The Exciting World Of Color Revealed
Color: we’re surrounded by it every waking moment. Sometimes we dream in color. As I sit here, looking out the window, I see hundreds, maybe thousands of different green hues, and a beautiful blue sky with cotton-ball clouds. Color is something we take for granted, unless we lose our sight. The 1965 movie “A Patch of Blue” had a big impact on me in many ways. It’s about a young woman, Selina D’Arcey, who’d tragically lost her eyesight at the age of five and remembered colors, especially the color of the sky. If you’ve never seen it, I highly recommend that you rent or buy it.
How Do We See The Exciting World of Color?
I’m not going to belabor the physics of color. We’ve got a lot of information to cover! As I said during last week’s podcast, it’s impossible to see color without light. In a technical paper, Pantone says, “Light receptors within the eye transmit messages to the brain, which produces the familiar sensations of color. Newton observed that color is not inherent in objects. Rather, the surface of an object reflects some colors and absorbs all the others. We perceive only the reflected colors.” Statistically, 1 in 8 men and 1 in 200 women has color vision deficiency. My husband is red-green deficient, which means he should never try to pick ripe strawberries or raspberries, and I have to help him read the colors on resistors when he’s building electronics.
Experts say that we can see about 1000 levels of light-dark, 100 levels of red-green, and 100 levels of yellow-blue for a single viewing condition in a laboratory. This means that the total number of colors we can see is about 1000 x 100 x 100 = 10,000,000 (10 million).
Amazon lists over 50,000 books about color for all ages plus 25 professions that rely on color. Color theory is the art and science of using color. It includes how colors mix, match, and contrast, as well as what each particular hue communicates. Color is really about perception, and how it’s interpreted by our minds. Most of us have fascination about color, how it can affect us physically and psychologically. We can see a single color and react to it, but it’s different colors and their relationship to each other, color harmonies and the color wheel, that affect us most. Color theory is the basis to find the ideal combinations.
The Color Wheel and Color Harmonies
The color wheel dates back to 1666, when Isaac Newton mapped the color spectrum into a circle. This color wheel is the basis for understanding the relationships between colors.
When colors complement each other well, they are said to be in harmony. Using the rules of color combination, captivating harmonies are established. There are several color combinations that professionals use to create and enhance our built environment, including:
Complementary: Matching two colors on opposites sides of the color wheel for high contrast, allowing each color to seem brighter when used together; red-green, blue-orange, yellow-purple. These combinations are often seen at holidays.
Split Complementary: Matching a color with colors on either side of the complementary color: yellow with red-purple and blue purple.
Monochromatic: Different values of the same color, light to dark.
Analogous: Colors that are side by side on the color wheel; for the best combinations, it’s best to use one dominant color with at least two accents
Triadic: hues evenly spaced on the color wheel for high contrast, but not as intense as complementary; yellow with blue and red, green with purple and orange.
Tetradic: using four shades evenly spaced on the color wheel; again, for the best combinations, choose one dominant and three accents. Example: yellow-orange with red-violet, blue-violet, and yellow-green
Professional Tools To Create The Exciting World Of Color
The color system I’ve used for over 35 years was developed by Professor Albert H. Munsell in 1912. It’s based on a three-dimensional model depicted in the Munsell color tree. Each color has three qualities or attributes:
Hue – the color name such as red, orange, yellow, etc.
Value – the lightness (tint) or darkness (shade) of a color
Chroma – the saturation or brilliance of a color . When complementary colors are mixed in equal amounts, the resulting color is gray.
An alternative color system is Pantone. I’ve used their graphic system for printed material and my website that cross-reference colors with red-green-blue or hex codes. And I’ve used their fashion system for home interiors, although the selection of pastel and very light colors is severely limited. Fortunately, I can find the Pantone color in a manufacturer’s fan deck that has the darkest shade to the lightest tint of that color.
Every year, Pantone selects one color to be the “color of the year.” For 2019, they chose “Living Coral,” which they describe with superior marketing words so consumers cannot live without its deliciousness. Professionally, I don’t care what color name is given to a color. What really matters is helping my clients find the right colors for their environment.
