3 Color Study Exercises

February 4, 2013

Good morning! Today I’d like to inspire you through color because it’s a nice way to begin a new week. In this post, I’ll outline three color exercises that you can try at home, but first let’s talk about color and the pretty palettes you’re subconsciously gathering in your daily life (shopping, snapping photos, planning your outfit, etc.).

3 Color Study Exercises

I bet you can relate to a little something I’ve noticed about myself from my Pinterest account: recurring color themes! My pins always share a common color palette but I’m not consciously aware of this until after pinning and look back. My color choices are completely random and seldom predictable. I considered if this happens in other areas of my daily life and yup, it always has. I can trace it back to being a child and shopping for Japanese paper products at my local Sanrio shop (I proudly laid everything out mood board style after each visit on Fridays after school).

3 Color Study Exercises

If you stop and consider the palettes that you are collecting, from identifying the colors to determining how they make you feel, you can learn quite a bit about yourself and your personal style.

3 Color Study Exercises

I also notice color palettes appearing after I’ve gone shopping (never during) and return home to lay out my loot. I may aimlessly wonder from shop to shop over the course of a day without a clue of what to buy or why (retail therapy) yet when I return home and group my finds I always spot a definite color palette. There are usually about 3-5 core colors (always various tints and tones of 2-3 single hues) that I return with that repeat in nearly everything I’ve purchased from a pack of sugar-free gum to a bottle of juice, a meter of fabric, buttons, a book cover and a blouse. I find this fascinating.

3 Color Study Exercises

Over the past week I noticed how these themes surface in other ways at home. A collage that I made on my wall, a gift I’d wrapped for a friend, Spring shoes purchased over the past few weeks – when grouped together all share a similar palette and mood – fresh greens and mints, yellow, shots of neon pink, flecks of gold and a smattering of black.

3 Color Study Exercises

Here are three exercises that you can try for a little color fun:

1) Spot Themes: Next time you are pinning, blogging, shopping, snapping photos, etc. try to examine your colors at the end of the day. Any specific themes? If so, you have something to share on your blog or in your journal. Log your color inspirations somewhere. After a couple of months of keeping track, you may find a recurring color in each palette (or several) which can lead you to discovering a great new dining room wall paint, the colors for your next party, etc.

2) Work with colors that you don’t like: This is a great learning exercise if you find yourself consistently “against” a specific color. Remember, Red (for example) isn’t just the red you think of when you envision Christmas or Valentine’s Day. Red can also be the color of an Autumn leaf, glass of Merlot or a candy apple from the circus. Don’t think in terms of pure hues – red in its primary state may not be your thing but if more white or black is added, the tints and tones of red may be just perfect. Also, it may be the OTHER colors that you generally associate paired with red – like Christmas – Red and Evergreen. Or a Circus – Red and White stripes. Perhaps if you paired red with sky blue, you would fall in love. In this exercise, take the color that you DO NOT like and find ways in which the color DOES appeal to you. Maybe a different shade, paired with different colors, etc. You can try this exercise on Pinterest (create a pinboard for this exercise if you wish) or in a journal, on a wall, mood board, on your tabletop – it doesn’t matter how you collect – just collect! What did your study reveal?

3) Work with a favorite color: This is fun if you are in a color rut! Perhaps people associate you with yellow, or pink or black/white. Unless you are trying to brand yourself, you may simply be stuck in a color rut! This exercise is great because you can start with a color that you LOVE (which is easy, right?). Take a day to go out and find your color in the world around you. Street art, a bow tie in a store, book jacket, shop sign, piece of candy, your lunch… Snap photos and collect your color. Then try it digitally on another day – look for this color in 10-15 images (or more) online and collect them in a single place (maybe Pinterest, WishPot or a folder on your desktop). Examine how the color is used and in what dose – a lot, a little, in between? What other colors it is paired with? Which combinations do you tend to like the most? Which tend to not evoke an emotional response? You can find a beautiful palette that you never thought about before and the funny thing is, you may find ANOTHER color that you didn’t consider before. For instance, maybe your color study revealed that although you LOVE sunshine yellow, perhaps seeing it around lots of fresh green made you equally cheerful – and this may have given you a hint that green could be a new color to introduce to your evolving collection of favorite colors.

