Color Exercises For Artists

Color Exercises For Artists

Color Exercises for Artists: What Is the Importance of Color and What Sort of Depth Can the Color Bring in Visual Art or Any Kind of Artistry? 

Color is an important element in any kind of art, be it visual art, graphics, painting, sketching, or any other art form for that matter. It is the reflection of your artwork and is usually associated with the mood of the art. An artist often uses colors to convey his or her emotions through the paintings of visual artistry. So for a better output, some color exercises for artists are helpful.

Colors can create optical illusions in art, for example, make things appear near with the right combination of colors. Make a smaller room appear large and wide by using lighter shades of color like white or yellow. While you can bring life to an old picture using brighter and darker shades of colors by giving the art an ancient look. Do so using the lighter warm shades of color. Similarly, if you remove any color from your art, it will change the complete look of your art. 

Color Exercises for Artists

Painting by Thomas Kinkade

Why Are Color Theory Practice and Color Wheel Paint Exercises in General, an Important Part of the Growth of an Artist? 

Amateur artists often get overwhelmed when it comes to deciding what color they should use for their artwork to get the desired effect. Now, the subject of color is quite vast and there are several aspects an artist needs to know when working with the color spectrum. There are numerous beautiful shades that you can play with, however, to apply the right shade, you need to build your fundamentals right like knowing the color theory, color wheel paint, or the paint theory, etc. The color exercises for artists are a great way to understand these concepts and fine-tune your artistic skills. 

The concept of color theory is pretty simple but subjective. It is how you perceive the colors, how to mix them to form other colors. How to match the colors to form a contrast with another one that may appear more gorgeous? what does every color reveal emotionally? Try numerous variations of color if you have a solid knowledge coupled with good color theory practice. This will come as you keep doing various kinds of color exercises for artists. Did you know that there are 105 different ways to visually show the black on any type of visual media?

Color Exercises for Artists

Now, to understand color theory, you should know the ‘color wheel paint’ concept in which the colors are arranged in a wheel, and they are categorized into three different groups: 

Primary Colors 

This group comprises the three main colors, red, blue, and yellow. When these three colors are mixed, they form a bright white light. The reason behind this is human beings perceive color through light. When you increase the light, the color becomes brighter.

Secondary Colors 

Green, purple, and Orange are the three secondary colors in the color wheel paint. You get the secondary colors when you mix the primary colors. Like combining red and yellow will result in the color orange.

Tertiary Colors 

There are six tertiary colors in total. These colors are a result of the primary as well as the secondary colors in the color wheel paint. The tertiary colors form two sets of shades, the warm set of colors (comprising the reds, oranges, and yellows) and the cool set of colors (comprising the blues, greens, and purples). The warm shades in the color wheel paint are associated with brightness, while the cool shades are associated with calmness and give a cooling effect to the visuals. 

Color Exercises for Artists

Color Wheel Representing the Primary and Secondary Colors for Color Exercises for Artists

There are other terms related to the color theory or the paint theory that one has to be aware of as an artist- hue, saturation, tone, and value. While the best way to understand is to practice the color theory exercises, here’s a quick overview of these terms


The ‘hue’ is the primary wavelength of the color among all the twelve colors in the color wheel; in simple words, this is a dominant color that you perceive as soon as you see it. For example, the hue of indigo is blue, the hue of sea green is green, the hue of maroon is red, and so on. 


‘Saturation’ determines how pure the color is. You can reduce the effect of the saturation by adding a color that is on the opposite side of the color wheel. 


The ‘tone’ of the color is nothing but a variation of hue. If you add a black or white color to the hue, the tone changes. The artists use tone to subdue a color or increase the brightness of the color. 


‘Value’ indicates the shade of the color, whether it is dark or light. This is an important aspect when you are painting and want to create different shades of color. For example, if you want to get a lighter value you need to mix white or yellow, and to get a darker value, you mix black or blue.  It is often difficult to get the right value if you are not experienced, as it needs an accurate amount of alternative color to get the right shade you prefer. However, color theory practice can help you overcome this challenge. 

