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Decorative Room Color Theory

Decorative Room Color Theory

Decorative room color theory is based on the understanding that there is a definite psychology of color. Certain colors have been shown to impact energy levels, moods, appetites, and emotions and even contribute to our ability to make a decision under stressful circumstances. You might be surprised to learn that the color red has been shown to increase energy and affect our appetite! This is the reason many restaurants use red in their color plans. Most of us relate bright reds and yellows to warmth, while we associate blues, violets, and greens with a cooler feeling. A basic understanding of what colors are and how they can be combined to create or support a certain feeling in our surroundings will open the door to the use of decorative color in your home, study area, or workspace.

Primary Colors

Whilethe three basic primary colors are red, yellow, and blue, when you explore primary colors for printers and paint pigments, you may find other color names mentioned that include cyan, yellow, and magenta. Primary colors in lights can add further confusion. A simple solution to identifying a primary color is to go back to the basic definition that all sources agree on. The basic definition for a primary color remains unchanged. A primary color is one that cannot be created by combining other colors. Primary colors are combined to produce all other colors.

Secondary Colors

Traditionally, secondary colors have been orange, green, and purple. These secondary colors are made by combining equal parts of two primary colors. Various shades of these secondary colors are made by adding white or black to the combination. Secondary colors now include subtractive colors, in which light is subtracted to produce a wider range of hues. When secondary and primary colors are combined, the results are known as intermediate or tertiary colors.

Tertiary Colors

An intermediate or tertiary color is made by combining either a primary color and a secondary color or two secondary colors. Traditionally, these formed the browns and grays, which were a combination of all three primary colors. The mixing of the three colors is where the name "tertiary" came from. When a primary color is mixed with a nearby secondary color, that color does not contain all three primary colors. What is created is a shade of a secondary color that is included in newer lists of intermediate colors. You are likely familiar with tertiary colors such as red-orange or yellow-green.

Complementary Colors

As the name implies, complementary colors are those colors that complement one another by making each other appear brighter when they are placed side by side. Begin your exploration of complementary colors with the complementary color of one of the primary colors. For example, the complementary color for red is green. This is created by combining the other two primary colors. When using complementary colors in decorative room plans, a little goes a long way. Complementary colors are often used to draw attention to an area of interest.

The Color Wheel

A color wheel is a circular arrangement of colors according to their chromatic range. Traditionally, a color wheel begins by positioning the three primary colors an equal distance apart and then filling in between the primary colors with the secondary and tertiary or intermediate colors. Variations of the basic color wheel can be used to show relationships between colors or variations in hues and intensity. Some commonly used variations in a color wheel includes a painter's color triangle, with those basic colors commonly used in art classes, a printer's triangle that identifies the primary colors as cyan, magenta, and yellow, or Goethe's nine-part triangle that includes traditional primary, secondary, and tertiary colors.

Color, Moods, and Emotions

Color can have such a huge impact on how we feel that great care is given to what color is used in situations that have the potential to be stressful. Because the color green is so abundant in nature, it often has a calming effect, and this makes it a top choice for use in schools, hospitals, or workplaces. Blues have a calming influence on many, perhaps because we associate it with blue sky or ocean waters. This makes it a popular choice for bedrooms but not a good choice for a study area where you would likely want to be awake and energized. Red is a popular choice for lifting energy levels and stimulating appetites. The relationship between colors and emotions is really amazing and an area you should explore further when considering room decor.

Fun Facts About Colors

There is no debate that without color, our world would be far less interesting! Do you know how it is that color works to create such variety around us? How many trivia questions can you answer concerning colors? There are many interesting resources available online to answer these questions and much more. Here are a few links to fun facts about colors that you may not have known before.


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- Milan Jara

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