Table of Contents
- What is Color Theory?
- Interior Design and the Color Wheel
- Examples of Interior Design Color Schemes
- Lesson Summary
Most people learn the colors as young children, yet not many are ever taught about how those colors can actually affect a person's life and mood. The effect colors have on people has been scientifically studied and proven, and this is central to what color theory is. Explained most simply, color theory is the art and science of using color. This theory explains how humans perceive color (both physically and psychologically) and how colors mix, match, and contrast with one another.
There is actually a lot of use for understanding what colors go well together and how people perceive colors. In the fields of computer graphics, marketing, business ownership, and interior design, color theory is studied and used to help catch the customer's eyes, make websites easier to navigate, make people feel warm and welcome in a business, and create beautiful living spaces that inspire positive moods. Using the right combination of colors can have a huge effect on a space, and this is why color theory is a key component of interior design.
The color wheel is actually an essential part of interior design, and first determining the colors to use is the basis of all other parts of the design. The creation of the color wheel dates back to Sir Isaac Newton who first noted he could use a triangular prism to split a beam of white into a rainbow, proving that light is composed of a spectrum of hues. He recorded all the hues of color in a rainbow and decided to create a circle by connecting the opposite ends of the spectrum red and violet. However, not only did he create this wheel of color, but Newton was the first one to philosophize those colors shared harmonious relationships with one another. Since, then multiple scientists, design companies, and computer graphics companies like Adobe have expanded and created various versions of the color wheel. These modern versions explore how many colors can be created from the primary colors and display clearly how the colors look when matched together.
This is where the color wheel meets interior design because the designer also needs tangible tools to help them choose color schemes and share their vision with their clients. The color wheel is a tangible tool to help play with different ideas of color matches to use as themes for the design. Using the wheel to find color matches that work and create the right look and mood for a space is an art called complementary color scheme or complimentary interior design. A complementary design is created by using two colors opposite each other on the color wheel. This is the most contrasting of all color schemes which attracts the most attention and one of the main challenges when working with it is to achieve a harmonious balance. The color wheel helps the designer see how the colors will look paired together and what feeling the colors together create.
The creation of logical combinations of colors from the color wheel is known as a color scheme. The main idea behind the interior design color scheme is finding complementary colors from the wheel to create a plan for what will be the main color of a space and a complimenting accent color to use throughout the room as well. These chosen color combinations by the interior designer are the foundation of color schemes. The way a designer identifies complimenting colors is that these colors are located across from each other on the color wheel. Since the creation of the original color wheel there have been many more colors created, named, and added. The types of colors existing today are primary colors, secondary colors, tertiary colors, and complementary colors. There are also different types of color schemes, but one of the most important is the monochromatic color scheme. All of these colors and schemes are defined below.
Monochromatic Color Scheme
The color wheel may be the basis of color theory, but the second and equally important component of this theory is the psychology behind colors and how they make people feel. Essentially, color psychology is the study of how colors impact people's emotions and thoughts. Psychologists, marketing experts, and interior designers all study this theory around colors to better understand what possible effect chosen color schemes can have on human emotion.
This idea that colors impact human emotion is not new and dates back to ancient cultures. Several ancient cultures, including the Egyptians and Chinese, practiced chromotherapy, or the use of colors to heal. Chromotherapy is sometimes referred to as light therapy or colorology. Colorology is still used today as a holistic or alternative treatment. Color psychology and chromotherapy alike apply certain moods and emotions to specific colors. For example, the many hues of blues are said to be calming colors. Therefore, many interior designers think that rooms where one seeks relaxation like bedrooms and bathrooms are more adept for such calming colors as blues, whites, and soft purples.
Another important term to understand concerning color psychology and emotions ascribed to certain colors is color temperature. When talking about color in design, the terms warm and cool refers to the mood and feelings produced by a particular color. For example, experiences with blue include water, wind, and ice. Orange reminds people of the warmth of the sun, fire, and lava. The temperature associated with each color is universally accepted because it matches real-life experiences with different colors.