Color Exercises for Artists

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There are many other details to the color theory which you can read about on this website

The primary concept that every artist learns as a beginner is the theory of colors. To know the color palette correctly, knowing the science of colors is vital. There are various color theory exercises for artists that you can practice to perfect your color concept. The next section has a list of some of those color exercises for artists, color theory practices. To help you be proficient in color wheel paint which is essential to be a good artist. 

Color Exercises for Artists: Different Color Theory Exercises That an Artist or a Beginner Can Use to Expedite His/her Growth by Improving the Painting Skills:

It is a known fact that practice is the key to success in everything that you pursue. It is crucial to have a theoretical knowledge of the color concepts, the color theory, the color wheel, etc. Though learning is incomplete without getting your hands dirty and experiencing it for yourself. Being confused and overwhelmed with what colors to choose for your artwork is pretty normal whether you are working on a visual graphic design or a painting and you can get over it by working through the color wheel paint concept. 

Here are a few color exercises for artists that can be greatly beneficial if you practice them diligently

Practice Making Your Own Color Wheel for Color Exercises for Artists

This is the very first step and a traditional method of understanding the logic behind the color theory and perfecting the color concept. The color wheel shows how the secondary and tertiary colors can be formed from the primary colors. To comprehend the variations of colors, make your color wheel paint. 

  • Start with adding the primary colors first. If you follow the traditional color model, then place yellow on the top of the wheel, red closer to the bottom right and blue closer to the bottom left. You can consider these three colors as the parent colors which will form the foundation of the other colors in the wheel.
  • Once you have the base ready, start mixing the colors to get the secondary colors the green, orange and purple, and place them on the wheel. 
  • Now, keep mixing your primary and secondary colors to get the tertiary colors and place them on the wheel accordingly. 
Color Wheel

Image source

Create Your Colors and Practice Mixing Which Makes a Good Color Exercises for Artists

Although you have already tried the primary and the secondary colors combination to form new colors. To place on the color wheel in the previous exercise, practice this color theory more often. You may not get the perfect shade of the tertiary colors that you want at one go, but don’t worry about it. Keep mixing the colors until you get it right. This is a learning stage, so keep exploring.

Now if you are wondering where you would place the new color that has just formed in the wheel, you will know it by observing the color. Like, if you combined yellow with orange to form a darker shade close to orange, then the color needs to be placed towards orange on the color wheel paint. If you add more yellow and less orange, you will get a lighter shade that needs to be placed closer to yellow. 

This is a very useful color theory practice exercise that not only strengthens your foundation but also helps you perfect the concept of color wheel paint. 

 Colors and Practice Mixing

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Explore New Colors (the Color Scheme Exercise)

You can create multiple different colors by mixing the colors in the color wheel. You can use a complicated color wheel for your reference and try to create the swatches of the tertiary colors that you see by the mix and match process. Try and get as close to the shade as possible by increasing and decreasing the ratio of each color. There are several premixed colors available in the stores, but they may not be the exact shade you want in your artwork. It is also always good to create them yourself to get a stronghold on the colors. 

Combining the Complementary Colors

The complementary colors are the colors that are located opposite to each other on the color wheel. They compliment each other well and that’s why they make amazing visual effects. 

Pairing these colors and making swatches will help you build your knowledge on ‘contrast’. Also, help you understand how and where to employ them. Try a creative way to pair them up. Like, make different shapes for each pair of colors, or place two strips of colors next to each other. Also, try to make a square shape and place a small round and fill them with the complimentary colors.

Also, make another set of similar patterns and fill them with colors that are ain’t that contrasting. The whole purpose of this color theory practice is for you to understand how complementary colors look when compared with non-complementary colors.

Combining the Complementary Colors

Use of complementary colors in Van Gogh’s “Starry Night”

Understanding Tone: Creating the Dark and Light Colors

This is one of the important color exercises for artists if you want to improve your color fusing skills. It is a notion that fusing white to darker colors and black to lighter colors will yield a lighter or darker shade respectively. While it kind of does the work, but you really won’t get the exact color that your artist’s eyes would like to see. 

