The allure of color has long been a fascination in the design world. While you may walk into a room and think that the colors were randomly chosen, typically, however, that’s not the case. Many color choices are made because of personal preference, but when it comes to combining colors, much more thought and care are taken, much of which aligns with color theory.

What Is Color Theory?

Color theory is the art and science of using color. Color is really about perception, and how it’s interpreted by the human mind is vital to designers. Color theory includes how colors mix, match, and contrast, as well as what that particular hues communicate. The interpretation of color is rather systematic—our brains perceive wavelength combinations and then translate them into color.

Color Is the Top Reason Why People Choose Products

The brain operates rapidly, identifying whether what you see is visually appealing or not. In fact, people usually decide if they like a design or a décor theme within 90 seconds! And in that 90 seconds, much of the focus is based on color, as 90% of decisions are based solely on shades. Thus, when you are making design decisions, color must be a primary consideration.

The Color Wheel and Color Harmonies

Color theory is the basis for how you, as a designer, find the ideal combinations. The color wheel dates back to 1666, invented by Isaac Newton, who mapped the color spectrum into a circle. This color wheel is the basis for understanding the relationships between colors.

When colors complement each other well, they are said to be in harmony. Using the rules of color combination, appealing, captivating harmonies can be established. There are several color combination approaches, including:

  • Complementary: matching two colors on opposites sides of the color wheel for high contrast, allowing each color to seem brighter when used together
  • Monochromatic: shades of the same base color for a more subtle look
  • Analogous: colors that are side by side on the color wheel; for the best combinations, it’s best to use one dominant color with at least two accents
  • Triadic: hues evenly spaced on the color wheel for high contrast, but not as intense as complementary
  • Tetradic: using four shades evenly spaced on the color wheel; again, for the best combinations, choose one dominant and three accents

Color Changes Spaces

Color is vital in the design of a space, bringing it to life and telling a story. There are so many opportunities to use color in rooms. While walls offer the most obvious canvas, there are many other ways to demonstrate the power of colors within a space. Color can be added to cabinets, countertops, appliances, fixtures, furniture, accents, and more. Thus, when beginning the design of a space, it’s a good idea to start with a color palette. Most designers agree that starting with three colors is ideal. You can use the 60-30-10 rule to break down how the colors will exist in the space, i.e., the dominant color = 60%, the secondary color = 30%, and the accent color = 10%.

When looking to contrast certain shades, you can also consider the blend of both warm and cool hues. For example, choose a warm shade like yellow alongside a cool color like blue. This contrast of hues balances well while enriching the ambiance of a space.

Color has a significant influence on a space and those within it, so choosing just the right colors for a design is critical to its success. Take color to the next level using color theory, and create inviting areas that draw in others and keep them engaged. Get inspired by color by checking out Element Designs’ project ideas featuring our aluminum, glass and acrylic casework components and surfacing solutions which are available in a variety of standard and custom colors and finishes.