My Color Choices – Ethereal Passing

Color selection can be daunting, so when I sit down to paint something I try to figure out how I can make it as simple as possible. Even when painting from a photo or other reference you don’t necessarily have to try and copy the photo. Sometimes you can look at the photo to get an idea and then select your own colors and use the reference for shape, value and structure.

Before I digress too much I’m going to jump right into the colors I used for this painting so I don’t bore you all.


What I wanted to do with this painting is keep it ethereal (hence the title Ethereal Passing). I wanted the colors to be colorful and vibrant yet subtle. I decided I wanted to do something in an analogous color scheme. Analogous color schemes are taking colors that are side by side on the color wheel. But think a real big color wheel with lots of shades, not the simple one you’re used to seeing. So for this painting I wanted something that went from Crimson/Pink to Purple, to Blue. So when you look at the clouds I used Alizarin for the pink, amethyst for the purple, and prussian blue and titanium for the blue. I slowly shifted the colors together to create the bold colorful look in the highlighted/detailed portion of the cloud.

I find that analogous schemes work so well in paintings. They just always seem to look good and smooth, and that’s because the colors are all side by side on the color wheel, so the harmony is very natural.

Another thing I like to do within my analogous color schemes is compliment some of the colors. So I created the orange glow beneath the clouds with cadmium orange. This compliments the blues in the clouds. I didn’t want it to be super bold though, because cadmium out of the tube is vibrant. I added titanium white to it to reduce the saturation and keep it within that ethereal feel. I then incorporated little tiny bits of that in the clouds, because when you add more and more white to cadmium orange it actually pushes it toward the yellow scale.

So by making it a little more yellowish it compliments the amethyst and alizarin. It’s a close compliment rather than a direct compliment.

The really big key in this painting is all the grays. How do you make the right gray to fit the painting? I used prussian blue mixed with orange. Compliments mixed together tend to create gray or brown, and if you keep the mixture a little leaning more toward blue you get more gray. That was the main mixture for grays, but I’d add little bits of alizarin and amethyst to that gray here and there to create more harmony throughout the colors.

So to recap, I created an analogous scheme with alizarin, amethyst and prussian blue. Then I complimented the entire thing with tiny bits of cadmium orange and cadmium orange mixed with titanium white (to make it lean toward ethereal white/yellow).

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