Which Colors Are In Your Palette? Bet on blue, not brown

Have you ever wondered how the color palettes of so many varied companies seem to follow suit? For Atrium_wallcoverings_andante_sea_gr instance in the past year, if you browsed a Crate & Barrel or Horchow or Macy’s Home catalog you’d find natural blues and shades of chocolate brown making a strong influence on home design. Is is possible that Cadillac and Lexus could choose eerily similar shades of luscious metallic raspberry red in the same model year? Given seasonal color palettes are chosen one to three years in advance, such trends do not happen by coincidence. Most color designers who work for large companies that need to forecast color direction to market their products subscribe to either the Color Marketing Group or The Color Association. These organizations help them decide on colors from Kleenex boxes to Cadillacs.

An Associated Press story picked up on MSNBC: Social trends color shade-forecasting businessNext year’s Beijing Olympics could spark a trend in reds and yellows explains how the 1,100 member Color Marketing Group works to identify coming trends in color for Consumer/Residential Hamilton_beach_mixer_sea_breeze and Contract/Commercial products that include: Action/Recreation, Consumer Goods, Technology, Home, Visual Communications, Transportation, Juvenile Products, Fashion, and environments for Office, Health Care, Retail, Hospitality/Entertainment and Institutional/Public Spaces.

If you are painting with the notion your art and legacy are museum bound, this information may not be of interest to you. If, however, you are painting to create art that will be bought to complement other decor in homes and offices, then paying attention to color trends is valuable. Ask any exhibitor working an art tradeshow what is the first question they get from buyers. I guarantee it is, “What’s new?” As with themes and subject matter, questions of palette choices are always brought into the conversation. To let your color choices be informed by trends you catch early can make a difference in if and how quickly otherwise well executed art gets sold.

In my book, How to Profit from the Art Print Market, I mention consulting with an artist who was loaded with talent and substantial financial backing. Further, he had a compelling personal story that would have made promoting and publicizing him and his art easy. He came to mind as I was writing this post because I recalled how uncertain he was on choosing colors for the etchings he was creating.

Download List of 7 Essential Tools Artists Use
Download List of 7 Essential Tools Artists Use

Here was a technically accomplished artist who was far outside his comfort zone. While he was a gifted illustrator who could paint wildlife direct from nature with ease, he had never personally nor professionally paid attention to home decor. When it came to choosing colors for the landscape, vineyard and other home decor motifs etchings specifically researched and designed for this audience, he was unsure. Perhaps if I’d been able to steer him to sources like those mentioned in this post, he wouldn’t have abandoned the project to the dismay of those invested in it.

If you choose to allow yourself to be informed from contemporary influences to help increase your sales and popularity, tracking the trend predictions of the Color Marketing Group and The Color Association should be on your resource list. For most individual artists subscribing to such pricey services is not in the budget, but they nevertheless can gather much information from frequent press releases these organizations provide. I’ll do my best to publish pertinent sources as I find them.

Download List of 7 Essential Tools Artists Use
Download List of 7 Essential Tools Artists Use


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  1. I wholeheartedly agree with you, Barney. I spent the last nine years in San Diego working with decorators in creating murals,custom paintings,and faux finishes in homes and businesses. I also did color consulting where I would help the homeowner, decorator, or builder choose the colors in their homes from the hard goods such as woods and tiles, to the fabrics for the drapes. All to keep everything working together. As an artist, I have a great color sense, so I was used for more than just my artwork! When it came to picking the wall decor, believe me….unless there was a favorite piece of art that didn’t match anything (such as an underwater scene from Wyland) the wife and decorator ALWAYS chose their art based on color. So if they were partial to landscapes, they would ask for landscapes that would compliment their color theme. If they loved architectural scenes, the predominant colors needed to match their new couoh!! In the hundreds of homes that I was a paid color consultant (and in San Diego, there was a large diversity of relocations from all over the world, so it wasn’t just a predominant race or culture) I would see art that “matched” be purchased, and that which didn’t was relegated to the garage sale pile! So Barney is “spot on” with his comments. In fact, I am currently working with a client in San Diego (I just recently moved to Oregon) to paint a large landscape for their master bedroom. They have lots of latitude on how the landscape can look….except the color! It needs to work with their bedroom, as this room was just redone. The woman of the house has a huge influence on the art that is purchased for the home! One way that an artist can see the upcoming color forcasts without having to go to High Point North Carolina furniture show, is to contact Benjamin Moore Paint Company. They are considered the number one paint by architects and decorators across the board….and they have a color forcast kit that you can purchase from their website. Make sure that you order the 2008 Color Pulse, as they still have available the ones from this year. It costs around 75.00 and is a great investment! (If you look at my site, it is not up, as I am updating it to a new host…it is nearly completed, so check back later this week!)

