Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Everyday is a Holiday color palette (colors, brands, finishes)

It happens all the time, whenever we share a glimpse of some art that we're working on, whether we put the photo on the blog, Facebook, or Instagram, we are always asked the names of the paint colors that we used, or which number paintbrush, or what type of finish we used to seal the painting, etc...lot's of questions just like those...Questions pertaining to what we call "Supply Specifics".
And we love to field questions like these. It's why we wrote our book, it's why we teach at art retreats, it's why we blog. 

So the other day I shared this photo on Instagram and a few gals had asked for the names of these paint colors. And the question had inspired me to do a couple of things. First, I thought that this would be the perfect opportunity to share the specifics of our Everyday is a Holiday color palette. And then I figured that while we're at it, we could kick off a new blog series. In the past we shared a series of Art Journaling tutorials and blogged about some of our fave Art Journaling supplies. But I'd love to really get back to basics, with a series that focuses completely on our Supply Specifics. Detailed posts featuring our go-to paints, brushes, mediums, papers, and anything & everything we use in our creative process.
The Everyday is a Holiday color palette is certainly a great place to start. By now I think you all are fairly acquainted with the Jenny & Aaron colors....varying shades of pink, aqua, blue, cream, buttery yellow, tan, and bits of black.

We often hear that even without seeing our names attached, that photographs are so easy to identify as ours. Whether it's a shot of our art, our decor, our collections, or even a pile of our paint covered rags...the color story is always true to our overall aesthetic. And in this case we think that repetition is an asset rather than a shortcoming. 

Because we make a conscious effort to change things up even while they remain the same. We switch color combinations, or pull a certain color into the foreground while subtracting another. For us, it's all about creating a specific color world, and the easiest way to go about this, is with paint. In our Art Journaling, scrapbooking, home projects, and crafts of all types, paint plays such a large roll for us. 

There are so many ways to get creative with paints...Ways that require no expert skills.

And if you work with paints as often as we do, you'll discover something that seems so simple, but in reality there are some people who never seem to grasp this simple truth...and here it is: Sometimes in painting, the ability to skillfully choose the right colors far outweighs the ability skillfully use a paintbrush.
The look you can achieve by simply filling in areas with the right solid paint color can far surpass the most expertly rendered detail work.  

Sometimes it's not about blending's about simply "placing" color. This is a close up shot of a canvas I painted, and for this particular piece the varying stenciled bands of solid color were far more attractive than any detailed background that I could've spent hours hand painting.    

  "Bits of black"'s a great example of that. For me these pastel polka dots would be so boring if not for the bits of black paint flecking.  

The thing with black is that it keeps the pretty pastels from getting washed out and lost. Another way to enhance your pastel color palette is with the use of stronger tones, like red or berry pink. The presence of these darker polka dots and her red lips among the pastels is what brings everything together and makes the imagery special.

Here's a little behind the scenes glimpse of our scrapbooking collection "The Sweet Life", being hand painted. For us, the starting point for the collection was our signature color palette. And then we designed motifs that illustrated what it is that "The Sweet Life" means to us. But honestly, first and foremost, the primary focus was color. And it wasn't about each individual pattern containing all of our colors...

The aim was for our color story to be represented in the collection as a whole. And if you take a pulled-back look at the papers I think you'll agree that it all came together quite nicely.

Designing the cover of our book was sort of a challenge. We feel that our signature color palette is what most people associate with the Everyday is a Holiday brand. So we worked hard to not only accurately depict what an Art Journal page of ours might look like, but also to fully represent the Jenny & Aaron color world. Honestly, designing the cover of your own book is very rare in the publishing world. We told our publisher that we'd like to design our own cover, and they told us to give it a shot, but they also said that there was a 90% chance that they wouldn't use it. So even with those odds, we just had to give it a go. And apparently...we beat the odds! We were able to design something that was commercially palatable, illustrative of what's contained inside the book, artistically sound, and it accurately captures our signature color palette.   

And here's a shot of just one of the many Art Journaling projects in our book...titled "When I Grow Up and Have a House", which contains complete step by step instructions, including a technique that we love to use in our Art Journals...that involves the use of a stencil and molding paste. It adds such amazing texture. But again, this is a project that is just as much about the use of color as it is about the subject matter. This one is a favorite among our readers and lots of peeps have been sending us pics of their own "When I Grow Up..." pages. It's so awesome to see the different interpretations! 

Ok now...lets discuss Supply Specifics. Lets talk paint.
Every artist has their own unique way of doing things. For us, we've got our two separate stores of paint. We've got our small collection of slightly expensive acrylic paints from Golden, and then we have endless bottles of the cheaper stuff. These are what we call Craft Paints...brands like Folk Art, Ceramcoat, Americana, Apple Barrel, Craft Smart...

