GeneralColor as a science
color theory

Color as a science

Throughout our lives, color surrounds us. It’s everywhere we look: the blue sky above, green grass below, and bright yellow sunset on the horizon. Most of us have our own favorite colors, we choose them usually by instinct.

Color and its shades have a powerful effect on perception. There are colors that stimulate and those that calm. For example, a cold palette creates an atmosphere of seriousness and some aloofness. Warm colors are perceived as more friendly and open.

Color Theory

color wheel

Color theory is a set of rules and recommendations that we follow to create aesthetic, harmonious, functional color palettes. It covers concepts such as the color wheel, color schemes, and color harmony.

For a better understanding of color and its theory, we will first recall which categories exist in the color wheel.

The primary colors act as the basis for obtaining all other colors. These include red, blue, and yellow.

primary colors

Secondary colors are obtained by combining the two primary ones. These include orange, violet, and green.

primary colors

The color wheel represents primary, secondary, and tertiary colors, as well as their shades, tints, and tones. It acts as a reference point, allowing designers to create unique and attractive color palettes.

Hue refers to pure, saturated colors.


Tones represent the colors that are obtained after adding gray to the hue.


Shades are used to darken a color by adding black to its hue.


The value of color reflects its lightness or darkness. A darker hue has less value than a lighter hue.

Saturation is how the hue looks under different lighting conditions. To achieve the color matching, it is recommended to use saturation levels as close as possible to natural ones.

The tint is the opposite of the shade and reflects how much white has been added to the hue.


Color Schemes

Color Schemes

The color wheel is the basic concept of the basic color theory. This is the color spectrum that is used to select color combinations and schemes. It consists of three main colors — red, yellow, and blue, as well as their derivatives.

Hues of the same color range from very light to very dark. At the same time, black and white are technically not separate colors and are not included in the color wheel. Let’s consider the main schemes of the color wheel.

Monochromatic color scheme

This color scheme implies the use of one color, its darker or lighter shades. At the same time, sometimes the design can be conditionally monochrome. In this case, mainly one color is used, but some details may be out of the general scheme.

Analogous color scheme
Analogous color scheme

The analogous color scheme uses colors that are next to each other on the color wheel. Also, sometimes an extended analog circuit is used, in which colors located on a wheel through one can be included. The general idea must be preserved — a combination of similar, close, overlapping tones.

Complementary color scheme
Complementary color scheme

Complementary colors are colors that are opposite to each other on the color wheel. This is the strongest and most spectacular color scheme, because it is the most contrasting. It is well remembered.

One of the classic ways to use a complementary scheme is a combination of blue and orange colors. It is very widespread, therefore, working with such a combination, you can choose unusual shades to make the design stand out and original.

Split-Complementary color scheme
Split-Complementary color scheme

This scheme is essentially similar to a complementary one and includes contrasting colors. You need to choose one color, find its opposite and take two colors located next to it on the color wheel.

Triadic color scheme
Triadic color scheme

A classic triad is a triangle that consists of colors located as far apart as possible on a color wheel. For example, the basic colors of the wheel — red, yellow, and blue — are one of the variants of the classical triad. Triads can include three primary, secondary, or tertiary colors.

Meanings of Colors

As it’s been said each color has an impact on people’s perceptions. Let’s try to figure out what meanings colors have and how to influence people with their help.

Warmer colors such as reds, oranges, and yellows are the colors of fire, fallen leaves, sunrises, and sunsets — they charge with energy, passion, and positivity. Red and yellow are the primary colors, and orange is in between. This means that warm colors are really warm, they are created without admixtures of cold shades. These colors pack tons of emotional meaning, but they can easily be overwhelming when used as the dominant hue in a composition.

Red is very hot. It is associated with fire, violence, and war, as well as with love and passion. Red can even affect our physiology: it increases blood pressure and respiratory rate. In addition, it has been proven that red accelerates the metabolic process.

Yes, red means anger, but also importance (remember the red carpets at different shows and events). It also means danger.

Red can serve as a powerful accent. If red is used too much in the design (especially in its pure form), it can have an overwhelming effect on people. But if you need to display strength and passion in the design, red is indispensable. And red can be very different: light shades look energetic, and dark ones look powerful and elegant.