  2. Hi Laurel,

    Thanks for the kind comments and great suggestions! Your insights from your experience are something we all can learn from. I’m eager to see your new site.

  3. Hello Barney,
    Your interesting and informative WHICH COLORS ARE IN YOUR PALETTE set me to thinking about how my color vocabulary changed over a lifetime centered around art and color.

    My first color vocabulary, as a child, was based on the rainbow and the acronym: Roy G. Biv — red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet.

    When I attended art school, my vocabulary shifted to the paint colors I used to create art such as Cadmium Red, Yellow and Orange, Viridian, Terre Verte, Cerulean, Cobalt and Ultramarine, Turquoise, Cobalt Violet, Magenta and Rose Madder and all the earth tones, the Siennas and Umbers.

    Then on to teach Art in the Baltimore Public Schools where we used the Munsell Color Wheel: Red, Yellow-red, Yellow, Green, Blue-green, Blue, Blue-purple, Purple, Red-purple.

    Another career change into advertising and my color vocabulary changed again using Pantone and PMS color designations to guide the printers reproducing our brochures and ads.

    When I finally ended up spending twenty plus years as an art rep calling on interior designers, decorators and architects, my color world went spinning out of control, at least at first.

    These people didn’t talk or think in terms of artist’s paint colors I recognized or Munsell’s Hue, Value and Chroma. God forbid I should ask which Pantone color they wanted to match to their sofa fabric.

    They wanted Camel, Oyster, Seafoam, Biscuit, Robin’s Egg, Beige, Taupe, Teal, Mauve, Puce, Plum, Avocado, Canary — all manner of bird, beast, fruit or vegetable! At first, I resisted, but quickly realized I’d better learn if I wanted to sell art.

    In short order, I discovered, first, that ALL women speak this strange language naturally. And women make most of the decisions about what art goes into their homes. They don’t have to be taught and, second, once I got rid of the “we never did it that way before” mental roadblock, it made more sense and was more accurate in day-to-day communication than anything I had used before.

    As I met and worked with interior designers, I realized the successful ones were true artists in their chosen field with a sense of style and color that could accommodate nuances from subtle, to adventurous, to fantastic and that they could bring off combinations of color I’d never even considered when I was producing art. They keep abreast of what is “hot” and “what is not” — the best of them anticipate color trends before they “happen” and lead others into new ways of seeing.

    Over the years, I’ve been asked a number of times about “the best way to work with an interior designer.”

    Here’s my advice:
    Before you decide on who should do your new home or condo, visit a number of designers, look at their portfolios of photos of the jobs they have done (they all have them). You’ll soon recognize a “feel” you are comfortable with, then sit down with the designer and talk about how you’d like to live, about any special preferences, including colors you love or loathe. If you’ve clipped pictures from design or lifestyle magazines, show them and tell the designer what you like or dislike about them. Talk until you feel the designer knows you and you know and like them.

    Then (and here’s where a lot of “hands-on” people will part company with my advice): tell the designer your budget, with a plus or minus ten percent, and say something like, “I don’t have to see any of your selections. Buy what you think is best and surprise me with a finished job you are so proud of you can hardly wait to have others see it. Call me a couple of weeks before it’s finished so I can go on vacation and come back relaxed and anticipating a wonderful surprise.”

    My guess is the designer will knock him or herself out to create a masterpiece, will search out the best bargains and stay up nights thinking of the design “tricks” he or she knows will work, but has never been able to convince a client to try.

    When you see the finished product, my guess is you’ll be thrilled. If there is a detail or two, or a piece of furniture or fabric you aren’t sure about, let the designer know, but ask, “May I live with it for a few weeks?” The chances are you’ll soon see why it was chosen and come to like it. If, in the end, you just can’t face living with it, ask the designer what alternate might work. Most designers will work out a very fair compromise — may even be able to use the piece in another job and find a choice you’ll love at a great price.

