Painting a portrait with a limited color palette

Acrylics New Painting Technique

Detail crop - Down So Long


There comes a time when you realize you’ve been down too long.
There is no turning the page, the only way out is to close the book.

The inspiration behind my newest painting was the moment of realization that you've been down too long, that you have to close the book on a relationship, and showing the strength to walk away and start over.

As substrate I used a 16x20" gessoed wood board, and I started with a rough sketch in bold black outlines. 

Sketch - Down So Long

When I imagined the piece in my head and began to mix the colors, I decided to use this time a very limited palette of Teal, Benzimidazolone Yellow and Ultramarine Blue plus Titanium White and Carbon Black (all paints are Golden Heavy Body Acrylics).

Work in Progress - Down So Long 

Why the decision to use a limited color palette?

The original inspiration photo was a monochromatic grayscale photo (see photo credit in the footnote).

By selecting to use a limited number of colors, I was really able to focus all my attention on the tonal values, which means the light and dark areas in the painting.  

Work in Progress - Down So Long


To create a balance in the temperature and an illusion of depth, I chose to pick a warm color (yellow) together with two cool colors (teal and ultramarine). Mixing the warm and cool colors, enabled me to create a full tonal range, as well as temperature variations from cool to warm. 

Finished piece - Down So Long

Last finishing touches

To add a sleek look and last finishing touch, I painted the edges in black and framed the painting in a white and black wood floater frame. 

I'm really happy how "Down So Long" turned out, and so is the new owner in Seattle, who can't wait to receive their new painting.

In conclusion, this painting made me realize that I enjoy using a limited color palette, and I think I will delve into this more for my upcoming work. I also love the mix of illustrative sketch-style for the bold black outline, which really supports my desire to concentrate on a more expressionist style.

Well, I have the next canvas unwrapped, and can't wait to get started with a new piece. 

Talk soon, 


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Photo credit: 
The inspiration photo is by Alexander Krivitskiy on Unsplash

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