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5 Tips for Creating Color Palettes



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Creating color palettes that perfectly tell the story of a collection is one of my favorite parts of surface design!

Need help creating a color palette that reflects your individual style? Combining a few simple tips can help you choose the perfect combination of hues for your project. Here are five useful tricks for finding the perfect color palette!

1. Creating Color Palettes Influenced by the Seasons

Let the seasons guide your choices! Often without realizing it, I choose colors based on how I am feeling in a certain season. In the middle of winter, this usually means choosing bright, happy colors to escape the gray and rain! I live in the Pacific Northwest – it’s beautiful here, but there is a reason for the reputation this area has gotten!

In late winter, I’m ready to simplify and my palette often returns to neutrals and a very limited scheme. Following the seasons will lead you to create unique color palettes.

Creating color palettes influenced by the seasons

2. Create a Palette from Random Colors Observed

Notice random color combinations around you. This is probably the most common way I find new color palettes. Keep a folder of random photos on your phone – the only purpose of the photo is to capture a combination of colors that speaks to you in the moment and save them for a collection and story that they support.

Looking for a bit of color inspiration? Don’t look to just the usual places – instead, get creative and think outside the box. A shower, a laundry hamper or even leftover meal remnants can all spark ideas for new and exciting color combinations you may not have considered before. You never know where that next burst of inspiration might come from!

Using observed color combinations to create color palettes

3. Use Two or Three Colors from a Previous Collection

When you’re looking to assemble a new collection, don’t feel like you have to start from scratch! Instead, take two or three of your favorite colors from a past collection and use that as the foundation for your new collection. This will help build continuity and allow you to experiment with subtle variations as you create new work.

You can see from my collections on Spoonflower that several collections share one or two colors. Often when I find an accent color that fits well with my signature style, it will show up more than once!

Using color combinations in multiple art collections

4. Include Something Unexpected in Your Color Palettes

Include something unexpected. This is my favorite trick. I always try to include something unexpected – it gives the collection more a more vibrant feel! If you have a color palette that doesn’t quite have you excited, try adding a color that feels like a surprise and see if the palette feels more complete! This is where you have my permission to stop playing it ‘safe’ with color!

Add an unexpected color to your color palette

5. Color Palette Inspiration from your Wardrobe

Look at your wardrobe or closet. Your choices here can be reflected in a color palette. This can go two ways: either take notice of your favorite colors to wear and translate them into a color palette for your art. Or you can design art and patterns that perfectly complement your wardrobe (if you wear mostly neutrals, this can be a fun design challenge!)

Choose color palettes based on your wardrobe choices

Other Thoughts on Color Palettes

Nature is always a great source of color inspiration. Here in the northwest, the forests are filled with opportunities to collect color inspiration, the gardens produce a gorgeous array of colors, and the Cascade and Olympic mountain ranges provide endless beauty. Keep your camera handy any time you head outside to capture ideas you see to create your perfect color palette!

If you’re interested in exploring the world of surface design, check out this blog post to learn more about creating work in collections. Additionally, take some time to check out my top picks for all the supplies you’ll need to get started on your own surface design journey!

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Hi, I'm Jennie

Artist and designer, adventure lover with a side of homebody and flower gardener.

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