3 Color Study Exercises

Have fun thinking about color today! I’ll be back with my color palette for the week based on the first exercise above and then Leslie will be here with her monthly installment of Color Me Pretty!

(images: Holly Becker)


  • Reply stephanie @ Baba Souk February 4, 2013 at 2:19 pm

    Holly your palette is very fresh! Love it. Funny how our personal taste reflects even if we are not trying to. Same thing happened to me on my pinterest but in a different way, seems like I am always going for white background pins! I like the way they feel…I guess I need white space to see clearly!

  • Reply Corinne February 4, 2013 at 2:19 pm

    As a color lover, I am consistently drawn to certain colors over others but working with colors I don’t like is actually the most interesting and rewarding challenge. As a color consultant and interior design consultant his happens a lot to me as my work is not to impose my style but to find color combinations that are both harmonious, coherent and that my clients will love living in. And that’s a truly fun process!

  • Reply blacklabel February 4, 2013 at 2:44 pm

    very pretty & just in time for spring planning. i love seeing other people with the tessa kiros cookbooks. i have them all & im particularly in love with the latest offering. you will love it!

  • Reply IloveMaki February 4, 2013 at 3:01 pm

    Lovely exercise ! I’m doing it this week-end. It’s fascinating how my favorites colors change all the time, and trying this will make me know myself a little more

  • Reply Erin February 4, 2013 at 4:38 pm

    gorgeous – where are those mint grey shoes from ?

  • Reply Emily February 4, 2013 at 5:23 pm

    This is really interesting. I have always avoided hunter green and red, but now I realize that with the right complimentary palette, they can be fabulous! Thanks Holly! I can’t wait to do these exercises.

  • Reply Catherine February 4, 2013 at 5:29 pm

    I love this post–beautiful photos and inspiring “assignments.” I’ve been thinking about color a lot lately and appreciate the invitation to explore it differently. Hope you have a fantastic week!

  • Reply martha February 4, 2013 at 8:54 pm

    Love these exercises! I think I will try to work with colors I don’t like, I think that will help me grow my tastes in color!

  • Reply Jen February 4, 2013 at 11:33 pm

    Love these exercises. I’ve been gravitating towards pink. Things it’s a reaction to grey February since I’m normally drawn to neutrals!

  • Reply Geraldine February 5, 2013 at 1:07 am

    Holly, really like this tutorial on colour. I seem to be fluctuating between the monochromes and bright colours – just by analysing my instagram pictures. So will try out the exercises. By the way, love your shoes. Hope to see you in them when you visit London. I’ve just come back from MTB Stockholm, saw Gudy and Jeanette there. We all miss you :( x

  • Reply kristin johnsen February 5, 2013 at 5:36 am

    Thanks so much, Holly – I’m going to give this is try! I think it’s pretty funny, though….your Liberty fabric is one that I bought for myself this summer when I was in New York! So now I have to see whether my other color choices recently match yours! Crazy! thanks for sharing this – I”m looking forward to playing with color this week!

  • Reply Polly Rowan February 5, 2013 at 5:34 pm

    This is a great post, very well written thanks! I really enjoyed reading it and I will definitely look out for colour themes more now when I am out and about, shopping, pinning and blogging! As a textile designer, colour is very important to me and so I’m looking forward to looking at it in a new way. You have an amazing eye for colour!

  • Reply lian February 6, 2013 at 3:37 am

    hello Holly! please oh please do share where you got your beautiful spring shoes from :D i especially love the hot pink, and grey/mint pairs! <3

  • Reply Laura February 6, 2013 at 5:44 pm

    I would love to know where the shoes are from as well! The sandals are perrrrfect.

  • Reply R. Joyce February 6, 2013 at 9:11 pm

    I am excited about taking these challenges. Especially seeing if I have a reoccurring color palette.

  • Leave a Reply

    Scroll Up