Color Inspiration from the Masters of Painting

Color Inspiration from the Masters of Painting

The world has seen thousands of artists and millions of great pieces of art, but we chose just a handful of pieces of art from some of greatest masters of painting to show a little of how they were inspired by color... or perhaps, how they inspire us with color.

The Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci

The Mona LisaMona Lisa
Painted between 1503 and 1506 in Florence, Italy. It is painted using the sfumato method, a term coined by Leonardo referring to a painting technique in which translucent layers of paint are applied so subtly that there is no perceptible transition. Her enigmatic smile has been both evocative and cause of speculation as to whom she might be.

Three Musicians by Pablo Picasso

Three MusiciansThree Musicians
Painted in the summer of 1921 in a great constrast to his monumental sculptures that year. The seemingly cut-out paper painting evokes a bohemian period in life that was enjoyed even by Picasso, who is the diamond-covered figure in the centre.

Persistence of Memory by Salvador Dalí

Persistence of Memory by Salvador DalíPersistanceOfMemory
Painted in 1931, the surrealistic painting has also been popularly known as Soft Watches, Droopy Watches, or Melting Clocks, and the theme of the painting was later revisited by Dali in 1954 with 'The Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory.

The Water Lily Pond by Claude Pierre Monet

The Water Lily Pond by Claude Pierre MonetLily Pond
The Water Lily Pond was in the collection of the Havemeyers, who considered Monet the greatest impresssionist landscape painter.
At the turn of the twentieth century, Monet became the most popular impressionist painter in the United States, as well as the one best-represented in American collections.

Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh

Starry Night by Vincent van GoghStarry Night
Painted in 1889 and embodies an inner, subjective expression of van Gogh's response to nature. In thick sweeping brushstrokes, a flamelike cypress unites the churning sky and the quiet village below. The village was partly invented, and the church spire evokes van Gogh's native land, the Netherlands.

The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli

The Birth of Venus by Sandro BotticelliThe Birth of Venus
The Birth of Venus depicts the goddess Venus, having emerged from the sea as a full grown woman, arriving at the sea-shore. It is suggested that the painting may have been created in 1483 for Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco. The inspirations Botticelli used where of second century art and history.

Harmony in Red by Henri Matisse

Harmony in Red by Henri MatisseHarmony in Red
One of Mattise's most unusual color creations, with a history just as fascinating and complex. Created in 1908, the piece originally started out as Harmony in Green, and then Harmony in Blue. The predominantly blue canvas was then painted over in the bold red seen now.

Marilyn Monroe by Andy Warhol

Marilyn Monroe by Andy WarholMarilyn
Warhol created several "mass-produced" images from photographs. Gracing his creative flair with things in heavily in the public eye, Warhol created prints during the 1960s featuring Jackie Onassis, and Elvis Presley. His most popular images during this time are of Marilyn Monroe and Cambell's Tomato Soup.

La Promenade by Pierre-Auguste Renoir

La Promenade by Pierre-Auguste RenoirLa Promenade
La Promenade depicts a young man helping a woman up a sloping path into the wood. In doing so, he backs into the trees and bushes and becomes a "green man." He gestures into the trees; she looks away, as if wondering whether she really wants to surrender to the trees and his green embrace, to be tumbled and cradled beneath the dress the trees, soiling her radiant white dress.

The Scream by Edvard Munch

The Scream by Edvard MunchThe Scream
Part of a seminal series of expressionist paintings by Norwegian artist Edvard Munch. It is said by some to symbolize the human species taken by an attack of existential angst. The landscape in the background is Oslofjord, viewed from the hill of Ekeberg.

Les Amants by René Magritte

Les Amants by René Magritteles amants
Painted in 1928, This is one of a small group of pictures painted by Magritte in Paris, in which the identity of the figures is mysteriously shrouded in white cloth. The origin of this disturbing image has been attributed to various sources, including... Magritte's fascination by 'Fantômas', the shadowy hero of the thriller series which first appeared in novel form in 1913. And another source has been suggested as the memory of his mother's apparent suicide. In 1912, when Magritte was only thirteen years of age, his mother was found drowned in the river Sambre; when her body was recovered from the river, her nightdress was supposedly wrapped around her head.

No. 5 by Jackson Pollock

No. 5 by Jackson PollockNo. 5 1948
No. 5, 1948 is an abstract painting by Jackson Pollock, an American painter known for
his contributions to the abstract expressionist movement. The painting was done on a 8 x
4 feet sheet of fiberboard, with thick amounts of brown and yellow paint drizzled on top
of it, forming a nest-like appearance. It has become one of the most controversial
paintings because of its sale to David Martinez for $140 million.

What colors inspire you? Check out Creative Market to find your color palette now.

Related Articles

Showing 1 - 30 of 36 Comments
great fun! well done.

here's a palette i did about mona lisa's smile (you have to read the description).

emotion recognition
i was particularly inspired by your palette at the top of the blog. looks like mine. i never clean it. i just keep adding more paint on top. eventually i peel it off (my palette is glass) and hang it up.

painter's palette
Those are wonderful palettes up there. I did make a pilgrimage to see Starry Night. It's a very large and striking canvas. On the other hand, there's Mark Rothko. It must be art for art's sake, since the U.S. Postal Service considered one of his items as one of the 30 great paintings of the last 300 years. (See the illustration of the painting in the palette.)

