Whether creative painting is a profession or just a hobby for you, understanding the key features that will help you monetize your work is valuable information. The color scheme of your painting is one of those key features that can make all the difference in terms of its salability.
So what color paintings sell best?
Red paintings sell best. Studies have shown that paintings with red, orange, and other warm colors sell for the most at auctions. Blue is a close second in terms of sales. Paintings with colors at the warm or cool end of the spectrum sell because these color extremes create a strong emotional response in the art buyer.
Red and blue paintings sell best, but great artwork sells itself. Tone and hue also matter. Specific shades of colors sell better than other shades of the same color. Studies show that brighter colors tend to sell more than earth tones and colors in the middle of the color wheel. Keep reading to find out more about how an artist can use color choice to sell more paintings.
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The Color Red in Paintings (Why Red?)
Red paintings are historically a top seller. They have battled with blue paintings for the top position for years, but red has shown to be the most attractive to buyers over recent years. Of all the colors in the color wheel, why red?
Red resonates with people in a way other colors fail to do. For some, red signifies power and strength. Others tend to view red as a representation of emotion. People often correlate the color red with two emotions: love and anger. These two emotions are on opposite ends of the spectrum but are two emotions that people feel strongly.
Art collectors and casual buyers surround themselves with colors that match their mood. From their outfit choice to miscellaneous objects, people tend to be attracted to colors that correlate with how they feel, or want to feel. This is why red is such a prominent bright color on days like Valentine’s day. People see red and think of hearts when love is the topic.
Not every red painting is going to depict anger or love, but red is a paint color people are comfortable with. Abstract paintings use several colors, but some colors stand out. Composition with Red, Blue, and Yellow by Piet Mondrian, is one of the most recognizable abstract paintings ever, and despite the multiple colors in its name, red is the dominant one.
Examples of Best Selling Red Paintings
Art styles have changed throughout history. There is rarely a constant theme that lasts at the top for more than a few decades. In the 20th-century, color began to matter more. Artists began to understand the correlation between color and human emotion. Most of the paintings you will see that feature the color red are from the last 100 years or so.
The Dessert: Harmony in Red by Henri Mattise, 1908. This painting is dominated by the color red. A woman dressed in black and white sets the table that is covered with red cloth and surrounded by red chairs. The walls are red as well. Replicas of this painting sell regularly and go for anywhere between $160-$300.
Green And Maroon (Amazon) by Mark Rothko, 1953. While the red in this painting is not as obvious as most, the shade of red plays a big role in depicting the mood of the famous painting. Rothko’s paintings portrayed a range of emotions rather than simple relationships with colors. This painting famously sold for $86.9 million.
Red Vineyards at Arles by Vincent Van Gogh, 1888. Shades of red cover the open field. The painting has the feel of Autumn as workers in the field search for crops and food to take back home to the village. The painting features proportions of yellow, green, red, and blue. This painting sold for $2,000 while he was alive.
Orange, Red, Yellow (not pictured) by Mark Rothko, 1961. Another Rothko abstract painting. Orange, red, and yellow are all colors that blend into each other. Rothko uses the similarities of these colors to create a chaotic yet calming feel to his painting. This piece famously sold for $87 million at a New York auction.
Lucca Madonna by Jan van Eyck, 1437. The oldest painting on this list uses a nurturing mother’s dress to highlight red. The red matches the mood and feel of the love the mother has for her child. It is a clear depiction of color matching emotion and mood. Replicas of this painting go for about $1,300.
The price range of these paintings is as far-stretched as the usage of red they all have. Red is one of the most powerful colors in the spectrum and can be used in several ways to create impressive artwork. If you are monetizing your artwork, consider using hints of red to make your paintings stand out more and catch the eye of potential buyers.
The Color Blue in Paintings (Why Blue?)
Like red, blue is frequently correlated with emotion. Blue tends to relate to sadness and sorrow. Along with emotion, blue is used for paintings of nature. The color of the sky and water make blue an easy choice when painting an outdoorsy portrait. Serious art collectors and casual art lovers alike enjoy blue paintings because it brightens up a room.