There are several ways in which you can create a dark or a light shade. Here’s the trick to get a much better result: to get a darker or lighter color, you need to add a darker or a light color from the color wheel, for example, if you want to get a lighter shade of orange or soften the hue of orange you can mix purple or blue to it. Interesting right?

The important point to remember here is you need to add a very little amount of the other color at a time. You may not get it right in the first go, but gradually you get to know the exact ratio of colors that should be added.

This color theory practice will help you get a grasp on different color shades and the exact amount of colors you need to mix to get the right shade that. 

Understanding Tone: Creating the Dark and Light Colors

Understanding the Color Value With Different Shades of Gray

Start with the gray color to experiment and explore how ‘value’ in a color theory works. You can add white and black to the gray color to make the different shades of gray. Make swatches on your canvas or paper, so you know the differences in the shades. 

You can also try this with other colors and see the transition in the shades.

Apply the Color Value in Your Painting

Once you are done exploring the different color values, apply them to your painting and see how it looks. Make both high key and low-key paintings by using the appropriate value. For example, to create a high-key painting, the colors that you use will be on the higher side of the value scale, which means the lighter colors. Same way, if you want to create a low-key painting, you will have to use colors that are darker or on the lower end of the scale. Go ahead and try it as it is one of the useful color theory exercises that you will always have to remember when creating an artwork.

Learning the Effect of Hues Through Analogous Paintings Is a Great Color Exercises for Artists

Analogous color scheme refers to similar colors in the color wheel or other words, the colors that are located close to each other in the color wheel and have the same or similar hues. Like blues, greens, purples.  

Analogous colors create color harmony, which gives a soothing effect to your eye and looks beautiful when applied in painting. The analogous colors never clash with each other in fact, they add each other to form a harmonious effect.

Go ahead and practice some paintings using different analogous colors and see the magic.

Learning the Effect of Hues Through Analogous Paintings Is a Great Color Exercises for Artists

Image source: Analogous painting by Donald Town

Apart from the color theory exercises, there are several other aspects that you can work on to improve your art skills.

Some Other Basic Tips and Color Study Exercises That You Can Follow Every Day for Practice to Fine-tune Your Drawing and Painting Skills

Creating art is no joke. You may be an amateur or a professional, or do abstract paints, figurative drawings, or specialize in landscapes when it comes to painting or creating art, you need to have a strong foundation and have to constantly work towards enhancing your drawing and painting skills. 

There are plenty of techniques you can work on to get a strong control over your pencils or paintbrushes on the traditional platform like real paper or canvas or digital canvas for graphic designing or visual media. Therefore, practicing can be the best foot forward for any artist. This section will cover some of those tips and color exercises for artists that are advised by some professionals and that will prove to be beneficial for you.

Basic Painting Tips 

Overcome the Common Painting Mistakes That People Usually Make

Here are some of the common blunders that people make while painting 

  • Not setting up your palette the same way- may lead to a great deal of confusion. Mostly while you are painting because you constantly tend to search for the color on the palette. This wastes a lot of time since you are not focusing on the art. Overcome it by arranging the colors on your palette the same way every time you use it, so you get a hang of it.
  • MUDing: Mixing too many colors makes it muddy and messy. Add just 2 or 3 colors to work on the desired hue you want. As soon as you get the color, stop mixing it.
  • Not setting your subject in the right place: Do not place your subject too far away from you; it should be no more than 2-3 yards away. If you are right-handed, place your subject or object to your left and vice versa, so you can see it easily.
  • Not storing your art materials in a clean and cool dust-free place: Dust particles can disrupt your artwork and ruin it while keeping paint in a warm area can spoil the paint.
  • Don’t waste your paint: Good quality paints don’t come cheap, so why not save them! Store the leftover paint and reuse it. Leftover oil paints can be stored in a cold place and the watercolors can be stored in a covered palette. Add water to reuse.
  • Use an unprimed canvas instead of a primed one: It is always best to use an unprimed canvas. This would be a great exercise for you if you are a beginner as this will give you experience in mixing colors, learning to textures, applying the base, etc. Unprimed canvases are reasonably cheaper as well.
Finding the Appropriate Medium

Whether you are a beginner or a professional artist, selecting the right expression for your artwork is often confusing. Well, this is all about preference. Figure out what suits you best and then go ahead and select watercolors, oil paints, acrylic, or anything else. It also depends on what kind of canvas you are using and what effects you want to see in your art. Different mediums have different effects on the canvas, so choose wisely.

