Logic Behind Abstract Paintings: Decoding Color Play in Abstract Art

Article of the Month - Oct 2023

This article by Tanvi

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Abstract paintings are a form of subtle art that aim to convey the artist’s feelings, emotions, and moods through colors, shades, shapes, texture, and lines. They differ from other paintings in the way that in Abstract paintings, the feelings of the artist are expressed not through literal representations. They are open to the world of thoughts of both the artist and the viewer. It is their own interpretation that makes the painting creative and beautiful. The artist plays with different elements of the artwork, shapes it into a meaningful insight and brings his thought process to the canvas. As simple as it may look, an abstract painting is much more difficult to create than we think it is.

The Power of Abstraction Through Color

Color is one of the most integral elements of abstract art. The artist is able to communicate his message to the viewers by playing with colors in the painting. Different colors hold different emotions and feelings that speak beyond words. The intensity of the shades of colors used in an artwork invokes either a sense of calmness or passion in the hearts of people. For instance, if the artist wants the viewers to feel serene, peaceful, and grounded, he is more likely to use shades of green, white, or blue. Similarly, shades of purple are associated with royalty and prestige and evoke a sense of mysticism. Therefore, the combination of colors in the abstract composition enhances the overall intent the artist desires to convey.

Theories and Techniques in Abstract Art

Since an abstract painting is a form of non-figurative art, it involves several styles and techniques to clearly portray and express the ideas of the creative artist. Let us look at some of the theories that help us understand abstract art:

  • Formalism

This theory is based on the basic elements of abstract art which are line, color, shape, and texture. It proposes that the value of an artwork lies in the way these elements have been used in the painting rather than its literal representational content. The visual elements express emotions and feelings without the need to draw any figures.

Abstract Architecture Painting | Acrylic On Canvas | By Mahima

  • Expressionism

The expressionist theory states that in abstract art, the artist aims to depict his inner world through color, form, and composition rather than figurative elements. This type of art expresses the subtle aspect subjectively.

Life In Abstraction | Acrylic On Canvas | By Tvesha Singh

  • Color Theory

The color theory emphasizes the interaction of different colors and how their combinations or contrasts evoke certain emotions and responses in the minds of viewers.

Infinity | High Texture Finger Painting | By Konika Banerjee

  • Gestalt Theory

This theory proposes that the viewers of an abstract painting perceive its patterns and relationship among different subtle elements even if there is no imagery representation. A skilled artist plays with those elements to create meaningful art.

Multicolor Landscape Abstract Painting | Acrylic On Canvas

  • Minimalism

The Minimalist theory promotes using simple line forms, shapes and limited color palettes. This approach is used to create abstract art that clearly focuses on its essence.

My Space By Mahima Katiwal | Acrylic On Canvas

Some common techniques used in abstract art are:

  • Varied Brushstrokes

Brushstrokes play an important role in evoking desired emotions and ideas in viewers. Artists use a variety of brushstroke techniques and styles such as short and long or thick and thin brushstrokes to get a smooth and attractive overall texture in the artwork.

  • Color Field painting

Color is one of the most important elements in an abstract painting that provides a certain mood to the painting. Using this technique, the artist applies color to a significant portion of the canvas to create a sense of depth.

  • Combining different materials

Combining different materials such as paper tissue, fabric, and other objects onto a surface creates variegated textures to give shape and life to the abstract painting.

  • Pouring and dripping

This technique gives rise to the most intricate and unique patterns on the canvas. The artist pours different liquid colors on the surface and allows them to move and flow naturally. The result is simply amazing.

  • Textured Grounds

In this technique, the artist prepares a textured canvas before starting to paint. This is done by either applying gesso unevenly, textured paper, gel, or other means to provide a transformed surface onto the canvas. By doing so, the artist is able to create a sense of depth and sensory experience in the abstract art making it interesting for the viewers.

Decoding Stereotypes with Unconventional Color Schemes

Using unconventional color schemes allows a person to explore art on a deeper level and come up with ideas and techniques other than those stereotyped. Let us go through some of the ways in which you can use these schemes to decode stereotypes in your abstract artwork:

  • Unusual color palettes to evoke emotions

By using unconventional color palettes, you can invoke inquisitiveness and interest in the minds of the viewers of your artwork. Colors have the power to evoke certain responses and by using unusual color palettes, you can challenge preconceived emotional responses associated with particular colors. For instance, use light shades of color to depict a passionate scene and instead of using cool colors to depict a serene scene, use warm colors instead.

  • Create visual metaphors

You can create visual metaphors by using unconventional colors. You may use vibrant colors to portray a joyous moment to communicate to the viewer about a jubilant occasion.

  • Employ unexpected colors in storytelling

Employing unexpected or unconventional colors in storytelling can change the perception of the viewers about the narrative of the artwork. For instance, you can use pastel colors to depict a sad or dramatic situation.

Case Studies: Notable Abstract Artists and Their Color Palette

Let us now look at some popular abstract artists and discuss their color palettes and what was unique about them:

  • Joan Miro (1893)

Joan Miro’s abstract art is characterized by obscure shapes and curving lines in a thoughtful manner. His artwork shaped early modern art into unconventional painting. His color palette usually consisted of primary colors with complementary strokes of black.

  • Mark Rothko (1903)

The famous abstract art of Mark Rothko featured different shapes and backgrounds in color field paintings. He usually used vibrant hues to paint rectangular shapes to create inquisitiveness in the minds of viewers. Reds, oranges, browns, and blacks layered each other to create an insightful artwork.

  • Jackson Pollock (1912)

Jackson Pollock upgraded abstract art by exploring the dripping technique in which he splashed paints onto the canvas and spread them to get unexpected pattern formation and blending of colors. He often used bold colors such as primary colors, black, and white.

  • Anselm Kiefer (1945)

Anselm's abstract artworks are famous for their earthy tones and deep blacks. He uses textures and employs different colors to create cultural hybridity to break traditional norms while describing a particular cultural identity. Thus resulting in highly captivating masterpieces.



Abstract painting is a subjective artwork that is based on the mindset and notions of the artist as well as the viewer. There is no hard and fast rule of creating such art. However, presenting the elements of the painting such as colors, shapes, lines, and forms plays a major role in interpreting the hidden meaning or intent to the viewer. Color palettes communicate certain emotions, feelings, ideas, and concepts and harmonize compositions and space. Although a piece of abstract artwork may look simple and effortless, there goes extensive craftsmanship and deliberate effort in creating one.


Q. Why are colors so important in abstract art?

Colors help perceive and set the overall narrative of an artwork. Since abstract art lacks figurative representation, color is one of the important elements that convey the artist’s message by evoking emotional responses in others’ minds.

Q. How do artists choose colors for their abstract artwork?

Artists choose the color palette for their artwork based on what emotions they intend to bring into the viewer’s mind. They may prefer to use a particular set of colors such as warm or cool to depict a certain scene.

Q. What is color symbolism in abstract art?

Color symbolism in abstract art refers to the emotions or feelings that every color is associated with. Choosing the right color combinations and contrasts in an artwork impacts its interpretation and turns it into meaningful art.

Q. Are there any rules for using colors in abstract art?

No, there are no hard and fast rules for using colors in abstract art. However, most artists prefer to follow color theory to convey their ideas and concept through appropriate combinations and interactions. While others follow their intuition and create unique artworks.

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