Warm & Cool Colors-Oil Painting Tutorial

Warm & Cool Colors

Warm colors are your reds, oranges, and yellows,

Oil Painting Tutorial on Warm & Cool Colors

while your cool colors are your blues, greens, and (some)purples.

Oil Painting Tutorial cool colors

Warm Cools, & Cool Warms

Now, I’d like to also mention you can have warm cools, and cool warms, and some colors may vary more than others. For instance, you can have a purple that leans more towards a warm purple if there’s more red in it, or a cool purple if there’s more blue in it. A green can lean toward a more yellow green, making it a warm cool, or it can lean toward a blue green and stay within the cool family.

When working in oils, it’s important to understand your warms and cools. Example, if you have warm shadows, that will direct what colors your shadows will lean towards. And vice versa. Try to keep your warms and cools clean. Understanding if your subject is in the warm family, or cool family can help you better your color mixing, and make for a more unified, harmonious painting in the end.

Thanks for joining me today to talk a little about color!

To view examples of using warms and cools in oil paintings check out this custom painting of Bella the Dachshund, or this Tetradic color scheme in Tommy the Corgi’s painting.

I hope you found this helpful!



  1. Melissa (Reply) on Sunday 10, 2011

    Wow …good tutorial. I love color …and I’m so glad you decided to talk about warm cools, and cool warms. I’ve kind of (not completely, of course) forgotten about some of that, and it’s good to be reminded again. Especially the thought about shadows being warm colors sometimes. That’s such a good point. I think I’ll be seeing shadows differently now! :-) You know, it’s kind of neat, because ever since I’ve become familiar with more of your work, and have studied what you’ve done, it’s helped me to see color better. I love walking through the woods, or even in our neighboorhood, and seeing all the hidden colors. The blue and purple in the shadows, the highlighted oranges and reds, the flecks of gold, and the swirls of greens, browns, yellows, and reds. And I’m already getting more excited, because now I can start looking to divide what I see into sub groups of warm or cool colors. (i.e. if I see green, is it a warm green, or a cool green?)
    And of course ….a question for you. You mentioned keeping your warms and cools clean. Exactly how do you do that? (I’m afraid I’m very talented in making mud. :-))
    Thank-you so much for all your help!