Arizona Desert Color Palettes: Download and Use in Your Art

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Whenever I tell people I live in the desert, they imagine something like the Sahara. Vast amounts of sand, sun, and endless sky with no life in between.

I’m not sure why. Maybe TV and movies have given people some preconceived notions about what a desert is or should be.

The truth is that the Sonoran desert is green. Here in Tucson, we have four seasons, grass, flowers, and snow.

To show my appreciation for the beautiful place I live, I’ve created five free color palettes based around photos I’ve taken.

Mountain Sunset with Desert Scrub

Every sunset in the desert is beautiful, but having clouds around tends to add to their majesty.

Add in the craggy purple peaks of the distant Tucson mountains and the dramatic shadows of desert scrub, and you’ve got yourself a sight to see.

Quirky Javelina

Javelina are peccary that smell like skunks. They’re usually around at night, and sometimes you can catch them early in the morning.

While you definitely want to give them their space, in general, they’re used to being around people, and unless they have babies, they’ll ignore you.

I caught these Javelina bonding with each other at a little park called Sweetwater Wetlands. They hung around for a while, looking for something to eat, and eventually disappeared somewhere in the cattails.

Tiny Acrobats

Every season, at any time of the day, I have, on average, 3-4 hummingbirds buzzing around my feeders.

These tiny acrobats have big personalities and come in many colors. They’re always a joy to have around.

The photo above is of a broad-billed hummingbird that sat on a branch in front of me when I was visiting Madera Canyon.

Rumble and Roar of Monsoon

In Arizona, we’re closer to the ocean than people realize. And with the ocean comes weather. For us, it’s the summer monsoon.

Monsoon brings powerful thunderstorms with brilliant lightning, flash flooding, and bone-shaking thunder.

The storm in this photo happened near sunset, so I got rain, a sunset, and lightning in one photo. Many times there are rainbows, too!

Cacti and Snow

Yes, winter happens in the desert! The snow doesn’t always make it down to the valley, but we see snow on our mountains every year.

This photo captures one of the times when the snow did come down to the valley. Seeing snow on cacti and palm trees is still one of the oddest and cool things I’ve ever seen.

Southwest Food Mecca

We’re about an hour from the border with our neighbors in México, and their wonderful cultural influence is strong here.

That means colorful art and architecture, various festivals and celebrations, and food. The photo above is a spread of mesquite-smoked carne asada and a Sonoran hotdog.

I hope you enjoy these color palettes and the short stories behind them. If you use one for a project, I’d love to see it!

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Nicole Peery

I'm a Tucson, Arizona-based writer and artist. My work combines nature, bright colors, and a hand-drawn feel. My inspiration comes from the Sonoran Desert and my weird sense of humor.My backyard is the wild west and I love driving my Jeep up mountains. I live in an RV with my husband, and when I'm not writing or creating, I enjoy knitting, learning web development, and playing video games.
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