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Color Theory

Color Theory

Don’t be afraid to incorporate color into your framed art! There are a few aspects of color that are important to get right in order to create the look you are going for. We'll just skim over the basics, but if you want to get more in depth, check out the Additional Resources page where you'll find links to a couple of excellent articles on the application of color theory in the design of your interior spaces. 

So first off, there are three basic categories within what’s known as ‘The 12-Part Color Wheel’:

  1. PRIMARY: These are the three basic colors, yellow, blue and red. All other colors are derived by mixing these colors.
  2. SECONDARY: Green, violet and orange. These colors are created by mixing two primary colors together.
  3. TERTIARY: Formed by mixing a primary and a secondary color together, these colors include yellow-green, blue-green, blue-violet, red-violet, red-orange and yellow-orange. 

Color Wheel

Above: the universal 12-part Color Wheel

Color Harmony

Color harmony can be described as any combination of shades that are visually attractive. Harmony is engaging, and creates a sense of balance. When something lacks harmony, it may be either too busy, or not stimulating enough. The brain naturally rejects input that is not sufficiently stimulating.

Designers commonly refer to six different color harmonies:

  1. MONOCHROMATIC - a single color split into a range of values of that color.
  2. ANALOGOUS - any three hues that sit side by side on the 12-part color wheel. These colors represent high contrast and stability.
  3. COMPLEMENTARY - two colors that are directly opposite one another on the color wheel.
  4. SPLIT-COMPLEMENTARY - a trio of colors with one color being directly opposite two hues on either side of its complementary color. 
  5. TRIADIC - three colors that are all equal distance away from each other on the color wheel.
  6. TETRADIC (DOUBLE COMPLEMENTARY) - two pairs of complementary colors.


Tints, Shades, Tones...Oh My!

  • TINTS - adding white to any hue results in a tint.
  • SHADES - when you add black to a hue, you end up with a shade. 
  • TONES - adding grey (black and white) to a hue produces a tone.


Color Temperatures

  • WARM - can make a space feel closer and cozier. Warm shades include red, pink, orange and yellow. 
  • COOL - can create the illusion of space. Cool shades include blue, indigo, purple and green.


Color Balance

To ensure your color palette balances attractively, interior designers recommend following the ratio 60:30:10 when you select your color palette. Remember to consider color harmony and temperature when you are choosing a palette.

First, select a dominant color to fill most of the space (60%). Designers usually choose a neutral color. 

Your secondary hue will account for 30% of the color in the space, and lastly, your accent hue will occupy about 10% of the space.  


Color Meanings

People often associate certain characteristics with different colors. When choosing your color scheme, carefully consider what kind of feeling, or vibe, you want the space to exude. 

Here is a basic list of colors and their commonly associated traits:

  • REDambitious, bold, powerful, dramatic, passionate, sexy, active
  • ORANGE: instinctive, optimistic, extroverted, charismatic
  • YELLOWenergetic, fun, joyous, friendly, spontaneous
  • GREEN: growth, nature, prosperous, hopeful, restorative, generous, healthy
  • BLUE: responsible, content, intelligent, controlled, secure, authoritative
  • PINK: soft, subtle, sweet, innocent, gentle, feminine, cozy, composed
  • PURPLE: creative, regal, distinguished, fanciful, glamorous, compassionate, devoted, sensual, dramatic, expressive.
  • BROWN: warm, natural, wholesome, secure, reliable, supportive.

Value, lightness and darkness can impact the characteristics of a color even more:

  • BLACK (DARKER SHADES) exude an air of confidence, mystery, elegance, sophistication, and can make a space feel modern, bold and classic.
  • WHITE (LIGHTER SHADES) impart feelings of wisdom, purity, honesty, innocence, and can make a space feel airy, clean, calm and serene.
  • GREY exudes feelings of quality, comfort, professionalism, and creates shades that are practical and timeless.

 NEXT UP: How to Hang Art

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