    When it’s all wrapped up, take the time to write the kind of “thank you” and recommendation Madame X must have written to John Singer Sargent when she saw the finished painting.

    I hope some of your readers will take the time to visit my website: and let me share some stories about the fascinating art world that supported my family all those years.

    Dick Harrison

  4. Hello Barney,

    I complement you on your excellent article “Which Colors Are In Your Palette?” Every starving artist out there should read this. For is it not they, the ones that repetitively complain of not being able to sell their art, that paint for themselves only? Discovering the desires of your potential clients and fulfilling them ‘paints’ your bank account black instead of red.

    I am commenting here because of my problem in finding artists that can or are willing to create works of art that conform to certain criteria. That criteria is: light and bright colors (blues, greens, pinks) no nudes, psychodramas, violence, guns, blood or portraits. Also most abstract works. What we very much appreciate is works of art that depict Nature.

    We are in the process of setting up a new luxurious art gallery (brick and mortar + virtual) in the Benelux (Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg) with more than 25,000 square feet of exhibition space. If need be we are able to double that amount. In one of the buildings are 5 spacious fully equipped bedrooms. These will be used for (traditional)artists who desire to familiarize themselves with creating art using computers. In the same building is also a huge loft where state-of-the-art (pun unintended) computers will be located for their use. We suspect that a ± 3 month stay would be adequate. There is NO charge for this. Artists selected will have to provide for their own meals in the very spacious and modern kitchen. Should they desire to help a little with normal chores then that would be very much appreciated.

    A full in-house framing (exclusive Italian designs) and matting shop will be part and parcel of the art gallery. There will also be a room especially for children who can paint there to their heart’s content, both traditionally and with computers at NO charge.
    There will also be a very special audio/meditation room where people can unload their negativity, go through a healing process or simply just relax, also at NO charge.

    The property, with it’s buildings, is situated on the banks of large river in a sunny and warm picturesque village, populated with a whopping 350 very friendly souls. Almost everyone here speaks the English language. The Village is about a 15 minute drive to the capital city.

    I once catered to advertising agencies making layouts and mockups when there were no color printers yet. Yes, there were color copiers but no printers. Then, at an exhibition I saw (unbelievingly) an Apple computer coupled to a Canon 500 CLC (color laser copier) outputting A-3 color prints from Adobe Illustrator. I was so amazed and impressed that I went to my bank, got the big loan I needed and then became the first person in the Netherlands to offer color printing to advertising agencies. At that time I simply followed my intuition and was dead-on right. There was a huge market for my services. I ended up with 3 associates who did nothing but print color all day long, many times 7 days a week.

    What I’m trying to say here is that I once again have this great sort of intuition that I had then. I am thoroughly convinced that digitally created art is the art of the future. More and more museums and galleries are now accepting this art as part of their exhibits. More and more artists are moving their brushes to the top shelf and migrating to the computer to create their art. The studio can now be a laptop that can be taken anywhere. No more mess to clean up. No more toxic terps. It’s Saturday night, the stores are closed and you have to paint using a color you just ran out of? *#@!(=%~!!! Digitally, you never run out. You have more painting tools at your creative disposal than any traditional painter could ever imagine.

    I am not in this for the money. I genuinely enjoy helping others, especially in helping them make their dreams come true. Some time ago I discovered that the easiest way to make your dreams come true is to first help others make their dreams come true. I have been walking a very Spiritual path for quite a number of years and have been blessed with the gift of being able to communicate freely with my Spiritual Guide. I receive Help and Guidance whenever I request it. When examining proposed art, my Guiding Friend tells me if it is saleable in the gallery or not. Ditto for the selection of in-house artists.

    If you would like more information please email me. In order to exclude spamming you will have to slightly alter the address: jstoeten – at –

    Thank you Barney for your excellent article and allowing me to post this message.

    Jan Stoeten

  5. Dear Dick & Jan,

    Thank you both for such wonderful thoughtful comments to this post on the importance of choosing color for art. Dick, what a wonderful trip through a career imbued with color. I couldn’t help but laugh when you described being surprised at the interior designers’ colorful language and how all women seem to naturally speak it. So true and poignant.


    Thanks for finding my blog and commenting on it. In my book, I quote the timeless sculptor, Constantin Brancusi, who said, “To see far is one thing, going there is another.” You obviously are the rare dreamer or visionary who goes where he sees.