When I was attending design school, I learned about the Ameritone “Color Key” system that was popular in the 1980s and 1990s. Unfortunately, the company was bought out and the system was discontinued. But it made a lot of sense at the time. Color Key 1 colors were blue-based. The fan deck contained every color possible except orange. Color Key 2 colors were yellow-based. The fan deck contained every color possible except pink. I still have the fan decks and the paraphernalia, in case anyone ever brings back the Color Key system. They’re now 39 years old!
Color Names Are For Consumers
Picking a paint color to roll onto the walls of your home can be tough—so many hues to choose from! And it’s not just about the color. A paint color’s name matters, too. Years ago, a client asked me, “Can my new master bathroom be painted ‘pongee’?” She knew what she was thinking about, a silk that can vary from almost white to tan with a hint of gray. At that time, none of the paint manufacturers had “pongee” as a specific color. I replied, “Sure, I can come up with colors that blend with ‘pongee,’ but you’ll have to provide me with a sample.” She did, and we found countertops, tile, and wall paint that she loved; it was a monochromatic color scheme.
I’ve always imagined people sitting around a big conference table, looking at paint chips and tossing out the first name that comes to mind. But a lot of thought and deliberation goes into picking the right name to describe each hue. It’s serious business. Paint companies employ color specialists, and review studies and test group results to craft not only the colors they make, but also the names they give to each.
Color names play with our emotions, because these feelings get us to purchase the paint. I try to hide the names on the back of color chips, but my clients always turn the chips over to see the name. I’ve had many clients change their mind, even when I knew a color was perfect for their home, because the name had negative connotations for them. “If you love a color and you connect with the name, then that’s a bonus,” says Dee Schlotter, Pittsburg Paint’s senior color marketing manager.
Color experts are bringing up color associations we all have to things in the world, which trigger a mood. Sales of paint totals an estimated $30 billion annually. Because there are dozens of paint lines to choose from, you can understand how competitive the industry is and why naming paint colors is serious business for manufacturers. “Names can typically be sorted into four descriptive categories: visual, geographical, emotional, and experiential,” says Diana Olvera, Behr’s color marketing manager.
The Exciting World of Color: Trends
We all succumb to the influence of trends, but the most obvious one is color. You can paint your walls with Pantone’s “Living Coral” this year, and Pantone’s new color of the year next year, and so on. Paint is one of the least expensive and most dramatic ways to change your home, inside and out. Choosing the right color is a big challenge for homeowners, because there are thousands of choices from each of the ten major paint manufacturers. This is probably why we give in to color trends, because it makes our decision a little easier.
Can you remember the:
Psychedelic colors of the ’60s?
Earth tones of the ’70s (harvest gold, avocado green and coppertone appliances)?
Southwestern look of the ’80s?
Dirtied colors of Seattle’s “grunge” movement in the early 1990s, or the reactionary lime green and chartreuse in the mid-1990s?
Minimalist movement that began at the end of the 1990s led by “Cerulean Blue”?
The minimalist influence continued into – and past – 2000. Neutral colors, mostly tints and shades of beige, were popular, accented by bright jewel-tone colors. 2010 began the popularity of cool gray that’s still fashionable today. While gray may be with us longer, it’s becoming warmer and more livable as a background color for other more vibrant colors. I’m always concerned when clients choose a trendy color scheme for their kitchens and bathrooms, because trends will change. Gradually, the love they have for their newly-remodeled home will become dissatisfaction, leading to another major renovation. I guess that’s what keeps us in business!
The allure of color has long been a fascination in the home remodeling world. While you may walk into a room and think that the colors were randomly chosen, that’s not the case. Many color choices are made because of personal preference, but when it comes to combining colors, much more thought and care are taken, to align the colors, lighting, and textures with color theory.
