Tips For Exploring Colors & Color Combinations – Project Included

Try this easy project if you want to learn more about color combinations.

In this beginner watercolor tutorial you will discover tips on how to improve your colors. To do this we will explore traditional color combinations learned from the color wheel. In the lesson watercolor is used but feel free to use the medium of your choice.

It’s recommended that you use a watercolor sketchbook for this exercise. That way you can refer to it often as a subtle reminder of what you learned in the experiment. If you don’t have a watercolor sketchbook try the back of reject paintings, or some student grade paper. Basically avoid using high quality paper since this isn’t finished art.

What you need to know

Let’s define a few terms for the color wheel so you know what’s happening in the lesson. Some of you may know this information so feel free to skip to the next section.

For those that are getting started with color it will help you understand some of the terms used in the tutorial. You can refer to the color wheel image below to follow along.

Complementary colors – colors directly opposite each other in the color spectrum, such as red and green or blue and orange.

Triad colors – consists of three colors that are spaced evenly around the color wheel; when the colors are linked by a straight line, they form a triangle. The three colors used in this scheme tend to sit well together and can be quite lively and harmonious.

Analogous colors – consist of three colors that are side by side on the color wheel.


Step-by-step guide

  • Divide the paper into as many spaces as you wish. In the demo there were six but it’s recommended you work smaller to explore as many possibilities as you can fit on the paper.
  • Now take some time and organize your thoughts on what color combinations you wish to explore. You can use traditional color wheel combos like mixing complimentary hires, triads, analogous and so on.
  • Be sure to label each section with colors used and any notes that may remind you of what you did. Over time you will forget some of these details. You will be thankful to have these notes later on.
  • Use abbreviations if you don’t have space for the entire hue name. That should do for reminding you what you did.
  • Now add a basic shape using a pencil to each of the sections.
  • You may want a color wheel nearby so you can refer to it as you go.
  • Now go for it! Paint away and have fun exploring color combinations.

What you learn will help you understand how certain hues mingle with others.

By physically going through the motions you will develop a keen awareness of color which will help you immensely in your finished artwork.

Materials used in this demo

  • #2 Da Vinci squirrel mop brush
  • Blick/fabriano 140 lb. cold press paper
  • Majello leak-proof palette
  • Gator board – firm backing
  • Collapsable reservoirs
  • Holbein hues
  • Gamboge nova
  • Cadmium red deep
  • Alizarin crimson
  • Ultramarine blue
  • Cobalt blue
  • Viridian green
tips for exploring color and color combinations
tips for exploring color and color combinations
Color scheme chart
Color scheme chart

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