills in selecting the perfect painting palette, don't miss the workshop 'How to Pick a Colour Palette' by Jauni (tofublock). This workshop will provide you with valuable tips and techniques on choosing the right colour combinations for your artwork, taking your painting to new heights of beauty and expression.