    Most of us are stuck in our mundane lives and lack the fortitude and will and means to do things that seem to come naturally to you. May your newest venture be blessed with great success beyond your fertile imagination!

  6. Barney,

    You take my breath away with such kind and stimulating comments. I thank you from the bottom of my heart!!!

    What this posting was really about is the philanthropic thread that runs through the posting. The art gallery will cost close to USD$ 2,000,000.00 upon completion. It’s function is to assist approximately 20 digital painters to earn a very comfortable income. At the moment there is much that I cannot reveal but what I can tell you is that what I am creating is a win-win-win situation where the artist wins, the client wins and I win. This will be a niche market. For those that do not know what a niche market is I will tell you. Depending on geographic location it is a market where you have no or very little competition (every businessman’s dream.)

    There is a very good reason for my choosing the bright blues, greens and pinks. When these colors are viewed, the viewer’s brain starts a chemical process that enhances well-being, stimulates creativity, reduces stress, stimulates the immune system and much more. When the artist paints using these colors and/or their variants, he/she not only activates this chemical process but also that of the viewer’s.

    What I am trying to do here is create the environment and/or conditions that allow the artist to contribute to the welfare of his/her fellow man. I stated earlier that I was not in it for the money but rather in it to be of genuine service to others.

    “Get out of the habit of thinking that you should receive something first before you give. That is not giving. That is an exchange. Giving freely and cheerfully enables you to do business, if you wish to look at it that way, with the universe. This is how it works: You give someone something that you have now with you – freely and cheerfully. The universe, by the law, finds the best way to give back that energy to you in the form of something that you do not have with you. it gives you back in multiples, when it is most appropriate, in the most appropriate form. It is a magical process. Obviously, the more you give, the more magic you create for yourself. Life starts to work for you.”

    “It is ok to think and know that when you give you will get back something from the universe. You do not have to pretend you are not interested in receiving a reward for giving. Expecting reward is good. In fact, expecting a reward is empowering a reward to come to you. The violation of the law of giving comes when you start expecting to receive something back from the same being you give to, saying ‘well, I did this for you so you should do that for me’. In fact demanding a particular reward back is a violation. It makes you “trading” minded rather than “cheerful and free giving” minded. Never ask for or expect ‘pay back’ from those you give to. The reward you receive will come from a source and a time and in a form that the universe finds best suited for you.” David Gikandi

    Although most artists are unaware of their true potential, it is within each and every artist’s capacity to earn a six-figure income. All you need is the right knowledge in order to create your desired reality. Because this is a rather lengthy subject, I will not discuss it here but I can get you started by sending you to When you arrive there select Creating Reality, second from the bottom left-hand navigation bar. There you will discover what a very beautiful being you really are and that your capabilities are truly unlimited. As has been proven by Quantum Physics, people eventually become what they think. “As a man thinketh, so shall he be.” So, have a good journey. If you need any help on this subject just get in touch with me and I will do what I can for you.

    I have had some feedback about the bright blues, greens and pinks; artists not really understanding what I meant. I have therefore scoured the internet searching for images that would do very well in our future gallery. I have a Microsoft Word document with links to these beautiful paintings that we admire so much (if you would like to receive this document, email me: jstoeten – at – This is the kind of art we are looking for. If you already paint or are willing to paint similarly, then you will never have to work another day while I’m looking after you; you just paint. To help put you at ease, one of my best qualities is to be able “To sell refrigerators to Eskimos.”

    What could be easier? You simply upload your art file to our server with a-child-can-do-it software, we print it with the HP Z3100, 48 inch (± 120 cm) printer (there is no better at this time), UV coat it, frame and mat it, do all the marketing, make the sale(s), ship to the client with an unconditional ‘Museum Quality’ guarantee and then pay the artist within a very reasonable time frame. And we can do this again and again and again with the same digital image. As it now stands, the art community now designates each and every other print of one particular digitally created work of art as an original (fine art) print. We are sending ‘Limited Editions’ to the deepest dungeons (where they belong). The new way is Edition 2007, 2008, etc, number 1, number 2, number 400, etc. Because of technological advancement, the higher the number of the edition the better the quality of the artwork.

    Barney, thank you once again for your kind and SUPPORTIVE comments. I also thank you very much for allowing me to post on your blog.

    All the best to you,
    Jan Stoeten

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