When I was learning watercolor, this was a game changer for me.
Color can be overwhelming to learn and understand. Honestly, color theory ties my brain in knots. Always has! I tend to pick colors by instinct while following a few basic rules. Everyone is different in this respect, but one thing that is super helpful for improving colors in your sketch: limit your paint choices.
It’s tempting to reach for 12 different pigments to capture all the color variations you see in your subject. But if you can make yourself mix colors from just a few pigments, and not worry about exactly matching what you see, it will feel unified and coordinated with a lot less work and confusion.
The majority of the tutorials that I teach only use 4-5 watercolor pigments. If you limit yourself to some reds, yellows, blues, and maybe a black or brown, you can mix up your greens, purples, oranges, and greys, and they will all look unified because they are all using the same few paints. Don’t worry so much about exactly matching every color you see in your reference. Instead, pick a few main colors of your subject and paint those using a few pigments, then mix up the other values you are going to use using the same pigments. If you struggle to get color right, limiting your choices could actually help rather than hinder.