The Theory Of Colour Essay Sample

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Colour surrounds us and as such will impact, critically, on the way we feel. Certain colours and colour combinations or tone are mood enhancing making us feel happy, peaceful or energised, other colours will make us make us feel sad, angry, agitated or subdued. Business, fashion and the media make full use of their understanding of colour to achieve their aims and this often results in colour trends that will make certain colours or combinations being dated and others modern or up to the minute. The considered use of colour and tone can also make locations or items more attractive and thus increase sales or create environments where sales are enhanced. E.g. In hotels or restaurants colour can be used to create an ambience such as classical to ensure that customers will return and high prices charged. In a fast food restaurant, where sales are limited colour and design will be used to encourage customers to eat quickly and leave.

The psychology of colour shows the degree to which we are all affected at a subconscious level by colour. For example the colour pink is used to suppress feelings of anger and violence in disturbed adolescents. Colours can also be related to gender and sexuality as well as seen as relating to periods in history e.g. Egyptian, Classical, and Victorian etc.

It is clear then that in order to be effective in the area of interior design one needs to understand and apply the theory of colour. This is achieved by assisting the client to determining the most appropriate colour scheme for them. This will be based on a fluent understanding of colour carefully applied to the taste, personality and preference of the client, their choice of style or period, and the atmosphere they wish to create e.g. formal, cosy. Pragmatically it will need to include the consideration of furnishings, the purpose of the room, the geography of the room, lighting and costs.

It is also very important to know when the room is likely to be used the most as colours are dramatically affected by the quality of light. That is to say a colour scheme will look quite different in the evening than it will in the daytime. Rooms that are used frequently tend to lend themselves to a lighter colour treatment. If, however a room has an abundance of light the palette used can be wide and dramatic. It is important to also consider the source of light in a room as a north facing, day time room, with little light will benefit from colours that bring warmth, light & energy into the room as depicted: –

North facing = Yellows, reds and pink

South facing = Gold and creams

East facing = Green & blue

West facing = Peach and terracotta

Thus colour is the foundation on which the design for an interior is based and should include all aspects such as walls, ceilings, woodwork, furnishings, architecture and needs to also consider contrasts and textures. It is important to start by understanding the theory of colour and the development of the colour wheel. This is based on the three primary colours – red, yellow & blue, that cannot be mixed from any other colours These colours are then the first on the wheel and by mixing them together we can create the whole colour spectrum. Thus two primary colours when mixed will provide a secondary colour e.g. red & yellow will create orange & thus we have the secondary colours orange, green & purple. Tertiary colours are achieved by mixing one primary and one secondary colour together. Thus blue (primary) mixed with purple (secondary) creates blue violet (tertiary). See attached colour wheel.


The tone of a colour refers to how light or dark it is. When we add white to a colour we have a tint and when we add black we have a shade. The addition of grey – both white and black, to a colour creates a depth of colour called a tone (Please see attached) Hue is the correct name for colour & it is important to note that the best use both hue and tone will provide a successful colour scheme for a room & this includes mixing separate colours to the same tone. Restricting darker or lighter shades to small areas such as skirting and rails.

Colour + White = Tint

Colour + Black = Shade

Colour + Grey = Tone

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