Wrestling with Color

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It’s all around us at all times and yet it remains one of the least understood and single most difficult design challenges for most people is COLOR.

The good news: Human beings can discern over 10 million colors and 3 million distinct hues.

The bad news: Doesn’t matter, you still picked the wrong color for the bathroom

What is color?

Color is in your head. Color doesn’t exist.

It’s our brain’s way of interpreting differing wavelengths of light.

Color is very much like music - different wavelengths and frequencies that mix and blend and change each other when they are together.

This is why one paint chip looks a certain way at the store, looks another way at home next to your sofa, and looks different next to the sofa in the morning than in the afternoon and different still at night.

What to do about evaluating colors?

1. Realize EVERYTHING effects color.

Textures, reflectivity, other colors, natural and artificial light sources, changing light, even exterior colors through windows.

Solution: Test, test, test - the ONLY color that matters is the one IN THE ROOM

• Bring swatches with you

• Bring color boards home

• Don’t paint too many color samples on the wall.

• Use color films or boards if possible.

2. Understand UNDERTONE

Most colors have a Masstone and an Undertone.

Only pure primary colors (blue, red, yellow, or to be specific cyan, magenta and yellow) lack undertones because they are not mixed from combinations of other pigments. Everything else is a mix, which means it has a pigment undertone

Pink, green and yellow are the most troublesome undertones.

Especially in neutral colors

Solution: Hold samples up to primary colors to reveal undertones

How do warm and cool colors effect a room?

Warm colors (orange, red, yellow, etc.) tend to make you think of warm things, such sunlight and heat.

Warm colors look as though they come closer, or advance (as do dark colors), which is why they're often used to make large rooms seem cozier.

If you have a huge room that you want to look more intimate, try painting it a warm color such as terra cotta or brown to make it feel cozier.

Cool colors (blue, green, etc.) remind us of water and sky, even ice and snow.

Cool colors look as though they recede, making them great for small rooms you want to appear larger.

If you have a tiny room or powder room that you want to visually enlarge, try painting a color such as light blue to make it seem more spacious.

Create Balance

When dealing with warm and cool colors no room should have just one.

If you want your room to be cozy, use warm colors for the dominant scheme and add a few elements that incorporate cool colors (and vice versa). As with all elements of decorating it's important to have some balance and contrast.

• How does room brightness effect color?

Color is physiological - fades in low light because we use rods to see instead of cones.

Solution: Darker rooms need bolder colors. Lighter rooms can be more subtle.

• How to develop a color scheme - three components

1. How do you want the room to feel?

2. Selection of colors

3. Proportion of colors

Selection - Just ONE color … and then get a color wheel

Key to proper color design. The MOST IMPORTANT tool.

Use a smart phone color wheel app for theory but not for real choices …

Additive color - RGB - color of lights

Subtractive color - CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, black) - pigments (ink, paint, fabric, etc.)

Proportions - 60-30-10

60% - main color - Anchors the space. Backdrop for what comes next. 

Most likely the 60 percent in a room would be most of your walls, large accent pieces like area rugs, and perhaps a sofa.

30% - secondary color - Supports the main color. Gives the room interest.

You’ll be using half as much of this color as your main color. So this could be draperies, accent chairs, bed linens, painted furniture, or even creating an accent wall.

10% - accent color - Throw pillows, decorative accessories, and artwork.

Accent color can be pulled from artwork in the room, or from a printed fabric on larger items. 

• The wrong ARTIFICIAL LIGHT ruins your color choices

Lights have a color temperature range from warm to cool.

Solution: After creating your perfect palette be sure to enhance it with the right bulb temperature selection.

Color is both physiological and psychological

In other words, some color truths are set in stone because of our physiology—like which colors our brains want to see together and which ones we don’t—other colors truths are grounded in human emotions—like red (the color of blood) being related to excitement, alertness, and arousal, but also danger and stress, and yellow is the happiness color because of the sun

Color is also cultural - that is to say colors are associated with stories

The Chinese are taught to see red as good luck. Chinese brides wear red, not white which is more a color of death or mourning for them, and inappropriate for a wedding.

Fun Facts

What is the world’s most popular color?

Blue

What is the first color a baby can see?

Red - probably because it has the longest wavelength and can be seen easiest by developing receptors.

Red is the longest wavelength of light we can see. What is the shortest?

Violet. Even shorter is ultra-violet which we cannot see, but bees can. Like us, bees are trichromatic with three photoreceptors but the human base is red, blue and green, RBG, while the bees base is ultraviolet, blue and green. Bees can’t see red, which is why hummingbirds (nectar competitors) prefer red flowers.

Who sees red better, men or women?

We are more likely to see red, but she sees crimson, burgundy, and tomato red. Researchers from Arizona State University determined the gene that allows us to see red sits on the X chromosome and since women have two X chromosomes it aids their ability to perceive the red-orange color spectrum. In general, women are better at differentiating between close range of colors while men are better at recognizing fine details in a moving object. 

Listen to Dean explain it below:

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