How to Paint Without References

Why is it so challenging for us to paint from imagination? Why do we hold the peculiar notion that a "realistic" painting is more beautiful than a figurative image or an abstract painting?

At what point in our journey do we stop enjoying painting for the sheer pleasure of it, for the joy of watching the brush dance across the paper, and witnessing beautiful colors emerge before our eyes? Why do we strive only to create "perfect" things so that others will say Wow and nothing else?

Pablo Picasso once expressed, "Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up." This famous quote reflects the idea that children have an innate nature for creativity and artistic expression. However, as we grow, we often encounter social norms, expectations, and conventions that can restrict our creative freedom.

Therefore, in this blog post, I'm not aiming to "teach" you anything new but rather to help you awaken the creativity already within you, to silence external voices so that you connect only with your own inner voice, and to feel free to enjoy painting again because you know it's fun, brings you happiness, and makes you feel alive.


hands with paint_How to paint without references_hands with paint_IPERARTIKA

Photo by Amauri Mejía


How to return to playing and free yourself through painting?

I believe the best way is by letting go of a couple of worries (because, as adults, we do tend to worry about everything, don't we?) and clearing our minds of "things to think about" beforehand. That way, when we start painting, we can simply relax and enjoy the act of painting, along with our tea and perhaps a beautiful playlist we have prepared in advance. Doesn't it sound like a perfect plan to you?


How to paint without references_hands with paint_IPERARTIKA

Photo by Elena Mozhvilo


What should we prepare in advance to make the painting process much easier?

Once we have our template traced on our preferred paper, we'll take a few minutes to consider the colors we'll use and plan broadly how we'll paint each element of our composition. This clears our minds completely when it comes time to pick up the brush and dip it in paint.


How to paint without references_hands with paint_IPERARTIKA


Remember that Iperartika's templates not only save you time thinking about what to paint, searching for references, drawing, erasing, and redrawing, planning the perfect composition but are also designed with motifs that you'll enjoy painting, regardless of your level of experience.


How to paint without references_hands with paint_IPERARTIKA


They're easy to transfer to your preferred paper, and upon finishing them, you'll want to paint the next one when you see how easy your entire process of creating a new piece has become. Additionally, you can use the same template in a myriad of applicable projects, such as paintings, postcards, greeting cards, invitations, calendars, and more.

Great, now let's connect with our color palette.

Painting without references allows us to appreciate the colors around us, connect with tones that inspire us, pay attention to the colors that make us feel comfortable today or in this season, and enjoy discovering palette combinations that give us butterflies in the stomach.


How to paint without references_hands with paint_IPERARTIKAPhoto by Elena Mozhvilo 


Where to find inspiration for your color palettes?


It's a treasure trove of watercolor ideas. Just search for "color palettes" or, for example, palettes in warm, cool, cheerful tones, etc., and you'll discover many beautiful combinations to inspire your creativity.

How to paint without references_hands with paint_IPERARTIKA

Nature Walks

Go for a walk and observe the colors around you, from vibrant flowers to serene landscapes. Mother Nature is the ultimate artist!

How to paint without references_hands with paint_IPERARTIKA

Foto by Carmen Gorosito

Design Seeds

This website is a goldmine for color inspiration. They curate palettes from photographs, and you can filter them by different themes and moods.

How to paint without references_hands with paint_IPERARTIKA and

Explore these online platforms to discover predefined color palettes. offers a dynamic palette generator, while features a curated selection of trendy color schemes.

hot to paint without references_IPERARTIKA

Art Magazines

Check out art magazines or even online art communities. Artists often share their work along with the palettes they used.

 How to paint without references_hands with paint_IPERARTIKA

Foto by Carmen Gorosito

Movies and Artwork

Sometimes, famous movies and artworks can give you excellent ideas for color combinations. Take screenshots or notes while watching or exploring.

How to paint without references_hands with paint_IPERARTIKA 

Experimentation with the Color Wheel

Don't hesitate to experiment with a color wheel. You can try complementary or analogous color schemes, for example; they can lead to unexpected and beautiful results. Analogous colors are tones that are close together on the color wheel, like blue, green, and turquoise, making them look good together because they share a color base and create pleasing eye combinations. Complementary colors are like best friends opposite each other on the color wheel, like red and green, attracting and making each other stand out when together, creating vibrant and eye-catching combinations.