I don't get it
I actually like Rothko's paintings. I think they are simple and the color really gets a chance to shine... and I'm all about colors getting the spotlight!
Here's a couple of my favourite paintings.
Udnie by Francis Picabia

Nude Descending a Staircase by Marcel Duchamp
nude descending

Studies of the Human Body by Francis Bacon
francis bacon

I've got several more, but I'll just tag them.
Great article by the way, this is my favourite so far. But then again I'm biased.


This is my version of the Birth of Venus:

So many favorite Masters - so I closed my eyes and just picked one for now. *s* This is a palette that I did a couple of weeks ago.. a tribute to the Czech artist, Alphons Mucha. A brilliant designer as well as artist, Mucha adopted a style that most people think of as *Art Nouveau* - however, originally it was referred to as *Le style Mucha*. I think it's interesting to note that Mucha very much disliked the term *Art-Nouveau* because he felt that all art was eternal and never just *nouveau*. He tried unsuccessfully to distance himself from that label for most of his career.
The painting that inspired the palette.
The palette:
okay. my homage de duchamp:


and william bradford:

bradford cool me off
the mucha palette made me think of beardsley:

awfully wierdsly
i adore this article! I really love Botticelli's works, even though a lot of it is religious depictions. Here's my version of The Birth of Venus:

my botticelli
Why are we even knocking ourselves out with all of these colors. A link in this palette reports on a minimalist exhibit at the Guggenheim. A 4' x 8' sheet of plywood at the High Museum in Atlanta was almost tossed out until it was realized that that was the "art".

hahaha, great one restof.
It can't be THAT great. "The Age Of Minimalism" got 4 votes so far, but only averages 6.50. HAH!
Google images for "Rauschenberg white" to see both the simplistic three panel white painting that anyone could do and the highly complex seven panel white painting that demands an exceptional degree of art education to contemplate. True minimalism has no need for more than one color.

Robert Rauschenberg

The link illustration in this palette is larger and used for color picking here. The gaffers who set up the lights for the installation may have ruined the work by uneven illustration of panels one and three.
Oh, how I love this. I did a painting of portions of Starry Night, The Scream, and Harmony in Red when I was in middle school.

I wish I could find it. :-\
@retsof -- it's a fairly safe bet that if you like the drama of a van gogh, you're gonna find rothko a little bit enigmatic. but he's far from banal. rothko's a painter's painter -- the story's in the technique.
One of many favorites is Jan Van Eyck's Arnolfini Wedding Portrait.

JanVan Eyck
Growing up and even into adulthood, I never dreamed that I would actually get to stand in front of painting created by one of the great masters I had studied about. So in October 2004 when we went to Edinburgh and visited the National Gallery of Scotland, it was almost surreal for me - definitely a life-changing moment. Seeing my first Vermeer was a very emotional experience - then to discover that it was considered the earliest of his works that could be found *and* that it was of a religious theme (which was rare for him) - let's just say that that over 5' painting seemed to be 3 stories high at the time. :o) As I looked for a link for the painting to post here, I realized how the colors were very different according to the site that housed the image. So, in trying to stay as true as possible to the original, I chose the one that matched it best. Wish I could've captured more of the glow and warmth in the original - staying within the 5 colors is tough sometimes! *s*

The painting: Christ in the House of Martha and Mary (link for the painting)

The palette:

Vermeer's Christ
Simplemente genial. Ahora toca combinar los de la misma manera que en el cuedro, que me parece a mi que va ser algo difícil.

Saludos desde España.
Wonderful Post. It is interesting that early artists struggle with a limited number of pigments, yet created very moving and emotive work. I am beginning to belive that powerful emotive work normally is limited in colors. You will see that latter artists used brighter and more saturated colors and they have a completely different feel.

None of these artists apear to have used the color wheel to help them select colors. their color schemes differ from picture to picture and also depend on the pigments that were available at that time. But since the old master took months and months to paint, they must have spent a lot of time making color decisions.

Extracting colors from pictures also depends on how you do it, there are many online facilities for this. is one of them. You can upload your picture and extract color schemes.
Great post. It's great to see it demonstrated how raw colours can be transformed through the eyes of a genius into a work of art. It is my experience that one of the truely rare qualities in a great artist is to see the actual colour of their environment. Whilst we may just see blues and whites in the sky, they see a whole spectrum of colours and have the ability to bring that alive.
the best collection!!!

beautiful , magnificent
I do this based in Piet Mondrian
I think the mood/style of the painters shows pretty strongly from the colors that he/she uses, and this just makes it even more obvious. I think Dali's Persistance of Memory is a little off in the yellow/orange, but it's nice to compare them all to eachother. Andy Warhol stands out and is recognizable even in a small color sample. Great post.
Oh, how I love this. I did a painting of portions of Starry Night, The Scream, and Harmony in Red when I was in middle school.
its very good color platte thank.

These are beautiful color schemes but will people choose them for inside their homes? Will they be too vivid? I choose my color scheme inspirations from just about any photograph in magazines. If the colors look good in the photograph, they will look good on your walls. I have some samples on my website at:
Wow, breaking down the famous paintings by color really shows why these are such masterpieces. The colors just flow so well together.

Post a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Terms Updated

We’d like to inform you that we have updated our Terms of Use. The most substantive changes are:

This platform was acquired by a joint venture in Israel.
changes have been made to the relevant jurisdiction for disputes which may arise out of your use of the platform.
Changes made to the monetization of users’ creations and the ability to opt out from your account settings.

Please view the revised Terms here. If you don’t mind anything there, then you don’t need to do anything. Your continued use of the platform will constitute your acceptance of the latest version of the Terms. If you disagree with anything there, you can terminate your account within seven days from today.