Tips for Colorblind Artists

Being a colorblind artist myself, I have arranged a series of tips that I find helpful when painting and dealing with my ‘disability’.

Embrace It

Yeah, get over it. The first instant that you find out that you are a colorblind artist, you might be angry or feel jaded. I know I did. I had always wondered why red lights at intersections were such a dull color. I actually confirmed that I was colorblind while at an art show. People were remarking on how beautiful the red and orange hues really popped out at them. I, however, didn’t see it that way. After that day I came to the conclusion that my art was a lie. My eyes were lying to me!

I tried to paint a little more red in my art to overcompensate, but that only netted very unrealistic results. Then I got over it. Colorblindness is who you are and how you see the world. Much like your artwork, it is how you ‘see’ the world.

The Trouble with Portraits

Portraits and colorblind artists do not usually mix. Especially if you cannot see red very well. Imagine painting a portrait for a customer only to hear them say “Grandma looks the way she did at her funeral. Why is she so pale?”

Not being able to see those cheery red cheeks in your customer’s photo of Grandma Jean doesn’t translate well when you control the color in a portrait. A good solution for this is to paint in black and white. It’s a classy twist that allows you to be a little more creative.

Make It Your Gimmick

When I show my art to a potential customer I explain to them that I am an ocean enthusiast. Protecting the ocean is one of my goals when I paint along with education, awareness, and helping other charities such as DAN and Breast Cancer Awareness funds. I also explain to them that everything I paint is how you would expect to see it underwater. Never will you find a creature out of its native ocean or breaking its behavior patter.

This statement pales in comparison to ‘oh yeah, I’m also colorblind’. Watching the amazement of a potential customer is always flattering and it is usually followed up with a statement on how I should call myself the Colorblind Artist. And yes, I have found some level of success with my disability. So in your artist statement or the next time you have an opportunity to talk to a customer about your art, throw them a curve and admit your colorblindness and educate them.

Lock, Load, and Label Your Pallet
If you are red-green colorblind like I am and you decide to paint blue and purple on the same canvas you will find it hard to discern the differences between the two colors. Fear not! The color’s name is printed on the tube!

Seriously though. If you cannot tell blue from purple or light green from yellow label your pallet. Use a Sharpie or pen to label the paint on your pallet so you know which paint is which. Eventually you will know exactly where that Cadmium Blue is and will allow you to avoid using Dioxazine Purple when you don’t mean to.

Educate Yourself and Others

Here is a quick run down of some colorblind triva.

  • Colorblindness is considered a disability.
  • Colorblind people should not fly airplanes as there is a colorblind test that can tell if you can see the red and green markers.
  • Not all colorblind people see just in black and white.
  • There are three types of colorblindness: Monochromacy, Dichromacy, and Anomalous trichromacy (which is split into three categories: protanopic, deuteranopic, tritanopic)
  • 10% of men are protanopic (red-green colorblind)
  • Colorblindness is hereditary, so blame your mom and dad.
  • While underwater the first hue to leave the spectrum is red. So when you are 20 meters underwater what a protanopic colorblind person would see is the exact same as what a non-colorblind person would see.

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