The Design Process Revealed - Colour

The Design Process Revealed - Colour

Be Different

60% of the population of Europe and the United States say that their favourite colour is blue. Blue is the colour of conformity.

Be Spectrum Aware

Colours never really exist in isolation so you have to understand that every colour has its opposite - red is opposite green, blue is opposite yellow etc. Putting blue next to yellow means the blue looks even stronger and the yellow looks mad. It's basically picking a fight with colour which is fine if you want to be noticed.

With the above in mind, use the combat of the colours to your advantage - if your red paint is way too red don't add black, never add white but add a dash of green. The green will take a lot of the fruitiness out of the colour without affecting how dark it is.

Red is a Bully

Reds are phenomenally dominant - they are the bullies of the colour palette. This is because they are focused at the centre of the dish shaped retina at the back of your eye, which literally means that red goes deeper into your head as other shades such as blues which are focused on the rim of the eye. This is why red will make a room feel smaller.

A very, very clever colourist will understand which colours are the bullies and which are the victims and create a scheme that uses the weakness of the latter in addition to the strengths of the former. Since reds advance and blacks are so heavy then use them as a controlled explosion to distract the attention away from the corners of the room. A large red painting in the middle of a room with pale walls will ensure the eye is way too distracted from the rich saturation of red in the middle of the space.

A Bit of Subtlety

Some of the easiest colours to live with are colours between colours. So, blue/greens, green/blues, warm violets, cold purples, greys that are neither pinky or bluey, whites that have a little bit of red a little bit of yellow. In a world dominated by black lit primary colours all desperately seeking your attention and trying to persuade you to buy a burger. Clever, subtle shades are a restful counterpoint

Clever colours for making a room feel much bigger are the colours that you see on the far horizon of impressionist painting. Pale blues, violets, greens and yellows create a feeling of ‘Aerial perspective’ that gives a suggestion of the walls receding away from you.

Vary the Texture

For a real master class in colour never forget that varying the texture can have a huge impact on the way the colour looks. I've seen rooms decorated completely in the same shade of one colour but because that colour is used in a shiny lacquered form for the floor or a soft matt incarnation for velvet curtains or a combination of both where there is a shiny pattern on a matt background for wallpaper, the effect created is near miraculous.

Summary of the design rules

The appearance of colours will change when put next to one another.

Colour is sensual, when combining colours think of them in terms of flavours.

Some colours will make surfaces seem to advance, while others appear to recede.

Subtle, in-between shades tend to be more restful to the eye.

Jump to section

Colour Light Pattern Proportion Space