A winter wonderland colour palette tends to be cold in nature, as obviously implied by the nature of that season. So if those are the colours you are looking for, whether it is for designing the interior decorations of your home, sitting down to start a new art project, or organising a special occasion that is within the winter season, a winter wonderland colour palette can be a wonderful place to base your work around – especially since it lends so well to minimalism and quiet subtlety.
The most commonplace approach to cold winter tones tend to be whites with a base in blue, deep blacks that veer towards purple, and greens that fade into brown, with the occasional splash of yellow or violet for contrast. This can be as universal as you’d like it to be, being a palette that goes well with traditionally-painted pastoral scenes, brash abstracts, and even digital logos and minimalist designs. Whichever avenue you choose, the name of the game is subtlety.
A good place to start when looking for inspiration is to look at the world around you during winter. Not all places get cold the same way, and it’s a mistake to think that going for the colours of snow and icicles is your only choice when creating a winter colour palette.
For example, if you live in a temperate environment, your winters might be gloomy and stormy, with lots of greenery and fog – a colour palette inspired by such a clime lends itself best to bluish-tinted greys, saturated greens, and mysterious shades of black to draw the eye to particular locations.
However, if you live, say, in a dry desert, winters, short and brief as they are, comparatively, are more often windy and dry, with yellowing vegetation going into hibernation, and cold mornings cut with bright sunlight. A winter colour palette in this case could be composed mostly of yellows and browns, especially if employing a desaturated and bluish undertone, which gives the whole scene a cold and nostalgic feeling.
When taking inspiration from the real world, you don’t have to limit yourself to what is the most classical interpretation of winter; the world is full of variations, and so should your palettes be.
Another place to look for colour inspiration is online colour palette generators, like Coolors.co! Many of these websites allow you to input various conditions for what palette you’re looking for, often by starting out with a standard set of randomly-selected colours that compliment each other, and then allowing you to choose various shades and tones of those colours, and to continue exploring from that point on.
Some of these websites even allow you to browse trending colour palettes, so you can search around to see what wintery palettes are already popular now, or if you’d like to start out with a colour that’s familiar to you and then branch out from there, that’s also an option easily available to you. With these online options, you can easily save your swatches, or your individual colour choices, so that you have them on hand whenever you start a new project, and don’t have to start completely over from scratch as soon as a new idea strikes.
Another resource online for colour inspiration is online photo databases, like Unsplash and Pinterest. Pinterest gives you the option of looking through themed boards created by other users, allowing you to get right into soaking in the inspiration without having to aggregate aesthetics yourself, or you can use other boards and existing photos as a springboard for creativity, either to create your own winter-themed collection, full of all the fairy lights and snow-peaked hills as you please, or to go directly to designing your project by selecting the right colours from these photos.
The main appeal of Unsplash, unlike Pinterest, is that all of the pictures on Unsplash come from stock and free to use collections, meaning that if you find an image that you particularly like, you can incorporate it into your own art, without having to pay any additional fees. While this is limited in its scope, you can use these pictures to colour match and create a palette from the existing colours, or to study the ways that light and shadow interact using the colours within them as inspiration for your winter colour palette.
Yet another good place to look for wintery themes and cool colour tones is to look at artworks, particularly those of landscapes. Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night has some very interesting cityscapes, depicting dark blue water and the warm, golden glow of stars and city lights reflecting off of them, or his humble, snowy scenes like Snow-Covered Field with a Harrow (after Millet), or Wood Gatherers in the Snow, 1884, which depict winter in all its colours, rather than just the expected ones, including shades of greenish white, dry browns, and even yellow tones in the sky, turning copper green in the saturated scene.
Looking at the season through the eyes of other artists gives you a window into a whole new vision of familiar colours, since no two people see colours exactly the same way, and what would normally be a bland scene becomes vivid and refreshing, perfect for you to take inspiration from and make your very own.
Your perfect winter wonderland colour palette can come from a wide variety of sources, ideas, and toolsets. Using the tools given to you online to select, experiment, and organise colour palettes is a gift that can be invaluable when planning your next project, and observation is a key part of understanding colour theory.
With all that can be said about warm colours versus cool colours, the colours that make up winter palettes come very naturally to most artists – the main crux is to use those colours correctly, pair them in ways that are more complementary and lend well to the quiet subtlety of the season.
Winter can be bold and brash, coming down hard and cold, but it can also be the gentle turning of the year, the quiet susurrus of a rabbit moving through snow, hidden in the drybrush.