How to paint without references_hands with paint_IPERARTIKA

Your Own Photos

Review your own photos and see if any of them inspire you. Sometimes, personal memories can evoke the perfect color palette. Perhaps that photo you took on your last trip can serve as inspiration for painting with the predominant colors in your next watercolor piece.

How to paint without references_hands with paint_IPERARTIKA

Foto by Carmen Gorosito

Your Moods, Weather, Seasons

Did you ever feel more yellow one day and more blue on another? If you connect colors with emotions, what color do you feel represents joy? Green? Orange, perhaps? You can do this fun exercise simply by contemplating your color palette and discovering which color catches your attention at this precise moment. From there, choose colors that complement it.


How to paint without references_IPERARTIKA

Foto de Ricardo Gomez Angel 


Once you choose that color palette that catches your attention today, surely the next thing you'll wonder is:


How many colors should a palette have?

How to paint without references_IPERARTIKA


A color palette can have as many colors as you want. But an old trick is to keep it simple and choose a few colors. Yes, I know, all the colors in the watercolor box look very tempting and inspiring. But we don't need to paint with all the colors at once. The more colors, the more challenging it would be to find balance in the composition. A good exercise to practice is to paint a monochromatic piece, then with two, then with three tones, and gradually appreciate the power and effect achieved by adding more colors to our palette.


How to paint without references_IPERARTIKA


Now that we know which colors we want to paint with today, the next thing we'll do is use our Color Sketch Page to make a very quick sketch of the colors we'll use for each element.


How to Use the "Color Sketch Page" that comes with every IPERARTIKA template

After choosing and preparing the color palette for painting, take colored pencils in the same tones and color the corresponding color sketch page quickly, without focusing too much on details. The idea is to get a broad overview of how the colors will look in our final piece.

This is very helpful for:

  • Planning which elements we want to emphasize over others
  • Ensuring the final composition will be balanced
  • Relaxing during the painting process as we don't have to constantly think about the color for each element
  • Trying out different color palettes/color combinations before starting to paint

A good exercise is to color the color sketch page with slightly closed eyes to avoid getting too caught up in details, allowing us to concentrate only on the major color areas.

You can even print your color sketch page multiple times and experiment with different color combinations.

Another option is to paint/color the Color Sketch Page first and then try to match those colors with watercolors.

If you don't have colored pencils, you can prepare the watercolor tones you want to work with on your palette and then use them to paint only the major color areas of your color sketch page as a guide before starting your final piece.

How to Highlight an Element

Would you like the letters on your card to stand out above the flower frame? Or perhaps direct the viewer's gaze straight to the owl's eyes? Here are some tricks to help you make one element prevail in the composition over others:

  1. By Complementary Contrast: As mentioned earlier in the text, complementary colors are those opposite each other on the color wheel. The complementary color of yellow is violet, blue's complement is orange, and red's complement is green. If you paint most of your piece in shades of green and one element in red, you create a contrast with complementary colors, making the red element stand out.


  2. Using a More Intense Color: If you paint your work with unsaturated colors (mixed with gray, white, or a lot of water in the case of watercolor) and then paint the element you want to highlight with a very intense color (pure or almost unaltered), you'll guide the viewer's eye directly there.


  3. Applying More Brightness: Another trick is to apply small touches of white acrylic or gouache to the area you want to highlight. You can also leave areas unpainted (preserving the white of the paper) to act as highlights.


  4. Highlighting an Element with Texture or Pattern: If you paint your entire composition with a flat texture and apply a pattern or texture to a particular element, it will draw more attention.


As you can see, painting without references is not only possible but also very enjoyable. It allows you to connect with the colors that inspire you, express your emotions or memories in color palettes. You can feel free because you don't have to "copy" or paint realistically. You can enjoy making art as a game, reconnecting with yourself without fears. You don't even have to fear the blank page because you have IPERARTIKA templates to start enjoying without waiting for the "magic of inspiration" to illuminate what to create today – we take care of that.

Remember, you can use an IPERARTIKA template for various projects, such as greeting cards, calendars, postcards, mood trackers, art therapy exercises, or just to practice strokes or color theory!


Visit this article to learn how to print a card in different scales.

What did you think of this article? Are there any other techniques you use for painting without references? Do you have any questions or comments? Write to us under this blog post or send us an email at to share your thoughts or show us your painted works! We would love to see them!

Let's keep creating!

Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.