A creative approach to finding seasonal color palettes

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Working with seasonal color palettes is a great way to approach the mood-shifting nature of design, allowing the designer to capture a specific temperature, feeling and atmosphere in a concise and consistent way.

With that said, it isn’t so simple to open up an empty Photoshop file and start picking colors. In fact, that would be silly, given that thousands of incredible and masterful artists and designers have already developed millions of refined and beautiful color palettes that you can extract from!

This article focuses on spring, the season at hand, and takes a look at how we can use preexisting works to develop subtle and nuanced seasonal color palettes that can serve as a venue for wonderfully original works.

Emilio Sanchez
By Emilio Sanchez

When seeking preexisting works to extract colors from, it’s helpful to think of artists who work in solid colors, such as Emilio Sanchez, whose paintings depict bright scenes with hard light. This not only helps us to conceive of what type of palette a given work might provide, but it also is helpful in that the work itself serves as a reference for color ratio use within the palette.

As an example, the work above proves to us that this palette works well with the yellow and blue as dominant colors, whereas the pink and red work best as sparse accents.

Emilio Sanchez
By Emilio Sanchez

When you find an artist whose colors are speaking to you, it can be very fruitful to ride that wave and start extracting colors from several of their pieces. Above, another Emilio Sanchez piece provides a cool seasonal color palette featuring the wonderful robins’ egg blue – perfect for spring.

Emilio Sanchez
By Emilio Sanchez

Following the Emilio Sanchez train of thought, we can see that it is also helpful to sometimes focus on only a section of a painting. In this example, I’ve chosen to only extract color from the distant outside space, which I feel nicely captures some of the wonderful lush and soft, wet colors of spring.

Emilio Sanchez
By Emilio Sanchez

This final Emilio Sanchez piece offers a wide palette that is rich and embodies what could be described as cool spring air. With only four color extractions from a single artist we have already obtained enough color palettes to fuel an entire spring series of designs! Why stop there?

Robert Indiana
By Robert Indiana

Another artist that comes to mind when I think of solid colors is Robert Indiana. Starting off with his famous “Love” design, we already have a bright and playful color palette that would work well with child oriented spring designs.

Robert Indiana
By Robert Indiana

Moving onto some more involved Robert Indiana works, we are able to create a palette with slightly more sophistication. Note how the off-green juxtaposed to the deep solid blue might nod well to transition from thawing ice to swimming!

Robert Indiana
By Robert Indiana

Another depth of this exercise is to use the same piece to extract several color palettes. Here, using the same Robert Indiana piece as the last extraction, I’ve managed to extract a completely different palette that may speak more to spring sunset sensibilities.

Ed Ruscha
By Ed Ruscha

Another terrific artist who works in minimal solid color palettes is Ed Ruscha. In his famous work above, I’ve managed to extract a palette which speaks to a perhaps not-so-obvious side of spring. The grey-blue might speak to the sky starting to open up, the burnt orange and grey might speak to the ground and soil starting to show, then the shocking red could even speak to some of those hotter days in spring.

Fanette Mellier
By Fanette Mellier

If you checked out my recent article on important female graphic designers, you may have discovered Fanette Mellier, another phenomenal silk screen artist who is also a gold mine for color palettes. The example above has turned out a beautiful palette featuring a classic grass green, sun yellow, as well as those in-between blues and reds.

spring seasonal color palette
By Fanette Mellier

Wrapping up with another Fanette Mellier piece, we end with one of the more analogous palettes. Interestingly, the pink here almost serves as a cool color compared to the warming orange and yellow – creating a perfect tension of temperature for spring.

Final thoughts

Feel free to try any of these palettes in your next spring themed design contest! If none of these tickle your fancy, now you should have an eye for how to extract color palettes from some of your favorite designers and artists. Don’t be afraid, color palettes are copyright free! Enjoy.

Which seasonal color palettes do you love? Share them in the comments!

Featured Image: Emilio Sanchez

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