Color In Your Home
Color is vital in the design of a space, bringing it to life and telling a story. There are so many opportunities to use color in rooms. While walls offer the most obvious canvas, there are many other ways to demonstrate the power of colors within a space. Color can be added to cabinets, countertops, appliances, fixtures, furniture, accents, and more. Thus, when beginning the design of a space, it’s a good idea to start with a color palette. Most designers agree that starting with three colors is ideal. You can use the 60-30-10 rule to break down how the colors will exist in the space:
Dominant color = 60%
Secondary color = 30%
Accent color = 10%
For contrast and emphasis, consider the blend of both warm and cool hues. For example, choose a warm shade like yellow alongside a cool color like blue, and vice-versa. A good rule of thumb is to use different values of tints and shades, light and dark, balancing the ambiance of a space.
Color has a significant influence on a space and those within it, so choosing just the right colors for a design is critical to its success. Another rule of thumb is to pay attention to the compass direction of a room. Use warm colors sparingly in south- and west-facing rooms, and use cool colors sparingly in north- and east-facing rooms. Adjusting the color for the light conditions is an important part of creating a livable environment.
Accent Walls Change How A Room Looks
From time to time, accent walls return to popularity. This must be done carefully, to achieve the results you want. The apparent proportion of a room can be changed with color, if you keep in mind that warm, dark colors seem to advance while cool, light colors seem to recede. If you have a “bowling alley” room that’s long and slender with a ceiling that’s under 8′, then the end wall could be painted in a warmer, darker color with the side walls painted in a cooler, lighter color. The ceiling should be the lightest, coolest color. To achieve maximum results, indirect up-lighting can make the ceiling feel even taller.
Color Is the Top Reason Why People Choose Products
The brain operates rapidly, identifying whether what you see is visually appealing or not within 90 seconds! And in that 90 seconds, much of the focus is based on color. Product and brand designers pay attention to and use colors they know will attract our attention. Yellow and red are the colors you see most often on products that the manufacturers want you to buy now. They’ll also use contrasting complementary colors that seem to vibrate: red and green, orange and blue, yellow and purple.
Think about the brands you know. How does the color of their logo (or packaging) impact you?
Psychology: Expanding Our Understanding And Use Of Color
The subject of color psychology could be a topic for several months of podcasts and blogs! Wikipedia defines color psychology as “the study of hues as a determinant of human behavior. For example, red or orange pills are generally used as stimulants. Color can indeed influence a person. Factors such as gender, age, and culture can influence how an individual perceives color.”
Color psychology is used to understand why we like and select certain colors and dislike or stay away from others. It’s our reaction to a specific hue that’s the goal of research. It can include what I call psychobabble, that delves into colors and personality types made popular by the “Color Me Beautiful” system. At first, I was enamored with this system, because it seemed to be an extension of the Ameritone Color Key system of cool vs. warm colors. In my opinion, though, it went too far, plugging people into personality types of the seasons. This theory puts us at the edge of a very slippery slope. It’s light entertainment that I don’t take seriously, but will never judge someone or argue with their beliefs.
Although I own 7 books about color psychology, I came across a great article online that everyone can understand, from Very Well Mind. It’s long, with lots of information about color psychology and many links. If this is a subject that interests you, I highly recommend that you read the article.
You may know that correctional institutions and inmates’ clothing is pink. Why? it was discovered several years ago that this color, although a tint of red, has a calming effect on officers and inmates. Here’s an article that will explain it why pink is so popular. Also, there’s a reason why doctors and nurses wear light green or blue scrubs. Here’s an article that explains how and why.
Finally, I came across a research paper that demonstrates how colors were chosen for a university student commons in Nicosia, Cypress. It’s not exactly light reading, but fascinating – especially if you’re interested in color psychology.
In this blog and podcast, I’ve shared 35 years of training and experience so that you understand your wonderful world of color and find the courage to experiment. Are there other subjects you’d like me to explore in depth? Please let me know!
Podcast: The Exciting World of Color Revealed!
If you are anxious about selecting colors as an important part of your home addition, bathroom or kitchen remodel, I can help you! Call me today to talk about your goals!