(You can find out more about what art buyers are looking for in my article here).
As always, this color can be used in many ways and it is not always going to necessarily depict an emotion or an outdoor setting so obviously. Blue is a color that has been prominently used throughout several eras of art. From the 1400s to the abstract art era, blue has consistently added an extra element to paintings.
Blue can dominate a painting and catch your attention, but in a softer way than red. Red and blue frequently clash as one is seen as a more vicious and powerful color, while blue is seen as more toned down and peaceful. However you choose to use the color blue, it has made for some of the most famous and expensive paintings in history.
Examples Of Best Selling Blue Paintings
Opposite to what you may have noticed with red paintings, a lot of the most famous blue paintings are from older eras of art. Paintings tend to go up in value as they age and thus time has bumped the overall price of some of these paintings. Let us take a look at some of the most famous blue paintings and the price they sold for.
Femme aux Bras Croises (Amazon) by Pablo Picasso, 1902. A famous Picasso piece that features multiple shades of blue. Emotion is important in this painting as the blue matches the mood of the woman in the portrait. A clear example of the relation between the color blue and sorrow. This painting sold for $55 million in 2000.
The Old Guitarist by Pablo Picasso, 1903. Picasso was famous for his incorporation of the color blue in his paintings. This painting shows a sad old man holding onto his last meaningful possession. The man seems ill, sad, and alone, all matching features of the color blue. This painting sold for $100 million.
The Blue Room by Pablo Picasso, 1901. Yet another example of Picasso’s obsession with the color blue. While this painting also depicts emotion, it is not so much sadness, but harmony and contentment. A woman in a blue room enjoys her alone time and bathes in relaxation. Valued at nearly $100 million.
The Blue Boy by Thomas Gainsborough, 1770. A young boy in a blue wardrobe providing light in an otherwise dark area. The blue shade and the stance of the boy create an almost heroic tone. Here, blue is used for contrast rather than emotion. Sold for $728,000 in 1921. The highest price ever for a painting at the time.
Blue I, II, and III by Joan Miro, 1961. A series of abstract paintings heavily in blue with supporting colors red and black. Miro used these paintings to describe the movement of objects in a unique, but simple way. The style is unmistakable and Miro’s confidence was obvious. Each of these is valued at around $40 million.
As you can see, the color blue can be used to catch the eye of a room and convey several emotions. Pablo Picasso loved the color so much that he had an entire era of paintings known as “The Blue Era” where he used blue to convey emotions in his paintings. Many say it was his greatest period of work.
Yellow and Green
To top off the list of the best-selling color paintings, there’s green and yellow. It should be of no surprise considering red, blue, green, and yellow are at the top of the hierarchy on the color wheel. Yellow and green are versatile colors that can convey emotion and that can be used for paintings portraying nature and the outdoors.
Yellow is correlated with happiness and sunshine. Buyers love yellow paintings because they brighten up a room and give them a reason to be happy. When used for nature paintings, the sun shines bright and the mood of joy is obvious. Yellow is also excellent when used for lighting and contrast. Lighting can alter the mood of any painting.
Green represents envy and greed. It is the color of money and subconsciously, wealthy people are attracted to this color because of it. When used for nature paintings, green is used for grass and open plains. Insects such as grasshoppers, frogs, and lizards add to the wide range of the versatility of the color green for outdoor painting.
While yellow and green have never been considered as the top-selling colors for paintings, there is plenty of value in using them in your art. People enjoy colors that can catch their attention and these will catch your attention in an instant. Let us take a look at some of the most famous and top-selling yellow and green paintings of all-time.
Examples of Top Selling Yellow Paintings
Yellow paintings add an element of brightness and joy to any room they are in. Many buyers look for colors that fit a certain mood and no mood is desired more than that of joy. On that same note, sunshine and good weather are also desirable. You will notice that many of these famous yellow paintings come from various eras in art history.
