Colours that lift you up and bring you down

Have you ever heard of the colour wheel?  If not, you might have spotted something resembling it either at a paint store or a cosmetics counter!  Colours play a huge role in our everyday lives; from how we decorate our spaces, to what we wear.  How we put the colours together, will determine whether or not an outfit or space, is inviting, lifts you up of brings you down.  Many, many years ago, in 1666, Sir Isaac Newton invented the colour wheel.  In the mid-1900s, a Swiss painter, Johannes Itten, reinvented it.  Itten fell in love with all the different colours that he saw in nature.  As a teacher, designer and artist, he decided to devote his life to exploring how colour, emotion, personality and life itself, intersect.  The relationships between the different colours fascinated him.  Some colours complimented each other, while others were completely opposites.  

During his time as professor at Germany’s Bauhaus School of Art, he developed an introductory course for all new art students.  This course encouraged the students to dive into their own personal exploration of colour, texture and form.  Today, this same technique is still used both in fashion, graphic designing and interior decorating. There are different colours:  primary, secondary and tertiary.  Primary colours or “original colours,” are red, blue and yellow.  These colours, when mixed, create the secondary colours.  A mix of red and yellow, makes orange; a mix of yellow and blue makes green; and a mix of red and blue gives purple.   Tertiary colours are created when you mix one primary colour with a secondary colour:  yellow-green, yellow-orange, blue-green, blue-violet, red-orange, red-violet.

On the colour wheel, you will notice that every colour is strategically placed next to each other; each colour, that has a relationship with another colour (compliments each other), is placed next to each other.  Professor Itten felt strongly, that colours must not just be seen, but also felt and experienced at every level.  Thus, he started to combine colours together.  Today, we talk about the “hue, value, temperature and intensity” of colours.

The Hue (also called root or source) is one of the 12 key colour places of the colour wheel.  Artists use some or all of these 12 colours when they mix the paint.  Different shades of a certain colour, is what is referred to as the hue.  The value of colour is usually compared against a white, grey or black background.  The value refers to the lightness or darkness of colours in relation to these 3 colours.  Temperature is an interesting term and used to describe the emotional relationship that Itten had with colours.  Certain colours are warm, whilst others are cool.  Intensity or saturation, is when you measure the brightness of any colour.  First you have to identify the root hue / colour most closely to it on the wheel.  usually this is one of the 2 neighbouring colours sitting next to it on the colour wheel.  The intensity of the colour is characterized by the brightness or dullness of the colour, when looking at its primary hue.

How do you work with colour?  Standing in front of your cupboard; are there days that you don’t know what to wear?  Are you wearing or using colours, that doesn’t compliment your skin tone, your mood and/or your personality?  So often people not only wear the wrong colours, but they also use the wrong colours in their home and office.  Colours can lift you up or bring you down.  Warm colours, like your reds and oranges, give you an instant boost of energy.  People notice you when you wear it.  Cool colours, like your blues and greens, calms you down and creates a peaceful environment.  Just imagine a dull, grey day outside and you wearing a red, purple, pink or yellow coat.  Immediately it will lift your mood and/or give you a boost of energy; regardless of the weather!  Wearing or using mainly black, grey and/or white, is not just dull, but also serious, manly (in my opinion) and not warm and inviting.  Therefore, always make sure to use a pop of colour, when your basic colour is cool and/or neutral.

Here are a few tips from Professor Itten:

Contrast of saturation:  mixing intense and dull colours together, for example a vibrant red or yellow against a dull grey.

Contrast of warm and cool:  orange, red, brown and yellow are viewed as warm; blue, grey and green are cool.  Matching a warm colour with a cool colour, will grab the viewer’s attention (for example red and green).

Contrast of light and dark:  matching your light colour with a dark colour.

Contrast of hue:  a complementary matching pairs one hue, that is closer to one of the 3 primary colours, with a hey that is further away from the primary colours.

Contrast of extension:  using only 2 colours, one is used as the main colour and the other is only used here and there.

Simultaneous contrast:  pairing colours together that are on the opposite sides of the colour wheel, for example pairing a blue-based hue with one that falls between the yellow and red.

Complementary contrast:  also called opposing, a contrast is when 2 colours, that would face one another on the colour wheel, are placed next to each other.

In nature all colours work together to create contrast and harmony.  When choosing a colour scheme for your home, always make sure that it blends together; even when it is contrasting each other.  When choosing which colours will work in your wardrobe and on you skin, make sure to choose colours with the right undertones.  Warm skin tones have a yellow undertone, while cool skin tones have a blueish undertone.  If you are uncertain; ask a consultant to help you find the perfect colours that will complement your skin and your personality.  Happy colour-hunting everyone!

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: