Warm and Cool Colors


The colors you use when you paint can be categorized as either warm or cool. Warm colors are energetic and eye-catching. They include reds, yellows, and oranges – the colors you might tend to think of when imagining a hot or tropical location.

Cool colors include greens, blues, and purples – colors you think of when picturing a snowy, icy location. These colors give are generally calming and soothing.

White, black, and grey are considered to be neutral colors.

To see the difference in warm and cool colors, paint the mountain scene below using a WARM color the first time, then a COOL color the second time. This will be a MONOCHROMATIC painting (“mono” meaning “one”; “chromatic” meaning “color”), created with different values of the same color.

Notice that the lighter mountains appear to be further away, and those that are darker appear to be closer. Lighter values move back while darker values come forward.

1. To begin, place a warm color, such as orange, on your palette.

2. Add a lot of water to the orange paint to make it very light. Begin painting from the top of the paper and move downward.
















3. When the paint is dry, add a little more paint on your brush and a little less water. Now paint the mountain that is furthest away. This should still be light in value, but darker than your sky.
















4. When that paint is dry, add another mountain. Use even more paint and less water, making it lower in value (darker).

















5. Add one more mountain, this one with more paint and less water than the one before. By making this one darker, the mountain appears to be closer.
















6. Repeat the process using a cool color.

















Compare your warm painting to your cool painting. Can you “feel” the difference the colors make?