Can You Paint if You’re Colorblind? Tips From A Colorblind Artist

Guess what? I’m a colorblind artist and I’m sure you’ve heard that colorblindness makes it difficult to see colors the way other people do. This is true, and because of this many people believe that they cannot be artists. This part is not true! There are many ways to create beautiful art, even if you are a colorblind artist.

In fact, there are many colorblind artists who have not only accepted that they are a colorblind artist but have used it to their advantage to create highly unique artworks with a different take on colors.

Yes, you can be a colorblind artist!

You just have to find your own way of seeing color and create art based on that. So don’t let colorblindness stop you from being an artist – the sky’s the limit!

I have struggled with this ‘limitation’ for years, while I was blissfully unaware that I was colorblind it never bothered me. I was creating art, I was getting lots of praise and I was happy.

When I found out I was colorblind it was like watching those old cartoons where the kid could walk off a cliff and not fall down because he hadn’t studied gravity at school yet.

Until I found out I was colorblind, I could walk on air. After that, I changed my style and I think I started to focus too much on my ‘disability’ which was the wrong thing to do.

Do colorblind artists see in black and white?

Being colorblind does not mean you see black and white or shades or gray. There are also many types of colorblindness that I will go into later.

I’m a colorblind artist. This means that some colors look very different to me than they do to other artists. For example, I might see the color green as yellow and the color blue as purple. 

My own color-blindness was not even picked up until I was in my teens and I was painting my own version of ‘The adoration of the maji’ and my art teacher asked my why the people were green. I thought I had mixed a flesh tone. 

He then ran a series of home made color tests and I got almost everything wrong!

His next question was “how did you get most of the colors in your painting correct until now?” and I simply replied “I paid attention to color theory and memorized the names on the tubes”.

Being a colorblind artist can make it hard for me to paint realistically because I can’t always trust what I see. Other artists seem to have an innate understanding of how colors interact with each other and this is something that I struggle with. 

This is one thing I do wish I could experience as a colorblind artist.

Types of colorblindness

There are a few different types of colorblindness and rather than me rewriting what the experts say, I can link to the following site which explains color blindness best.


What options do I have to be a colorblind artist?

There are many options available to you now that I was not aware of and I will relay some of the options I decided to take (right or wrong) that you can assess and see if these are right for you.

Stop using color

I stopped using color in my artworks and started producing bland and boring works in grayscale and black and white tones.

I would then give them a glaze in various tones of browns or whatever took my interest. Even glazes in blues or reds were used.

Because I was not sure what would work, most of these works were monochromatic, that means I used just one color if I chose to add any color.

I made color secondary to the art’s subject matter.

Learn everything about color theory

I would suggest that even if you do not intend to use colors in your artworks that you still take the time to learn color theory and learn what colors you need to mix to make other colors.

It will save you time down the track and you can actually fake not being a colorblind artist if you stick to the same color palette all the time.

Pick a color palette and stick to it

For years I would try painting in the same shades of the same colors using the same subject matter over and over. You can guess what happened here.

I got really good at painting the same things and I got comfortable painting in colors but I also got very bored.

When I did try to branch out into painting still lifes and flowers I really struggled. I could not start a new painting without asking for help all the time.

Ask for help selecting colors

There was a period when I was still living at home where I would speak to my mom and point out to various images that I would use when planning my artworks and ask “what color is this? and this? and what color is this?” and she would patiently tell me every single color as I noted them down in a notebook.

I would look up the colors in my painting handbook, find a similar shade and then look up the formula to mix the colors up until I matched the same shade and tone.

I would then go back to mom and confirm I got the colors right.

Mom was patient and I wouldn’t always have her around and I couldn’t ask every person I knew what every color was when I needed it.

I did try a few times at art supply stores and some staff were very helpful but it was embarrassing for me.

I had to find something that worked.

Accept your colorblindness and be different

This does not mean you can become an artist who paints images for medical journals or for botanical or wildlife reference books. It means accept the limitations and using them to your advantage.

I actually didn’t come up with this advice on my own. I was having a regular catch up with an artist friend of mine who has been a working artist since the mid 1990’s and much older and experienced than me.

When she heard of my ‘problems’ with being a colorblind artist she said that it was actually a gift that I should exploit.

I looked at her confused. I knew she was a bit eccentric but this was just crazy talk!

Then she explained that seeing colors properly was a constraint to her, she couldn’t paint things in a manner that didn’t fit the rules of color without having her artworks look too contrived and forced.

I was free of that constraint and she asked me to create a few paintings so that she could see what I saw.

She loved the weird take on colors that I had. When I attempted a still life, she said while it looked like I couldn’t see colors properly, it seemed to her that some colors appeared more strongly than others.

For example, when I painted a purple flower I would highlight the blues and reds a lot more than most people.

It was like I was confused with all the other colors that make up a particular hue. I would be using colors that I saw a dominating a hue rather than the final colors that everyone else would see.

So following on her advice, I started to paint things as I saw them rather than how I was supposed to see them.

That gives me an edge as a colorblind artist over a ‘normal’ artist.

This is an option I suggest you try, exploit your colorblindness and see what you come up with.

Finally, if you still want to be able to identify color properly, you can use some of the tools out there, of which are glasses that I have been told work. I’ll cover those below.

Try tools to help you ‘see’ colors

You can use special tools like the Enchroma glasses when painting but I have not had the chance to try these so I do not know if or how they work but I would gladly love the chance to try a pair.

From research, it seems as though Enchroma glasses work by correcting the way your brain processes information about color, which in turn allows you to see colors more accurately.

Who knows if it works so if you have any personal experience with these I would love to hear from you.

There are ways to work around your limitations as a colorblind artist

There are ways to work around your limitations as a colorblind artist and still create beautiful art.

One way to do this is to focus on color combinations and shades rather than colors themselves. You can also use different mediums to create your artwork, such as pencils, charcoal, or pastels.

These mediums will give you a range of shades and color combinations to work with that can be just as beautiful as if you were using color paints.

Another thing to keep in mind when creating art as a colorblind artist is that not everyone sees colors the same way.

This means that while you might see a color differently than other people, there might be someone else who sees the color you are trying to depict in an entirely different way. This can be both a challenge and a great opportunity for you as an artist.

It’s a challenge because you will need to be more precise when choosing colors and color combinations, but it’s also an opportunity to create art that is truly unique and celebrates the different way you see the world.

So don’t let colorblindness stop you from being an artist! There are many ways to create beautiful artwork, and with a bit of creativity you can make your colorblindness work for you, rather than against you.

There are many colorblind artists who have not only accepted that they are colorblind artists but have used it to their advantage to create highly unique artworks with a different take on colors.

As long as you’re creative and have a good understanding of colors, you can still produce beautiful art

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