Cafe Terrace at Night by Vincent Van Gogh, 1888. Van Gogh famously incorporated yellow into many of his paintings. In this piece, he uses yellow for light to contrast night. The yellow lighting signifies the liveliness of the nighttime, showing it had more life than the day. Sold for an estimated $200 million.
Still Life: Vase with Irises Against a Yellow Background by Vincent Van Gogh, 1890. Another of Van Gogh’s yellow paintings. The yellow is used in contrast to the blue irises. The colors blend well together providing a bright backdrop for an otherwise dark set of flowers. The painting sets a peaceful mood. This painting sold for 53.9 million.
Views from the Dunes with Beach and Piers by Piet Mondrian, 1909. The yellow and blue paint with hints of green provides a dazy of the coastline of Domburg in The Netherlands. This painting hangs in the MOMA (The Museum of Modern Art), and has an estimated price of well over 7 figures.
Broadway Boogie Woogie by Piet Mondrian, 1942-43. An abstract piece fitting of the artistic revolution of the mid 20th century. Using various colors, Mondrian used proportioned lines to create a modernized painting dominated mostly by its use of yellow lines. This painting sold for $800 in 1943 and hangs in the MOMA.
Examples Of Famous Green Paintings
Green, although often correlated with envy and greed, is most often used for nature paintings. Green grass and plains fit a niche collector base that enjoys the soothing aspects of the outdoors. Landscape painting has been a popular art form for centuries as you will notice with the dates these paintings were made.
Green Wheat Field with Cypress Tree by Vincent Van Gogh, 1889. Different shades of green are used to display a sunny day on an open field. The grass is a lighter green, while the trees and bushes take on a darker shade. A painting full of bright energy and sunshine. This painting sold for 57 million in 1993.
The Night Cafe by Vincent Van Gogh, 1888. While green may not be the color that initially draws your attention in this photo, it is the color that offsets the lighting and wall color of the room. Your painting does not have to predominantly feature one color for it to be the primary source. Sometimes just an accent color will make the whole painting. Worth an estimated $200 million.
Surprised! by Henri Rousseau, 1891. A painting full of nature sees a tiger offset by green grass and leaves. The painting keeps a dark tone but shines brightly due to the various shades used throughout it. The rainy setting gives the painting an added element of surprise. Replicas of this painting go from $350-$600.
Symphony In Green and Gold (Amazon) by Thomas Dewing, 1900. A mood piece portraying a woman in isolation. She stands in a yellowish dress that clashes with a green background that controls the portrait. The selling price of the original art piece is unknown, but replicas go from $200-$400.
Changing Color Trends in The Art World
Although red paintings have historically been the top-sellers, colors in art can change based on the era, the season, and various factors around the world. Keeping up with trends or becoming a trendsetter can turn your favorite color into a top-seller in the art world. There is a reason why many of the most famous artists in history had defining periods of art based on a specific color.
While it is easy to assume that the colors were made famous more by the popularity of the artists using them, consider that Vincent Van Gogh, one of the most legendary names in art, was never famous while he was alive. His paintings and the colors he used in them took on a life of their own after his passing. The art made him who he is.
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If you paint for a hobby or a career, the aesthetic of your painting makes a difference in its market value. Historically, the best-selling colors go according to what the most famous artists at the time choose to use, but throughout every era, colors like red, blue, green, and yellow have remained constants. For sellers, incorporating these colors will attract more buyers.
The definitive best-seller for now is red. Red paintings are impactful and convey several emotions. Many buyers buy their paintings based on what suits them and matches their mood at the time. Considering that red correlates with love and anger, two common emotions, it is no wonder that red is a color that draws a crowd and a high price tag.
Blue, yellow, and green all show similar success to red, and using different shades of the same color can do wonders for your painting. All-in-all, the best-selling color painting can come down to the mood of the audience you are selling to. Stay aware of any trends within the art industry to be sure you are incorporating the most profitable colors in your paintings.