Sunday, October 4, 2009


COLOR is sooooo subjective and complex. So here’s the best way to give advice, Thank you my lovely husband for this idea! Remember, these are just my personal tips (from my own little brain) to get you unstuck and help narrow down your color options…

My Top Ten Color Choosing Tips (applicable to fashion, interior spaces, art, etc.)

1. KNOW what your favorite color is!

It may be a color you love to wear because it compliments your skin, or the color of your favorite sports team because it evokes fond memories, or maybe (like myself) it is the color that when you see it, your eyes involuntarily widen and it makes you feel GOOD and comfortable inside. Whatever your reasoning, KNOW what your favorite color is and when in doubt, use it as a stepping stone in the creation process.

2. Define your “project” and think of color appropriately.

Let’s say it is time to update your kitchen. Think of the purpose of this space: cooking and eating, socializing, family time, etc. There are many color theories out there that discuss what emotions certain colors evoke, and for a kitchen, I bet you automatically think of warm colors (reds, oranges, and yellows) and earthy colors found in food (greens and browns). I bet the last color you think of is BLUE. Do you know why? Blue is the least appetizing color!!! I bet you can’t think of 3 naturally occurring FOODS that are blue… blueberries is all I’ve got! But blue is a very soothing and comforting color, great for a bedroom or bathroom, right? Therefore, by defining your design goals at the beginning of a project, you will be able to narrow down your choices drastically.

3. Know the difference between the Main Color Buzzwords.

Hue: The COLOR, like red, yellow, green, blue….

Value: The “lightness” or “darkness” of a color OR the amount of white or black added to it. A “tint” is a color with white added, a “shade is color with black added and a “tone” is a color with grey added (like the middle version).

Saturation: How BRIGHT the color is. A highly saturated color is very vivid and bold, where a low saturation is almost grey. Grey has zero saturation of color.

4. Choose your textiles for function, color, texture and weight… THEN choose your color family.

There was once this Wal-Mart commercial that used to drive me CRAZY! The lady was like, “First I choose my paint color, then I find my bedding… blah blah blah, Wal-Mart has it all.” Um, does this sound backwards to anyone else?? You have infinite paint choices, but really, textiles are many, but you do have a finite selection, know what I mean? So first, find your textile that meets your needs for the space, one that makes you happy and THEN get your paint to coordinate! Sure it is ok to know, “I want the walls to be green,” and to keep that in mind when selecting the textile, but please wait to choose the actual COLOR!

5. Examine the lighting in the space thoroughly.

Color by definition is the amount and kind of light absorbed and reflected back to the eye. Do not assume the color you love in the paint department will look the same in your space. Grab LOTS of the same family of colors and bring the swatches home. Yes, as many as you want… they are FREE! Tape them on various walls and look at them over the course of a few days. Move them around. Narrow down your favorites and then take them back to the paint shop. Many companies are now able to mix very small samples for you… so spend the extra $10-15 and do it! Buy some poster board and paint LARGE swatches (at least a foot square) and repeat your first step. This seemingly tedious process is actually fun and can save you lots of time, disappointment, and repainting in the future.

6. Know the MOOD.

Do you want to feel calm and rested, or energetic and fun? Are you looking for high saturation and vividness, or just a touch and hint of color? Do you want to feel cozy and comfortable or crisp and clean? Define your emotions! Warmth is most commonly felt by colors that remind you of sunrays and fire, and coolness by ice, water, and the sky. In my opinion purple can go either way depending on how much red/magenta or how much blue/cyan is in it. So sit back and think, “how do I want to FEEL in this space” and go from there.



7. Remember color can be added in more ways than PAINT.

TEXTILES TEXTILES TEXTILES! I love me some fabric! And don’t worry, we’ll discuss choosing textiles later, but please don’t forget about all the color and texture (visual and tactile) they can add to a space. Other ways to add color is through accessories and art. Textures absorb light in different ways… so add some glass, wood, ceramic, tile, stone and papers to the mix!

8. As Stacy and Clinton on “What Not To Wear” say: “It doesn’t have to match, it just has to GO.”

Remember your color wheel. As long as you follow ONE rule at a time, you are golden. Colors next to each other, REALLY GOOD. Colors opposite each other, GOOD if in proper values and saturations. Two colors near each other and one opposite, CREATIVE. The wheel has worked for years, and it is round for a reason. Use it and have fun.


9. Use your eyeballs and trust them.

Even if you are colorblind, you know what colors look good to YOU! Trust your instincts and what YOU find appealing and then show everyone else your masterpiece. Remember, color is subjective and there really is no right and wrong, just a difference of opinion. I suppose it is good to discuss and agree or compromise with your spouse/partner/roomies, but essentially your rods and cones will tell you what’s up. So trust your eyeballs… they are amazing things!

10. AND………… HAVE FUN!

Golly, just don’t be scared! Being timid with color will just result in ho-hum and we all know that isn’t what most of us are really after. Play with harmonies and even discordant colors! A POP of something unexpected will often really MAKE the room (or outfit if you take this into fashion). Show your personality and be confident that you have interesting and fun ideas to share. I have long believed you can make anything look good with enough confidence behind it, so shake things up a bit and try something new… and KNOW you have what it takes to make it your own.



PS... and for those of you who LOVE color as much as I do... or just need some color palette ideas, check this out! http://www.colourlovers.com/palettes/new


  1. Wow. This is a GREAT post. Very helpful!!!!

  2. YAY I'm glad there's some useful stuff in here!!

  3. Great Job Dear Erica.....I am sure your Mom and Dad can see their money was well spent at NCState!!!

  4. Money well spent but most comes naturally!