When we do a very detailed painting, like a portrait, or a Victorian style floral, or a tablescape of realistic looking sweets...things like that...we'll use our premium Golden acrylics in mainly primary and secondary colors, and mix the exact hues that we want right there on the palette as we go. The quality of the work will warrant the use of the premium paints.  And we mix our colors from scratch because we feel that this is an essential part of the serious painting process. These are not the paints that we're discussing in this post. This post is for everyone...the serious painter, the hobbyist, the crafter, the decorator, the Art Journaler, and just the everyday lover of color. 

Like I said, we've got a stock pile of these Craft Paints, tons and tons of ''s amazing how many colors are available in stores like Michaels and A.C. Moore...colors that you can use right out of the mixing necessary. But what we're going to focus on here is our essentials. The Everyday is a Holiday signature color palette. The colors that Jenny & Aaron can't live without. It really is a fairly limited looking palette...but it's pretty much all that we need. We've got a very specific design aesthetic...and a very specific color palette is required. 

(all of the following colors will be listed from left to right)
Americana multi-surface Satin "Pink Cadillac"
Americana "Petal Pink"
Craft Smart "Pink"
Americana "Poodleskirt Pink"
Martha Stewart Crafts Multi-Surface Satin "Peppermint Bark"

We use pink a lot...and it's very hard to find the right pink. When we talk about pink we talk about whether it's warm or cool. Warm pinks lean towards peach, while cool pinks veer in the direction of fuchsia/purple...which is tricky, because we never work with peach or purple. So if a pink goes too far warm or cool it will be the wrong pink for us. The above shades are all in our neighborhood of comfort...good temperatures. Ok, the one on the far left, The Satin finish Americana is a very good paint. It has a very creamy opaque finish...only takes one coat where others require two. And it adheres well to lots of surfaces. The Martha paint on the far right is similar in finish and opacity. 

Red & Pale Pinks
Ceramcoat "Opaque Red"
Craft Smart "Light Pink"
Craft Smart "Light Pink"

We might use pale pink even more often than regular pink. These two hues are in fact the same brand and color name, but the color is definitely not the same. The one on the left is an older bottle, and warm in color. While the one on the right is the newer "Light Pink" and it's cool. We often use these two right out of the bottle. The hue is usually the perfect highlight for pink frosting, or pink hair ; ) 
And Ceramcoat "Opaque Red" is our favorite red when it comes to the cheaper brands. Red is often pretty transparent and takes a bunch of coats. But this one has good opacity. And we have a trick when using red paint: we always add a touch of tan to the red. This makes the red less transparent and makes it a bit vintagey at the same time.

Martha Stewart Crafts Multi-Surface Satin "Pool"
Folk Art "Aqua"
Delta Ceramcoat "Caribbean Blue"
Craft Smart "Robins Egg Blue" 

Again, the Martha paint is really good. Also, with the Folk Art "Aqua", a little goes a long way. We usually add a drop of it to some white and it makes the perfect pale aqua blue. "Caribbean Blue" by Ceramcoat has consistently been the pale aqua blue that we have used most over the years. It's the perfect shade for our needs.

Delta Ceramcoat "Turquoise"
Americana "Sea Breeze"
Craft Smart "Spearmint"
Craft Smart "Ocean Breeze"
Martha Stewart Crafts Multi-Surface Satin "Beach Glass"

All of these tones are very similar to one another. Americana "Sea Breeze" is probably our favorite of the group, both in color and in quality of paint. 

Tube Aquas
Artist's Loft "Phthalo Green" 
Liquitex Basics "Bright Aqua Green"
Artist's Loft "Aqua Green"

These tube paints are all as cheap as Craft Paints but they have the texture and color of more expensive paints. A lot of times we use just tiny squirts of these tube paints added to white, light tan, or very pale blue. It makes for great pale aqua tones and these tubes last forever.  The "Phthalo Green" is super rich in pigment and is great for tinting other colors. All three of these are amazing for painting abstracts. When these are mixed with clear gel mediums or molding paste the color is fantastic. All of the Artist's Loft stuff at Michaels is great. Super cheap and the quality is of a higher grade than you'd expect.

Yellows & Browns
Americana "Taffy Cream"
Americana "Dark Chocolate"
Delta Ceramcoat "Straw" 
Craft Smart "Golden Brown"
Americana "Buttermilk"

We paint cakes and cupcakes...a lot. So this is where the yellows and browns come into play most often. To render yellow cake texture we pretty much use a combination of all of these. And "Dark Chocolate" really does work well when rendering chocolate frosting, with highlights of "Golden Brown".  We also love to tie in chocolate and pale yellow when we paint a polka dot pattern of pastels. The main colors will be varying shades of aqua & pink, but then you can really warm it up and make it vintagey and classic with a random chocolate polka dot. And if you tie in pale yellow everything just becomes more sunshiney and bright.