Examples of color temperature in design are that colors in the red area of the color spectrum are known as warm colors and include red, orange, and yellow. These warm colors evoke emotions ranging from feelings of warmth and comfort to feelings of anger and hostility. The brighter reds are seen as power and even hostile colors if they are overused, while softer shades of red and orange can be warm and welcoming.
Cool colors refer to shades of blue, green, and purple and these evoke more calming, soothing emotions but can also provoke sadness or indifference if overused or in certain shades. Interior designers greatly benefit from understanding the psychology behind colors before choosing their color schemes.
There are mainly six different color schemes that interior designers can choose from:
These different schemes are the basis for interior designers to start creating and combining colors. If a designer was choosing a color scheme for an active space that wanted to create a warm and inviting feeling and environment, then according to color psychology and complementary color scheme the designer could choose to use soft yellows as a base color, with accents of red and orange furniture, pillows or art to evoke that warm feeling and add some excitement into the mix. The yellow hues in the room would not be too bright or abrasive, so this is better as the more predominant color in the space, for instance being used as the wall paint color. Then accenting the room with red furniture (couch or table or dresser depending on the room) and hues of softer orange in the pillows, rug, or artwork as an additional accent color would certainly achieve that warm, friendly and colorful feeling in any space.
For those seeking a different type of feeling for a space or not wanting to use bold bright colors, there are also ways to design color schemes with softer and less bold colors. A very popular color in interior design today is robin egg blue. This one color explains the great contrast and variety of hues within one color. Designers should not be afraid to mix paints to create new hues of a color and use accents of different hues of the same color within one room. This is especially popular with robin egg blue right now, as this color can be a very bold sky-like blue, or some hues of it can be so soft it is almost white with a tinge of blue. Robin egg blue is a combination of soft blue with egg white, and this color in paint form can be mixed to create a very soft white-blue that is ideal for painting the walls of a calming room. Designers can then add accents of the deeper more sky-blue form of robin egg blue in furniture, pillows, curtains, rugs, or art to create a gorgeous and serene scheme in a space.
Color is actually a complex field with multiple facets and is an integral part of interior design. The goal of an interior designer is to create a home or business that inspires certain reactions and feelings from clients and all who enter that space. Color psychology is the part of color theory that proves the colors used within a space will evoke different emotions and thoughts from people. The clearest definition of color theory is a combination of using the color wheel that has been developed by scientists and artists alike and color psychology. The color wheel is every interior designer's best friend and greatest tool. Every room design begins with a color scheme, and color theory provides multiple schemes that can be a starting inspiration. Complementary color design, meaning colors that logically look right together and monochromatic color schemes (using multiple hues of one color) are two of the most common types of color combinations and are the starting point for most designers to become familiar with first. The color wheel can show complementary colors and different hues within colors as ideas for color combinations for designers to create color schemes.
Understanding the combination of the colors from the color wheel is also a critical part of color theory pertaining to interior designers. However, interior designers should also use current sources like the internet and stay up to date with trends of the most popular colors. Often, there are popular colors and schemes on the market that will appeal to each client's tastes. Currently, reds, oranges, and yellows are popular for warm and action-oriented spaces. Robin egg blue is the leading popular color for calming and relaxing spaces right now.
To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account
Color theory is the study of the art and science of colors. It combines the use of the color wheel and an understanding of color psychology.
Interior designers choose colors based on the color wheel. They can find complementary colors from the wheel or multiple hues of a color.
The most popular colors for interior design can be found on the color wheel, and usually these would be complementary colors. Specific colors that are popular right now are robin's egg blue, hues of red, yellow and orange.
The colors that go together in interior design are called complementary colors. They are located across from each other on the color wheel.
Already a member? Log InBack
I would definitely recommend Study.com to my colleagues. It’s like a teacher waved a magic wand and did the work for me. I feel like it’s a lifeline.