Understanding the Perspective 

Perspective is the illusion that you can create in your artwork, whether it is 2D or 3D. This is one of the crucial elements that every artist needs to know for the artwork to look realistic and professional. You need to know the horizon line of your painting, the vanishing point, or the point where you want to end your road or bridge if you are working on a landscape, etc. 

Get Comfortable With Your Painting Materials

You will not be able to enjoy your work until you settle down with your material like the brushes you use, that paints, canvas, etc.

Get Comfortable With Your Painting Materials

Basic Sketching Tips

Get an Idea About Your Pencils 

When you are beginning to pencil sketch, using the right pencil in the key. There are various ranges and types of pencils available. There are graphite pencils, charcoal pencils, the ranges or types of leads include H, F, and B. All these pencils give significantly different effects.  It is very important to understand these when it comes to pencil shading. Here’s an article related to pencils that may provide you with detailed information.

Have Control Over Your Pencil 

You need to hold the pencil in the right way to get the right effect. Like if you hold the pencil closer to the tip, you will be able to get a darker or denser shade and do more detailing while holding the pencil further above will yield you a lighter shade.

How to Avoid Smudging 

When you use darker pencils to sketch, there is always a possibility of the shades getting smudged. It is very frustrating when you see patches of lead and smudge on your otherwise clean sketch. To avoid this, always use clean paper. Where do you place it? Duh, just underneath your hand when shading. Keep moving it based on your sketch movement.

The 70/30 Rule 

This is a golden rule to remember when it comes to art. Always remember that 30 percent of your artwork includes the main focus or the main subject of your art, while the rest 70 percent should be the background or the fillers. This will make the artwork look professional and avoid being congested, giving it a visually appealing look. 

Practice Different Strokes for Different Types of Shading

There are different shading techniques that you need to know. These shades can give varying looks to your sketch and add texture to the picture. The styles include hatching, cross-hatching, finger blending, scribbling, stippling, and small circles.

Use a Blending Stick for Smoothening or Blending  

Blending sticks prove to be very useful when you want to smoothen out your shades. While you can use your finger to do so, using a blending stick gives you more controlled blending and allows you to get a smoother effect.

Practice Timed Painting as Color Exercises for Artists

This is a great exercise for both professional artists as well as beginners. The motive of this activity is not to complete your painting within a certain time, but the whole point is to stay focused and keep your brushes moving instead of thinking about what the result will be. This will give you a solid grip on the whole process of creating the artwork.

Practice Timed Painting as Color Exercises for Artists

Image source: Art by Sasho Trajkov


Understanding color techniques and mastering the color theory can be challenging and time-consuming but it is a very crucial aspect that every art enthusiast needs to know as this forms the base of any art. This article includes some important and easy color theory exercises that can be practiced by beginners to understand the basics, as well as the intermediary level professionals to enhance and polish their skills. Once you have a solid hold on the color theory concept, you can create magic on your canvas with colors!

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQs)

How often should one practice color theory exercises?

You need to practice the color theory exercises as often as you can. Since this is the foundation of coloring and painting, you need to get proficient at it gradually. 

How can we memorize the color wheel and the color theory?

The only way to remember the color theory and the color wheel is to first look at the reference and create your own, and then start exploring the different shades on your own without looking at the reference. Once you understand the logic behind the shades, you do not have to memorize them anymore. 

What medium can be used to practice the color wheel?

While you can use any medium to do your color wheel, if you are a beginner the best medium for practicing color theory exercises is to use watercolors. 

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