How to Use a Limited Color Palette

Friday, February 17, 2017


Learn how to use a limited color palette to create more cohesive artwork and designs.

Something that I have always had trouble with is the use of color. This is quite ironic because I LOVE color and always create very colorful and bright artwork (I am definitely not the type to use a neutral palette). But I rarely have a color palette per se, and tend to just grab whatever color I feel like using at the moment. I also tend to use a lot of colors, which doesn't necessarily always work out well. 

There's definitely a place for experimenting like that, don't get me wrong. But I was always taught that by using a limited color palette, your artwork would be more cohesive. That's why lately I have been practicing with using limited colors and planning out color palettes before even starting a new art piece. So I thought I would share my method to planning out my colors in case you have the same issue!

How to Use a Limited Color Palette

  • Find color palettes online
An easy way to start creating with a limited color palette is simply to search for color palettes online and picking a combination you'd like to use in your artwork. Creative Market recently shared a great blog post on 50 websites for color inspiration (I'd recommend starting with Design Seeds and Color Hunt from that list), so you should definitely check that out. And of course, let's not forget Pinterest!

Learn how to use a limited color palette by experimenting with color combinations

  • Experiment with color combinations
I think that it's also important that you experiment with different color combos yourself though. So just grab whatever medium you'd like and start creating some combinations! I'd pick around 5-6 colors and just swatch them out to see how you like them.

Learn how to use a limited color palette by creating thumbnails.

  •  Create thumbnails to see how the colors look together
After I make the color swatches, I also like to create a little thumbnail of my design. For me personally, I find it a bit difficult to really know if the colors work good together just based on little swatches. So I find that creating a mini design really allows me see if I like how the colors are working together. As you can see from the above picture, I was planning out the colors for the page on the right. I started with the first palette and decided that I didn't really care for those colors. I ended up liking the second combination and used those exact colors to create the next page.

The finished artwork of this Frida Kahlo quote using a limited color palette.

And here is the finished sketchbook page above. I hope you liked this peek at my process and found it helpful in some way!

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