15 mistakes artists make when picking swatches

Doing some painting for the first time? Or are you an experienced artist who wants to refine their technique? Either way, you must have a good understanding of color. Color is one of the most powerful tools in any visual artist's toolbox. The right colors can evoke moods and emotions, draw attention to foreground details or create depth. But when picking out color combinations, it's easy to make mistakes. The following are 15 common mistakes artists make when picking swatches:

  1. Not considering the desired effect: Some colors can evoke a mood or emotion. For example, cool colors are often used in children's rooms to create an energizing and playful vibe, whereas warm shades may be more relaxing. Unfortunately, choosing the wrong color for your desired effect could lead you down a path of frustration when a painting doesn't go quite right.
  2. Not considering light: Light is important for several reasons. Lighting conditions will affect how different hues appear on a surface; it affects which hue appears dominant against another. Most importantly, it determines what our eyes see at any given moment! It might not be obvious that certain paint swatches look very different under fluorescent lighting than they do under natural sunlight because we're so accustomed to seeing both types all day, every day.
  3. Improperly matching color with the desired result: It's important to know what you want your painting or drawing to communicate before selecting a palette. This will help guide which colors are appropriate for achieving that goal. For example, one common mistake is picking bright, eye-catching colors if you want something more subtle and subdued. Similarly, a muted color scheme might not be best suited when strong emotions are meant to come across in the finished product because it can make those feelings difficult for viewers to interpret.
  4. Not using complementary hues together: Complementary hues are two different colors directly opposite each other on the hue wheel; red & green, purple & yellow, etc. Opposite of one another on the wheel, but they have the same value. A common mistake is not using complementary hues together, meaning that you're missing out on a whole range of possibilities for creating contrast and interest in your work.
  5. Choosing too many colors: Another mistake to avoid when picking color swatches is choosing too many different colors; this can make the painting or drawing hard to read because it's difficult for viewers' eyes to focus on any one area. It also means there will be less space left on canvas (or paper) which could lead to an unfinished piece! It might seem like having more options would be better, but this actually makes your painting look cluttered and busy; it's better to have a smaller number of colors that work well together.
  6. Picking soothing or pastel hues: One mistake artists often make is thinking they need to use safe, calm, and pastel color palettes when painting landscapes or scenes from nature. This might be because these are the types of paintings you see in art galleries, but this isn't always necessary; sometimes, it can look like boring wallpaper! Instead, consider using bolder colors such as blues, greens, and yellows, which will help create atmosphere, bring attention to certain elements and give your piece more life. Using complementary hues for background colors instead of neutrals can also add dimensionality to your landscape while still maintaining a serene feel.
  7. Picking colors based only on their names: Picking paint based solely on what its name implies can cause problems as well because the best way to understand how specific pigments behave is by looking at them. This means that if you want something to look blue, but your paint looks more purple than blue under the light, it's not going to work, and you'll have wasted time and money on a pigment that didn't deliver what was needed! It will be useful if you understand the color combinations like violet and indigo, yellow and orange, red and pink, etc., to pick the right colors for your painting.
  8. Ignoring texture differences between fabrics/paint surfaces: When picking a paint color, it's important to remember that the texture of fabric and surface will affect how the pigment is applied. This means if you're not careful when selecting colors for your project, an orange could run into other areas or paints.
  9. Not taking enough time to choose colors: It's understandable that there is a lot of pressure to make quick decisions, but taking your time when picking color swatches can help prevent mistakes.
  10. Picking colors based on what you see: This can lead to picking out a palette of colors that don't work together nicely. It's important to make sure there is harmony in your color scheme, which means understanding the difference between analogous, complementary, and triadic schemes.
  11. Trying too many combinations at once when choosing swatches: Trying more than three-four options will only confuse matters. Choosing one or two options for each component - background, textiles, etc., allows for better comparisons because this reduces confusion over how a particular element may interact with the colors used.
  12. Choosing too many neutrals: This can create a boring and bland palette with little contrast. Neutrals should only be chosen when they are the grounding color of an entire scheme, not just one or two swatches in it. A better idea is to use those same neutrals as accents by mixing them into other colors for depth. Color doesn't have to come from just paint; you can also use natural objects like leaves on trees or flowers (depending on what season) that will add texture and patterning without compromising your design's integrity.
  13. Picking one dark background color with lighter foreground colors: All the same, hues might look pretty at first glance, but this combination will start to seem monotonous after a while because all the elements are competing for attention. Try using different hue groups or even more contrast, so both areas have their own space within the painting.
  14. Choosing colors for the wrong reason: For example, selecting a light purple because it matches with what other people like or choosing an acrylic paint that has more glitter to get attention. This may seem harmless at first glance, but these types of mistakes could cause problems later on down the line and not meeting expectations.
  15. Not understanding how pigments interact: When artists buy their paints and don't understand how different pigments will react together, they are missing out on opportunities to create new unique combinations! Being able-bodied vs. painting while seated: Painting while sitting down might be more convenient, but it can affect the quality of your work. Being able-bodied is more advantageous for painting and provides a better sense of balance when determining color combinations.

It's important that artists avoid these common mistakes when picking their color combinations. The right colors can evoke moods and emotions, draw attention to foreground details or create depth. And with a bit of understanding of how pigments interact, new opportunities await!