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While it's difficult for anyone to say with certainty which colors are used most in art, there are a few ways to think about this question.

One approach would be to think about color theory. The simplest version of an artist's paint palette typically contains red, yellow, and blue, which...

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While it's difficult for anyone to say with certainty which colors are used most in art, there are a few ways to think about this question.

One approach would be to think about color theory. The simplest version of an artist's paint palette typically contains red, yellow, and blue, which are known as the "primary colors." In traditional painting, these colors (along with white and black) are mixed to create the rest of the rainbow. This would make them the most common colors used in the creation of art, even if they ultimately become other colors when presented on the canvas.

Another approach would be to narrow this inquiry down to specific time periods or places. While we have access to innumerable synthetic pigments in the modern day, artists at other times in history were not so lucky—they had to work with what was available nearby. This means that the dominant colors in prehistoric cave paintings will be different than the colors in Renaissance Italy, which will be different than the dominant colors in pre-Columbian America.

In one area, they might've had vibrant, fade-resistant blues and greens from ground malachite or lapis stones that would still appear true-to-color today. In another, they might have been relegated to using ink from berries that fades or darkens over time, shifting to dark browns or disappearing entirely before ever being seen by modern eyes. A careful analysis of the paint is often how experts will authenticate works thought to be from a specific time in history—if an artist working at a given time or place wouldn't have had access to a certain paint, they can rule out the connection.

There is, remarkably, one instance in which hard data does exist: a 2015 article in Smithsonian Magazine highlights a data analysis project by Martin Bellander that harnesses art stored in digital repositories to track changes in color trends over the past two centuries. Bellander found that paintings historically were overwhelmingly orange, but blue has become more popular in modernity. (It's worth noting that a murky orange is also the color that some other colors fade to over time, which may skew these results somewhat.)

I've included two helpful things in the reference links: a direct link to the Smithsonian study, and a short PBS painting restoration clip that illustrates how dramatically a painting's color can shift as it ages.

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