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How to Use Color Palettes to Make Custom Art

What does it take to make a good design and a great piece of art? A color palette! Here are some fun and easy acrylic paint art ideas and how to use a color palette to make your own custom art.

Have you ever wondered what people do with all those pretty color palettes you see on Pinterest? Last week I shared some of my favorite ways to use color palettes (other than just drooling over them) and today I want to show you how easy it is to make abstract paintings based on your favorite color palette.

How to Use Color Palettes to Make Custom Art

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Psst. I’ve got a little secret for you. You know what it takes to make a good design and a great piece of art? A color palette!

I’ve got three paintings that you can do, based on one of my favorite color palettes. It’s fun, full of vibrant colors, and perfect for summer.

You don’t have to use the color palette I chose, though. I’ll show you how to pick your own paints, so you can use different colors in any palette you like.

Using a Color Palette to Pick Paints

Green and pink DecoArt Americana paints matched to a color palette.

Before you start your art project, you’ll need to pick paint based on your color palette. Bring your palette with you to the store to pick your paints, then simply pick out the colors that match the color swatches on the palette.

We’ll be doing these projects with acrylic craft paint, because it’s one of the most accessible, inexpensive and easy to use paint type for beginners. You might feel a little silly, standing in the paint aisle, holding your phone out in front of you as you scan the rack for the perfect acrylic color to match your palette, but I promise you won’t be the only one!

Paint Color Picking Tip: The easiest way to get accurate colors is to tip the paint bottle over and look at the bottom. 

Canvas Painting for Beginners

As you’re picking colors based on your color palette, start thinking about which of the colors you’ll want to use as your background color. Before you start your project, take a few minutes to cover your whole canvas in your background color paint.

Brush strokes of pink paint on a white canvas.

Be sure to paint the edges too, so you can hang your art without a frame.

pink painted canvas, with edges covered in pink

Allow it to dry completely, about 30 minutes to an hour.

3 Easy Acrylic Painting Ideas using Color Palettes

1. Boho Feather Painting

Our first project will be the easiest, using feather stencils and a paintbrush.

Green feathers and dots painted on pink background

Once your background color is dry, use a few different shapes of feather stencils (or whatever stencil you like) to make a pattern on the canvas with the remaining colors from your color palette.

Using a stencil to paint a green feather on a pink background.

You can use a stencil brush if you have one, or you can just use whatever paintbrush you have. Be careful to paint from the outside edge of the stencil towards the middle blank area, so you don’t accidentally force paint under the stencil edges and cause bleeding.

If you want more pattern after you’ve added the stencils, add dots, lines or any other pattern to fill in the blank space until you like your design.

Stenciling Tip: If your stencils bleed through, or you make any mistakes along the way, simply use your background color to cover them up and then try again once it’s dry.

2. Bold Stripey Painting

Pink and green sun ray painting, based on a color palette from The Palette Muse.

There is no right or wrong way to do this kind of painting. Simply start with a dot anywhere on your canvas. Use a pencil to mark the spot.

Masking tape forms a ray on a pink canvas

Use your masking tape to create “rays” coming out from your dot. Then use your palette colors to fill in between the tape lines, like a stencil.

Green rays coming from a single point on a pink background

To keep from overlapping, just do 2-3 rays at a time and allow to dry before removing the tape. Then put the tape down in adjacent spots, but with varying widths.

The paint from the front of the canvas wraps around the edges

Keep alternating sizes and colors until you get a pattern you like. Be sure to carry the tape and paint around the edges, to create a finished look.

Pro Paint Color Tip: You could add white paint to any of your colors to create even more variation in your painting.

3. Cute Cactus Painting

Green cacti painted on a pink background

This little guy is the most free-form and whimsical of these three projects. For this one, you’ll start by using one color to paint three arches near the bottom of the canvas, then fill them in with the same color.

Painting the beginning of a green cactus on a pink background

While that color is still wet, use another color to draw lines from the top of the cacti down, following the round contour of the cactus.

Once those colors are dry, use your third color to draw little spikes in groups of 3-4 along the spines of the cactus, and a few along the edges.

Painting white cactus spikes on a green and pink cactus painting.

Painting Tip: This little cactus doesn’t have to look perfect. It’s more of a caricature of a cactus. (Mine looked just like a trio of watermelons until I added the little spikes!)

Color Palette Custom Art Resources

I love these easy painting ideas because they don’t require many supplies, or expensive tools. Here are the basics to get you started:

  • Acrylic Paint in each of the colors from your color palette. I like DecoArt’s Americana. Great quality, great price!
  • Paintbrushes, assorted sizes. (If you’re planning on a lot of stenciling, get yourself a stencil brush too!)
  • Artist’s Canvas – Mine were 9×12. If you are planning on displaying your work without a frame (like me), be sure to get a back-stapled canvas, so the sides look nice and finished.
  • Masking Tape
  • Stencils of any type, about 3-4 inches long. Mine were similar to these feather stencils.
Three pink and green paintings lined up on the wall.

Of course, you’ll need a good color palette too! I always love Pinterest for color inspiration, but feel free to check out my own palettes here. Plus, here are a few of my favorite fun color palettes to get you inspired. Happy creating!

Fun Color Palettes

Looking for some color inspiration? These palettes will get your creative juices flowing!


Tuesday 28th of May 2019

Great article. Question - what would you consider a good outdoor accent color for a white house, black trim, gray patio furniture and some accents of navy. First thing that comes to mind is RED but I dont care for red or bright yellow. Any ideas?


Monday 3rd of June 2019

That's a great question! I think I would try emerald green. It'll brighten things up, without being too in-your-face like red or yellow.


Creating a color-filled life. Conquering my little world one DIY project at a time. With lots of coffee and chocolate. Albuquerque NM. Pinterest ~ Instagram ~ Facebook