We talk about favorite colors, but we don’t talk as much about favorite color combinations. Sometimes what grabs you about a scene is the juxtaposition of colors, or a subtle blend.
The next time you look at a scene and think “I want to paint that!”, or look at a painting and think, “I really like that artist’s work!” ask yourself if a color combo is a significant reason. If so, consider collecting that combination in your studio notebook.
What are some of your favorite color combinations (2 or 3 or even more together)? Are there colors that you don’t care for by themselves that you still like as part of a combo (or are still useful as part of a combo)? When you think about palette choices, do you also consider the colors you will need to set off and showcase the colors you want to showcase in a painting?
Your studio notebook can be a great place to be strategic about palette choices. Notice MORE than just the color(s) that drew you to a scene, or a painting. What other colors play a role in making that special one so noticeable or so yummy?
My studio notebook includes many different kinds of color collections and explorations, from reference swatches for my current palette setup to testing colors for a particular graded sky wash.
One of my favorite is collecting interesting color combinations to use as color schemes for future paintings.
These color combos are great reference for paintings, but also excellent color-mixing practice. Don’t drive yourself crazy trying to get an exact match! Not all colors in the world can be matched exactly with watercolor pigments.
You can also take a color on your palette and create color schemes based on that color: complementary, split-complementary, tetrad, analogous, (nearly)-monochrome.
If you’re not familiar with those terms, you can play around on one of the many color scheme websites for designers, such as Adobe’s Color Wheel website. https://color.adobe.com/create/color-wheel