top of page

How to create a colour palette for an art journal

Updated: Oct 19, 2022

Every time when I start a new art journal I prepare myself a supply kit and a colour palette. Both of these seemingly little actions have a massive impact on my art practice and the way in which I fill the book.

And setting a colour palette for an art journal is the real game changer.

  • It takes away the difficulty of choosing colours for every spread

  • It takes away the pressure of coming up with a stunning colour palette every time when I sit down to do my daily art

  • It gives me a permission to use same colour combo over and over again

  • It allows me to learn more about each colour and explore it further (mixing, combinations, tints, shades etc)

  • It keeps my art journal coherent and all the spreads in it come together to tell one story

  • It limits the amount of supplies that I have on my table

When it comes to establishing a regular art practice I feel that a certain level of limitation is a blessing. It helps us jump straight into the art process, rather than overthink at the preparation stage. I want to show you now how you can make one of your own.

Choosing a colour palette for an entire book may seem like a big deal. But remember, this is not a commitment for life. You can change your colour palette at any point of your art journal. You can add colours to it or take some away. This is about creating a starting point.

1. A great way to start creating a colour palette for a certain art journal is to go through your previous artwork and see which colours seem especially appealing to you right now. Choose one colour.

If you can't find it on your previous artwork feel free to go through a magazine, or an art book or even Pinterest. Be careful though, don't fall down the rabbit hole, stay focused.

2. Once you've chosen your first colour, gather your colour supplies. I like to create my colour palettes with something easy so no mixing is required. Think pastels, pencils, watercolours, inks, crayons or even magazine cut outs.

3. The next step will be to make a swatch of your chosen colour on a piece of paper where you'll be creating your palette. I like to use an old postcard for that.

4. Once you've done that, grab your colour wheel. If you haven't got one, order it for later and always keep on your desk.

5. Find the place on the wheel where your chosen colour belongs.

6. Now look at the colours that are its direct neighbours (adjacent) - choose two. Either from both sides of your original colour or the two from the left or right.

7. Find these colours among your pencils/pastels/paints and make swatches on your postcard.

8. Now look at the colour wheel again. Find your original colour once more and see what's opposite to it. This is a complementary colour, it contrasts your original colour and, in small quantities, could be a good addition to your palette. Make a swatch of it on your palette.

9. You can now take your palette further. You could start mixing your chosen colours using acrylics, adding small amounts of white (tints) or black (shades) to alter them slightly. Play with the colours if you like or stop now and put your colour palette at the beginning of your art journal so you can use it as reference.

Now you can gather your art kit to work in this book. You know the colours you'll use as your starting point, so it's going to be easier to choose the things you'll need.


What if you don't like the palette that you've just created?

Don't use it, put it away for next time, the next art journal, the next series of paintings. Either start the process again making sure that your starting colour is something you really love, or keep on adding to your first palette, making alterations and looking at other adjacent colours that could help.

Can I change the palette mid art journal?

YES! This colour palette is supposed to serve you as your starting point, but whenever you feel like it doesn't bring you joy, you can alter it, add to it or make an entirely new one. I usually add a colour or two to my original palette somewhere at the stage when I reach a third of my art journal. It makes it feel more exciting and enjoyable.

I don't like to work with a colour palette. How can I make the process easier?

I would give you two big pieces of advice:

1. Start every project with one set of adjacent colours (those that are next to each other on the colour wheel) and see where that takes you.

2. If you're adding a colour that's complementary to what's on your artwork already, make sure that the initial layer is dry first. Mixing complements is called neutralising and creates grey-ish, muddy colours.

I hope you'll love the process of creating your own colour palette as much as I do. I really encourage you to give it a go, it's so much fun and can make your art practice much easier.


If you would like to learn a lot more about colour, our Colour Confidence Masterclass might be just the ticket for you! You will learn a whole bunch of new knowledge, skills and techniques to give you the confidence to mix colours, create jaw dropping colour palettes and intuitively pick out colour schemes from he world around you, with so much more jam-packed into this course.

Click the button below to find out more and enrol on the course!


4 comentarios

This information on making a color pallet is brilliant. I would have benefitted from this instruction many years ago. Thank you so much 💓

Me gusta

Brilliant, thanks so much, such a great way to get really aquainted with your fave colours and supplies :)

Me gusta

This was genius, I wish I had this information prior to Wanderlust last year. I randomly bought colors I liked and never felt my pages came together and eventually I lost interest. Wasted materials and money.

Me gusta
Kasia Avery
Kasia Avery
01 dic 2021
Contestando a

Hi Susan! We include this information (and more) with every Wanderlust since 2017 in the Colour and Composition video that is available to all students before the course starts. Regardless, I think setting one colour palette for an art journal that's supposed to last you for a whole year is a big ask. In case of Wanderlust I would suggest choosing a colour palette for each project. And also Wanderlust is a whole year of learning, you try a different style every week. The best approach would be to let go of the pressure of having your course art journal coherent and come together. Allowing yourself to be a student and try different things could be helpful. Kasia

Me gusta
bottom of page