the Limits are Limitless. (Why I recommend a Limited Palette)

by Bear Elle

I'm going to be honest with you, I love me some color.

And color when painting can be fun and vibrant and exciting, but it can also get very messy and busy if you aren't careful. If you spend a lot of time on a piece it can also be a little bit confusing what color you used for that part and how did you mix it.

Without a strong basic understanding of color theory, it's very difficult not to get sloppy. What colors did I use to make that brown? Or... was that a cerulean blue or azure? 

So What is the Solution?

As with anything, there are many ways to approach this problem. The easiest in my opinion is to pick a limited palette and learn from there.

When I first did this, it was partially on accident. I got maybe a tax return or sold a painting or maybe just made good tips at the salon that day, I don't quite remember. But I decided it was the day to finally upgrade my paint.

So I walked down to the art supply store on my lunch break and I looked and I looked and I looked. Fancy paint isn't exactly cheap. But I found a set from Golden, which is the same high quality brand of acrylic I still use today. The set had 8 colors. White, a warm yellow, a cool yellow, a warm red, a cool red (magenta), and warm blue, a cool blue, and a green blue. The set also came with a guide for how to mix these colors.

Now the exact names of these colors will vary depending on the set and the brand and so forth, but this is the basic palette I still work with today. 

Since I'm a bit more familiar now, I've added a warm and cool brown and also recently a purple, but that's all unnecessary as you can make those colors with your limited palette as it sits.

Where is the Black Though?

Black is one of those touchy subjects for artists. Most artists have a pretty strong opinion on if it's acceptable to use black. 

It's my personal opinion that when starting out it may be in your best interest to include black only because it takes a lot of your other colors to make black and it can become wasteful and expensive if you aren't too careful. But I truly do challenge you to try working without black.

Take it a Step Further 

I'll start a piece and get a feel for what colors it needs and limit myself even further. For example, maybe I'll only use white, both blues, green and magenta. And if I really want some darker neutrals I might throw in a yellow. 

The more simplistic you can be the easier it will be to stay cohesive. So I will typically start at zero and add colors carefully, as needed. 

To Each There Own

I'm in no way saying this is the official or only way to approach this matter. With a quick Google search, you can see that there are clearly many limited palette options and you can make up your own or get a million colors and go crazy. 

This is just what has worked for me in the past. I feel like this method is a quality way to approach the medium because it teaches you control and eases you into color theory. You can get a feel for what colors make up other colors and all the nuance in between rather than just being told blue plus red equals purple.

Just Have Fun

If you're not enjoying what you are doing, don't force it. If you find following my guidelines makes things more stressful or complicated, forget it. I'm hardly the massiah of art. But if you find this is helpful, wonderful. I hope I can continue to bring you useful art information in the future.

As always, if you have any questions, comments or concerns, please leave a comment below, message or dm me on any of my social accounts or simply email me at 

love, love, and more love