Orange is the warmest shade, located in the middle of the yellow and red color palettes. It is a symbol of life affirmation, dynamism, and sensuality, combining the best qualities of the red-yellow palette. Strength, youth, and speed are expressed in bright, charismatic orange. It helps to get away from negativity, tune in to a positive mood, inspires new ideas, and symbolize change. In addition, it improves mood, and mental activity, gives new strength, tones, and invigorates. Orange attracts attention but does not overwhelm it like red. It’s often considered more friendly and hospitable and less defiant.

In the interior, it visually enlarges the room and gives additional volume to objects, making them soft. The orange palette has a great variety of shades from yellow to red spectra, and in combination with pink or gray creates completely new exclusive shades.

Yellow is often considered the brightest and most energetic of all warm colors. It is associated with happiness and sunshine. Yellow is also associated with danger — but not as much as red.

Bright yellow color can bring a sense of happiness and joy to the design. Soft shades of yellow are well suited for children — unlike pink or blue, yellow is not tied to the child’s gender. Light yellow gives a feeling of calm and happiness. Dark yellow and golden shades are associated with antiquity, so they can be used to give the design a sense of permanence and stability.

Unlike warm, cold colors — green, blue and purple — are more muted. These are the colors of night, water, nature, and usually, they look soothing, relaxing, and restrained. The use of cool colors in the design helps to create a sense of calm and professionalism.

Blue is an extraordinary color. It means water and sky, and it has a strong influence on people. In the interior, blue sets up calmness and reflection. Blue embodies confidence. It stimulates work, helps to identify important tasks, and discards secondary ones.

The blue color in the interior is associated with water. It restores mental balance, fights aggression, and normalizes blood pressure. In addition, it visually makes the space deeper and freer.

However, too much blue will lead to negative consequences, irritability and despondency will appear. Therefore, use color carefully for interior decoration.

Green is a very mundane color. It represents new beginnings and growth. It also stands for renewal and abundance. On the other hand, green can also be associated with envy, jealousy or lack of experience.

The green color carries the “soothing” characteristics of blue, as well as the energy of yellow. In the design, green balances and harmonizes, creates a sense of stability. Green will be appropriate in designs related to prosperity, stability, renewal, and nature. Brighter shades of green look more energetic and olive shades are usually associated with the natural world. Dark green looks more stable and presentable.

Purple is a mixture of red and blue, and it carries the characteristics of both colors. It is also associated with creativity and fantasy. In the design, dark purple colors create a sense of wealth and luxury. Light purple looks softer and is associated with spring and romance.

Neutral colors usually serve as a background in the design. But they can also play an independent role in the design, they can create very sophisticated layouts. The values and moods of neutral colors mostly depend on the surrounding colors: warm or cold.

Black is the strongest of all neutral colors. Its advantage is that it is usually associated with strength, elegance, and formality. The downside is that it is also associated with evil, death, and secrets. In Western countries, black is the color of sorrow. Black is usually used in original and elegant designs. It can be conservative, modern, traditional, and non-trivial – it all depends on the colors with which it is combined. Black will help you create a sense of sophistication and mystery in the design.

White and black are at opposite ends of the spectrum, but just like black, white works well in combination with almost any color. White is associated with purity, innocence, and virtue. This color is also associated with healthcare, especially with doctors, nurses, and dentists.

In design, white usually sets a neutral background so that other colors play brighter. White also brings purity and simplicity to the design, and it is very popular in minimalistic designs. White can also represent winter or summer, depending on the additional motifs and surrounding colors.

Gray is a neutral color. It is believed that it is located at the cold end of the color spectrum. Sometimes gray is considered gloomy and depressive. In some designs, light gray can be used instead of white, and dark gray can be used instead of black.

Gray is usually considered conservative and formal, but it can also look modern. Gray can be very subtle. Pure gray colors are always shades of black, but there are also gray colors with admixtures of blue or brown.

If you are looking for inspiration when choosing colors for the interior, you can find it literally anywhere. Step outside and have a glimpse of nature so you can borrow its unique hues, or explore different works of art to come up with brand-new color palettes.    

Another great place to start is getting acquainted with unique color combinations from other designers and sampling colors from photographs. This helps you to immerse into current color or design trends while getting accustomed to which hues translate well into your project in terms of its feeling and overall tone. But don’t forget that overflowing with colors in design may cause difficulties in perception and lead to misunderstanding the message of the design.

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