Challenge Prompt: 2 Colors

Colors of Summer Art Challenge

PROMPT 2: Two Colors

This post is intended to supplement the Colors of Summer Art Challenge that I am co-hosting on Instagram throughout the month of August (2019). Exercises in color are generally meant to help with color theory and color mixing. While I believe this challenge can accomplish both, I will be focusing on color mixing. I would encourage you to experiment and try new things. Color mixing is fun and really helps you get to know the colors that you have. I genuinely hope that in the process of this challenge, you discover something new! For more information and the challenge prompts, please see the challenge post on my Instagram feed.

This is a tough one!

This prompt is, in my opinion, the hardest out of the bunch. Working with just two colors is really challenging but it also means you will learn a lot. If you have no idea where to begin, I suggest you start with color swatching. Pick two colors at a time and just see what you can make by mixing them together. I wasn't exactly sure how I was going to approach this exercise but luckily I came across a reference photo and immediately realized I could manage it with two colors. So that may be another option. Keep your eyes peeled for images in a very limited color palette. Photo filters can be your friend here as well, and trends like orange and teal could also work in favor of this prompt.

Example of an orange and teal photo reference.

What colors to pick?

Ideally, you want to choose two different colors (pans, tubes, etc.) preferably not from the same color family. So, for example, not two different greens or two different purples. Choosing colors from the same color family avoids color mixing which is the intention behind the prompt. Also, there is little value in it in terms of learning about color. Choosing black will have a similar impact, diminishing the usefulness of the exercise. So again, I would say that black and white do not count as colors for this. However, if you mix two colors together to create your own black, this is completely different and absolutely okay.

The goal is to make as broad of a range of colors as you can from just two starting colors. Additionally, you want to be able to create a full range of values using color rather than relying on black. Keep these two things in mind when you pick your colors.

Some things to try:

  • A dark neutral plus a bright color. Example of dark neutrals: Sepia or Payne's Gray.
  • Complimentary colors, this will work some of the time but not all of the time. Example: Red and Green.
  • You can also try compliments that are shifted slightly, like blue with an orangey-red or pink and a bluish-green. Example: Magenta or Carmine and Perylene Green make an interesting shade of dark purple.
  • In general, colors that mix to create a neutral are a safe bet. Example: Ultramarine and Burnt Sienna.
  • Avoid picking two colors that are light in value as this will lead to problems with creating contrast. Example of light value colors: Potter's Pink and Naples Yellow.
  • Simple subjects like a pitcher or a piece of fruit may be an option if you are running short on ideas in regards to subject matter.
  • It does not have to be a full edge to edge painting. Feel free to leave the background white.

This photo reference could be painted using only dark blue and dark brown.

What colors did I choose?

For my painting, I have chosen Indigo and English Red (both from White Nights). A slightly unusual combo but it is effective and suited the photo I wanted to use. Using only these two colors I can create delicate pale washes as well as a near black mix and everything in between. They also combine to create a very nice neutral grey.

A Few Final Tips

  • Don't undervalue the importance of the color of the surface you are working on, aka the white of the paper.
  • Don't be afraid to push the limits of your comfort zone, this is a challenge after all!
  • Remember to have fun! Learning through play is one of the best ways to gain experience and develop your skills.

I hope this helped you and I can't wait to see what you create!

P.S. - If you have any questions feel free to leave a comment here or reach out to me on Instagram @amyearls.art

Reference photos shown here are from Pixabay.


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