Idea Center

How To Use Color

Learn more about the principles of color here

Do you have a color you have always wanted to try, but weren’t sure how or where to use it? We have compiled some ideas and quick reference points for you to better understand the impact of certain color families, in the hope that you will feel inspired and emboldened.

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Combining Colors

We used the 12 Hue Color Wheel from Understanding Color to illustrate how to combine different hues. Next to each combination we’ve altered the shade and intensity of the hues to show possibilities.

The 12-hue color wheel and complementary color combinations
  • Red

    As the strongest color in the spectrum, it also has the greatest emotional impact. Red resonates with passion, romance, energy and courage. Whether a pale shade of pink or lipstick red, red is a comforting and empathetic color.

    Red is best known lately as the color choice for a dining room. It is known to stimulate the appetite and conversation. The drama of red in its many shades is also wonderful for entryways, living rooms, and bathrooms. The deeper reds require more coats of paint for proper coverage. The softer side of red is flattering to many skin tones for powder rooms, and in children’s rooms gives a sense of warmth and security.

    Red has the unique distinction of always having been a fashionable color and yet a timeless classic.

    Combining Red

    Ways to combine red
  • Orange

    With the new array of oranges to choose from in home décor, one can safely try this daring color. Orange is going red, metallic, brown, or spicy; it is almost always an exciting color to take center stage or at the very least give any color scheme a sense of the new and exotic.

    When paired with blues or purples, a spicier orange is dramatic in an entry, dining room, kitchen, or family room. For a more exotic effect, pair it with warmer colors like reds and deep warm greens. When thinking of orange, consider the many shades of terracotta and copper tones as well for inspiration.

    Combining Orange

    Ways to combine orange
  • Yellow

    Let yellow radiate its warmth in your home. Yellows can be toned down by choosing creamier versions, like the paleness of fresh butter, or spiced up, when green or red is added to it, like the deeper maize shades. Yellow works in almost any room, but don’t underestimate the intensity of yellow.

    Brighter and stronger yellows are said to increase attentiveness so their “wake-up” qualities may be better used in a kitchen. Yellow is most popular in living areas and bedrooms when it is muted and soft, like the glow from a candle, and can also brighten areas with little sunlight.

    Yellow has become a classic, especially paired with red or blue. Let it greet you like the morning’s sun.

    Combining Yellow

    Ways to combine yellow
  • Green

    Green is a very popular color for the home because it is warm and cool at the same time. Greens always balance well with other colors, whether they have more yellow in them, or blue. It is a soothing color, because it reminds one of nature and health.

    A darker green has been said to promote concentration, and so therefore is popular in a study or library. A lighter green that has a yellow cast is a fresh neutral, almost like the springtime growth of a new flower bud, which is popular for kitchens and sunrooms.

    If you think of your other colors as from nature, too, you will find the right green to compliment it.

    Combining Green

    Ways to combine green
  • Blue

    For many, blue is the color to create a sense of calm and tranquility. This is why it has become so associated with spas, vacations, and the many ways to pamper a hectic lifestyle. Therefore, it is used often in bedrooms, bathrooms, and restful sitting areas.

    Blue when it looks a little more on the purple side reminds one of botanical flowers and is a beautiful way to add clarity to any color scheme. Blues with a little more yellow are as soothing as a seaside resort. Bright, strong blues remind one of the pottery to be found in sunny places like Mexico and the south of France.

    Blue as an accent or as a focal point will be successful in your decorating scheme. It all depends on how you want to use it!

    Combining Blue

    Ways to combine blue
  • Purple

    Purples have a powerful connection with our spiritual nature, as well as our romantic, sensual, and introspective sides. Because purple is everywhere in nature, it is a color that is a part of our lives.

    Because purple has varying degrees of red and blue in it, it is easily paired with many complimentary colors such as yellow, orange, and warmer green. When slightly redder, purple is vivacious and exciting; when slightly bluer, it is as restful as a sunset.

    When using purple for a room, decide whether the room is designed to entice drama and discussion as with an eggplant-hued purple. Or, if relaxation and inner reflection is your goal, use a purple that has a slightly blue cast to it, such as a shade of hydrangea.

    Combining Purple

    Ways to combine purple
  • Browns

    No longer considered an earthy mud color, browns are associated with taste and sophistication. Influenced by the popularity of coffee houses and chocolate desserts, brown is a sensual color. Brown is often seen as confident, yet also restful and quiet.

    Try a dark, dramatic brown for a dining room, living room or an entryway for unusual impact. Browns that lean toward the purple or red side are good choices, but there is also a new influence of green, as in the oregano we cook with. Many slightly softer browns on the walls are an excellent way to let strong colors stand out and yet not be so stark. These browns are soothing and a natural choice for just about any room.

    Try browns for a monochromatic color scheme, or as a balance to many types of stronger colors. The comfort of brown will work for just about everyone.

    Creating Browns from Warm Colors

    Ways to create browns from warm colors
  • Neutrals

    The true neutrals are white, gray and black; colors that are stark and often are considered to have a lack of color. In reality, all neutrals are infused with some kind of color. There are warm and cool neutrals. The new neutral, is, in fact, any color in a low-intensity shade.

    Use these types of neutrals to accentuate color or texture in your decorating. Crisp white is soothing for some on the walls, and creates a backdrop for your furnishings as in an art gallery, separating each item. White is often used as a crisp trim color, too, and is important to use in some measure in every room. At the other end of the spectrum, black is important too as a color. It anchors and defines the other colors in the room. Gray can be warm and taupey, or cool and steely.

    By themselves, neutrals are often considered to be contemporary when on the cool side of the spectrum, but also a subtle accent color when warmer.

    Creating Neutrals

    Ways to create neutrals

Learn more about the principles of color here