Color Palettes for Creating Magical Drawings

Color Palettes for Creating Magical Drawings

By Mimi Chao |

Color is one of the most powerful storytelling elements of an illustration. As an artist, I enjoy thoughtfully selecting a color palette for each piece to enhance its message. Colors create an emotional atmosphere, both within the world of the drawing itself and wherever it is displayed - whether as a wallpaper on a phone, a page in a picture book, or framed at home. 

How I Pick Colors

I come up with a cohesive color palette for each major project, and it usually evolves throughout the project until I get the final set just right. I pick color intuitively based on the emotion I am trying to convey, but the outcome typically falls into standard color theory guides.

  • Consider complementary colors—There are complements of warm and cool tones, usually a blue-green complemented by a warm peach tone
  • Design and lead the eye with color—There is often a dominant monochromatic color scheme with a pop of complementary color to draw the eye
  • Play into the emotion of color—I use warm tones to convey comfort and safety, and use cool tones to convey mystery and wonder.

The color palette also depends on the story and audience I am creating for (besides myself, of course!). For example, Alphabet Adventure features many warm, soothing neutrals because I was going for a Nordic or Japandi feel, while Let's Go Explore is full of surreal cool tones to convey the energy of magic, wonder and discovery. 

"Roam with the Giants," a cool toned print from Let's Go Explore

My Workbooks with Color Palettes

In my ongoing 2022 collection, a Magical Journey, I often used a family of closely related tones on each side of the color wheel, with a smaller pops of bright complementary colors to emphasize key elements of the composition. 

I share the color palette for each illustration in the workbooks I created for Cloud House. The workbooks also break down each element of the composition with drawing guides and prompts for creating your own illustrated interpretation of the monthly theme. I've loved seeing the creative interpretations from our community using the guides!

A page from one of the Drawing Guides showing our color palette and Procreate brushes for The Flowering illustration 

You're invited to join a free trial of Cloud House to try it for yourself, or shop the latest prints and digital downloads in the Magical Journey collection! 

Happy creating,

-M