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What Color Wall Looks Best with My Painting?

Friday, January 15, 2021

I want to share with you my experience with using colored accent walls to set off a piece of artwork.

Most homes are painted in neutral off-white or pale beige like in the picture above. I want to show you what happens when you paint the wall behind the painting (or the whole room) in a different color, in order to make the room part of the artwork.

(Note, these mock-ups were made using Sherwin Williams' ColorSnap Visualizer and then dropping in a framed photo of the painting using Photoshop. You can do this same experiment with your own wall at home - let me know if you need any help.)

Same Color
First, let's determine which color is the predominant color in the painting, especially around the edges. In this painting Cypress Coast, the predominant color is aquamarine.

See what happens when we place the painting on a wall that is the same color as the predominant color in the painting (aquamarine.) You can see that the painting almost disappears into the wall. The opposite color to blue (the orange in the cliffs) is the only part of the painting that really stands out against this wall color. [See picture below.]

Darker Color
Now, just to see what happens - here is a darker version of the aquamarine color above. Since the wall color is darker than the outside edge of the painting, the painting has some "pop" to it, especially in the sky. Your eye is still drawn to the colors in the cliffs, which are the opposite (complementary) colors to the dark teal color. [See picture below.]

Analogous Color
Now, let's choose a color from the interior of the painting (a dusky purple from the cliffs) that is analogous to aquamarine. You can see immediately that the ocean colors stand out more! You can see clearly the variety and subtle hues of blues, aquamarine, teal, and lavender in the ocean waters. Since blue and purple are near each other on the color wheel (analogous colors), the result is a soothing contrast. [See picture below.]

Complementary Color
For the final experiment, I have chosen the color that is exactly opposite to blue on the color wheel (blue and orange are complementary colors.) The blues in the ocean are standing out even more than in the purple room above. There is also a balance between the orange colors in the cliffs and the wall color. This complementary color combination is the most exciting and draws your attention right to the painting. [See picture below.]

To Sum Up
In conclusion, the first step in deciding which wall color to use is to determine the predominant color in the painting. Next, decide if you want the painting to blend into the wall color, or if you want a soothing contrast, or if you want an exciting contrast. For the three versions, choose colors that are the same as the predominant color, or analogous (adjacent on the color wheel), or complementary (opposite on the color wheel.)  Take a look at the color wheel below.

Darker colors will make the artwork pop more, and lighter colors create less of an effect.

Try to use a wall paint color that exists in the painting (preferably a color that is near the center of the painting, not around the edges.)

But the best way to see how your painting will look is to use Photoshop and other paint tools to experiment with different colors before you pick up a brush.

Happy painting!

Erin Hanson


ERIN HANSON is a life-long painter, beginning her study of oils as a young child.  Her passion for natural beauty is seen in her work as she transforms vistas familiar and rare into stunning interpretations of bold color, playful rhythms and raw emotional impact. Her frequent forays into National Parks and other havens of nature include backpacking expeditions, rock climbing, and photo safaris.  Hanson's unique painting style has become known as Open Impressionism, which is now taught in art schools around the world. With thousands of collectors eagerly anticipating her work and millions of followers online, Hanson has become an iconic, driving force in the rebirth of contemporary impressionism, and she is quickly recognized as a prolific, modern master.

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