I recently had the unique opportunity to create three almost identical paintings for the same client. She wanted them to be mostly the same except for the backgrounds. This provided an opportunity for me to showcase how choosing background colors and color schemes can affect the mood and feel of a painting.
This painting is a three dog pet portrait that was created with acrylic paints on 16″ wide x 20″ tall stretched canvas. The original was the one with the green background, on the left. The second was the one with the dark blue and purple background. The third painting has a background that is a gradient of purple, blue, green, and yellow. Each portrait was created by hand using acrylic paints on canvas, these are not digital manipulations!
Except for the background colors, these are essentially the same painting (besides some improvement on technique). This gives a unique illustration into how the background colors that are chosen can affect the mood and energy of the painting. The bright green and yellow one has a vibrant and energetic energy. However, the colors of the dogs do not stand out as well, since they are similar in tone (lightness vs darkness) to the background. The dark blue one has a peaceful, almost somber mood. However, the light and bright colors of the dogs stand out really well, and almost “pop” out from the dark background. The orange of the pitbull contrasts really well with the dark blue, taking advantage of complimentary colors in the color theory. The gradient background has a nice blend of both of these, creating a lively background while the dogs still “pop”, and the multi-color background seems to enhance the colors of the dogs, even though i used the same color palette on both.
It is interesting to note that I tend to use cool colors (blue, green, purple) in the backgrounds of my paintings. There are a couple of reasons for this. One has to do with the base colors of the dog. If the dog is warm colored (various shades of brown, tan, etc), the color choices I make for the fur tend to be warm colors (red, orange, yellow, magenta). These warm colors contrast best with a cool colored background. For dogs that are white, black, or gray, I tend to use a lot of cool colors, with splashes of warm colors as highlights. For these, I tend to keep my background lighter and more warmer (yellows).
Another reason for using cool colors for the background is an interesting property of colors, where warm colors seem to “advance”, or come forward, where cool colors seem to “recede”. The bright orange pitbull definitely pops out against a blue background.
These portraits are available in my online store for purchase as a fine art print, tote bag, cell phone case, and much more! Please visit my Gallery Store on Pixels to see them all.
Other Color Schemes
Using complementary colors is not the only way to enhance the portrait. Using analagous colors (colors close to the other colors on the color wheel) can also create a different kind of mood. Warm colored dogs may “pop” out from a cool colored, canvas, but a warm background can enhance their warmth of these colors. It may also benefit to pick one key color and use that as a background color to bring out something, such as eye color.
Here is an example of a warm color scheme, which enhances the warm colors on the dog:
Here is an example of a color scheme where I take an element of the animal eye color) and use that as my background color choice. This enhances the eye color, and makes it stand out.
To order your own custom colorful pet portrait, please click on the Pet Portraits link above or the image below.