How Artists Use Color
By Alexandra Wade - November 2, 2022

There are different experiences that we all go through in our daily lives, from small moments on the street to interactions with people we love. Often, these experiences leave us with emotions or takeaways that we wish we could relay to other people, but find it difficult to ever communicate the significance of a moment through words. For artists, this wall isn’t usually present because they have the skills necessary to portray those ideas through different creations. However, even if we can’t acquire the skills of artists, we can try to understand how they use color theory in their works to find alternative ways of imparting important ideas.

Getty Images / DigitalVision / Alistair Berg

Artists use contrast very specifically in their compositions. If they wish to draw a scene where they’re showing two opposing sides, or a conflict of some kind, internal or external, they employ the technique of contrast. By using the bright colors like white to signify purity, and black or gray to portray the side of evil, they visually contrast two sides of conflict.

Another thing they use is the psychological associations human beings have with some colors. To take an example, looking at the color red, the artist would see a sea of possibilities. They could use that to paint a scene between two characters to depict romance. They could use mediums like clay to sculpt on top of a drawing, and then paint it in red to signify a violent connotation of some kind which would be exaggerated with the sculpting.

Lastly, artists understand that, while colors have different kinds of impacts on various groups of people, they can also do the opposite. It is easy to overwhelm the viewer with oversaturated colors, which causes them to not understand where to look in the composition. To counter this, artists strategically insert sections of empty space in their creations that completely lack color.