4 Crucial Tips To Improve Your Colour

4 Crucial Tips To Improve Your Colour

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Categories: Tips and Tricks

For any artist and designer, using the right colours is essential.

Colour can transform your art by making it stand out, and is the first impression when someone looks at a piece of art.

Not the form, not the subject matter, not it’s size, but it’s overall colour combinations.

This is why it’s crucial that your colours are exactly right, which can deeply impact your art.

Some of the best known artists have got names for themselves because of the colours they used, from Henry Mattisse, Vincent van Gogh, to Claude Monet.

In order to improve your art, and for you to be satisfied by what your creating, you need to master colour, and make it work for you, regardless of the medium that you use – digital, painting, coloured pencils .etc.

In this blog post, I’m going to be running through some crucial hints and tips to help improve your colour, so you can make better art and designs!

A Little Background About Me

Even though I’m one of the co-founders of Graphic Tide, (hello!), I’m also a Freelance Illustrator, and have a big interest in the world of art, illustration and design.

Haydn Symons Portrait

I mainly use gouache, watercolour and photoshop to construct my illustrations, and mainly illustrate for editorial, advertising and publishing clients.

I have a huge interest in the way colour is constructed, as colour plays a big part of my art, which I love to discover more about everyday!

I’ve found that it’s become a crucial part of my art, which I’ve practised a hell of a lot.

I feel passionately about this subject, which is why I want to share some crucial tips and tricks to help you with your colour within your designs, illustrations and art.

Know The Colour Wheel

In order for you to really master colour and make it work for you, you need to know the colour wheel.

If you know how the colour wheel is constructed, it will help your art immensely.

Let’s take a look at the colour wheel below;

Colour Wheel

From here, you can take the colour wheel apart and create mini palettes to work from.

For example, you can choose complementary colours to form your imagery, analogous colours to form your imagery, or triadic colours to form your imagery.

Colour Wheel Combinations

Whatever combination you choose, knowing the colour wheel is an essential part to colour, so you can choose the right colours.

When you start a piece of art, have a look at the colour wheel, and carefully decide which colours you want to choose.

A good idea is to have a colour wheel in front of you when you work. I normally have one on my computer screen, but I always suggest that you print one out, and have it on your wall above your working environment.

Choose Limited Colours

‘More colours don’t make a better colour scheme. In fact the opposite is usually true – James Gurney.

One way that I’ve been able to really improve my art is by using a limited colour palette.

But why does this work?

Using a whole spectrum of colours is pretty hard to get right, and it usually ends up with a muddled and disjointed image. A limited colour palette allows you to create images which work together, and create better piece of art as a result.

For example, you might use a limited colour palette of blues and reds, greens and yellows, or using purples and reds.

The whole idea with a limited palette is to reduce the number of colours that you use.

Let’s take a look at Jon McNaught, who’s one of my favourite illustrators, who uses colour fantastically.

Jon McNaught Illustration

You can see that he only uses 4 colours to construct this graphic novel sequence above, using dark browns for the darkest areas of the image, light blue and light brown for the mid-tone, and creamy white for the lightest areas.

You can see how a limited palette can work wonders for an image, as it makes you focus on the colours at hand.

Copy The Masters Colours

If you really can’t get to grips with the world of colour, one tip that can really open your eyes is by copying the colours of past artists and designers.

This tip allows you to see exactly why some artists use certain colour combinations, and how it can work for you.

Below shows a painting experiment which I completed recently, where I’ve copied the colours from Matisse, Jack Vettriano, and Jon McNaught to form 4 different images of Salvador Dali.

4 Crucial Tips To Improve Your Colour

I’ve written notes and I’m planning on taking some of these colour combinations into another painting.

I now have a broader sense of why these artists have used certain colours.

If your looking to paint a final artwork, take some inspiration from the colours of past masters, and use their colour combinations.


Like anything worth doing, practise is the only way to really get to grips with colour.

Practising and experimenting allows you to see how certain colours work together, and gives you the confidence to control colour; so it works for you.

An image can be transformed with effective and well managed colour, so always look to practise your colour combinations.

You might get disheartened with your experiments at first, but with practise, you can make colour a strong focal point of your art.

Let Colour Work For You!

Colour can work wonders for your art.

It can transform the way you look at a painting, and help gain new eyes towards your work.

Regardless of whether you work digitally, traditionally or another area completely, colour is essential if you want to improve your art.

Let these tips help you take control of colour, and create masterpieces which we can all enjoy!

How have you improved your colour?

Comments are more than welcome!

Summary Of Points

  • To understand colour, you need to have a good grasp of the colour wheel, so you can effectively choose your colours before any artwork
  • A way to really improve your colour is by choosing limited colours. Instead of using a whole spectrum of colour, this allows you to focus on certain colours, and make it work for you
  • Copy some past masters colours, and see how they’ve constructed their imagery. Take notes, and make sure you remember how they used colour, which you can take into your art
  • Make sure your using a clean palette and water, as this can drastically change your colour. For digital painters, your already covered!
  • The only way to understand colour, and make it work for you, is with practise. Practise different colour combinations, practise experimenting, and practise getting it right for you

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About the author - HKJS


I'm an Illustrator, Designer & Animator from Hampshire, United Kingdom, and have been illustrating for a number of years. I have a wealth of experience within editorial, maps, posters and book covers. Having a firm interest in the creative industry and everything that revolves around it, I want to share what I've learnt to you. From this, I have a keen passion for t-shirt design and how illustration can become a part of something you wear.

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