Tans & Grey 
Folk Art "Mushroom"
Americana "Pebble"
Apple Barrel "Pewter Grey" 
Folk Art "Tapioca"

These are the shades we use most when making antique washes. "Tapioca" is great for making washes, and for muting other loud paint colors or bright patterned papers in your Art Journal. And if you mix "Mushroom" and "Pewter Grey" with a bit of water, you've got instant age...great for rubbing on the corners and edges of your photocopied vintage photos.

Neutrals & Black
Craft Smart Satin Acrylic "Gray"
Craft Smart Satin Acrylic "Vanilla"
Craft Smart Satin Acrylic "Graphite"
Delta Ceramcoat "Sandstone"
Apple Barrel "Black"

As we've said...Black is a necessity in our work. We feel like it amplifies the sweetness of our pastels. And we have to say that we're pretty impressed with the Craft Smart Satin Finish paints. They are cheaper than all of the other brands of satin finish, and it seems like they are always on sale as well. Great opacity and great satin finish. Neutral tones are always necessary for your shadows, for tinting other colors to give them a bit of age, and for making washes and muting louder tones. 

Artist's Loft "Titanium White"
Grumbacher "Titanium White"

White is the most important paint you will buy. You will use it the most by far. We always mix a color, and then we always say "it needs to be lighter."...100% of the time. So it's a waste to buy the small bottles of white. We also don't mess around with getting different shades of white since you can always add a tiny drop of something else to the Titanium white and it'll give you whatever offshoot of white that you desire. These big containers from Artist's Loft are great. They last a while, they don't dry out or clog up, you can always squeeze out another dollop...and the paint is pretty darn opaque. But it is super matte's the kind of matte paint that will instantly dry up the tip of your Sharpie if you write over it. We recently starting buying more of the Grumbacher "Titanium White"'s very high quality, coats well, and it's got a bit of a sheen to it. It's a bit more expensive than the Artist's Loft brand, but we were able to get it on sale at Michaels a few times. If you buy one pricey paint it should be your white paint. Yeah, we know it's such a boring color to splurge on, right?? But it's worth it.

Ok, that's pretty much it as far as our color palette goes. I know...epic long post...but hopefully you can come back to this for reference whenever you need to. We've got so many more Supply Specifics we can touch upon in this series. We're definitely going to follow up with some more essential paint information. Namely, the basics of mixing colors...and we've got some excellent tips for establishing your own signature color palette.
There are simple things that me and Aaron do every single day that you just may not have thought to do. At this point we can mix colors blindfolded in our sleep. We just might be able to give you some very helpful tips. 
Alright, thanks for reading! Happy Painting!
xo, Jenny & Aaron


  1. Very informative post. I love your style. I bought your book and love how you show each step for all your projects. You are very generous in sharing your artistic process.

  2. Thank you so much for the info! I look forward to reading your series!

  3. Such great information. I love your color palette and see some paint purchases soon!

  4. thank you for all you share!

  5. thank you so much for everything you share, including your time.

  6. I love it that you guys share the most practical advice that goes such a long way in improving my technique! Love love love that you gave specifics on the everyday bottles of craft paint that I can get at Michael's ... most art blogs assume that you have a million dollar budget for supplies and I don't! Also I've found that most of the time the craft paint suits my needs just as well. Great post!

  7. Yay! This is an awesome post and I love that you are making is a series! You two are the BEST! xo

  8. WOW!!!! Great post! Thank you so much for sharing.

  9. Love how you showed swatches. I have been trying to find a pretty yellow, but it's hard to tell by the bottle how it's going to look. Thanks bunches!

  10. very interesting post and beautiful photos, so many of them are going to my pinterest board (of course with a source link)!

  11. I have no plans for any projects that I'd need it, but Phthalo Green is so pretty that I may need to pick up a tube of it! I think it's pretty great that you're willing to share so much of your process.

    Meg | dishguts

  12. What a great post about your color palette and the brands you use and enjoy. I also like your pearls of wisdom in mixing certain colors for a certain look and which brands you like and why. One thing I'm challenged with is shading, the color to use and the placement. But since I'm a newbie to art journaling I'll learn about shading with time.

    Thank you for all your great information. It was a long post to read and well worth it, though I'm sure it took you alot longer to type it all out, take the photos, etc.



Thanks so much for reading! We absolutely love to hear from you please leave a comment if the mood strikes you, or if you have any questions for us about a recipe, project, art supply , paint color, etc. Don't panic if your comment doesn't appear right away...we moderate all comments to avoid getting tons of spam. Thanks again!!
xo Jenny & Aaron