Around 1666, Sir Isaac Newton used a prism to break light into a rainbow of colors. He proved that color comes from reflection of light, not from objects themselves.
Newton’s conceptual diagram took a linear representation of the visible light spectrum and formed it into a color circle. His diagram showed the relationships between colors – the science behind harmonious color schemes. Color wheels are still an important tool for artists and designers. They are Sir Isaac’s contribution to your color scheme selection.
You have probably heard that colors can be either warm like reds and oranges of fire or cool like blues and greens of water. Actually, it’s not so cut and dried. Each ‘hue’ (as we call a pure color) can have a cooler version called a ‘tint’ created by adding white to pure color. And, each hue can have also warmer ‘shades’ made by adding black, or warmer ‘tones’ derived by adding gray.
Every color has a cooler or a warmer version. Yes, there is a warm blue and a cool orange! As a general rule for success, don’t mix warm and cool. At the paint store, ask if their swatches are classified according to warm and cool. The Sherwin Williams fan deck is organized that way. Strips 1 to 80 are the warms and 81 to 139 are the cools.
When planning your color scheme, start by considering things you want to keep such as flooring, fixtures, tile, or stone. These fixed elements give your home a predominant ‘complexion’. If it’s a cool complexion, choose cooler versions of your colors, and vice versa.
Light also affects the complexion of your rooms. Natural light from South or West is warm; from North or East it’s cool. Incandescent bulbs cast a warm glow while the original version of CFL’s provide a cool light. Cool light in a warm space makes it seem dingy.
For a Monochromatic color scheme, choose colors from up and down the same strip in the Sherwin Williams fan deck. For an Analagous scheme, choose colors at roughly the same level from up to five adjacent strips.
There are several other more complex color schemes based on science of the color wheel. Designers already use the color wheel to design fabrics, so, find a fabric with colors you love and color match them for a starting point.
People often find choosing colors overwhelming and intimidating. If you feel this way, don’t hesitate to call a color consultant. They will help you narrow the field to colors which will work. They will also help you combine your colors in the proportions needed to give your space the feeling you want.
Photo Colour Wheel, by Robson#