Monday, April 28, 2014

Colour my home

On the weekend SIA spent time with a client at the paint counter of Bunnings hardware.

The client needed help with colour schemes in her home and SIA thinks they both needed help maintaining their sanity.

Colour confusion

You see, anyone who understands colour can break down some important elements to the following:

·       hue which is the pure colour

·       tint which is the pure colour with white added

·       shade which is the pure colour with black added

·       intensity/chroma/saturation is the purity of a hue such that highest intensity or purity is the hue as it appears in the spectrum or on the color wheel.
·       tone which is a hue with reduced intensity or dulled strength. The other word is that the hue is muted.

You create a tone in one of two ways. First by adding a neutral gray, equal in value to the hue. For example, a light gray added to yellow or a medium gray added to red or a dark gray added to violet.  Second by adding its complement.

·       undertone  using the cool v warm spectrum

This diagram says volumes about light v dark (vertical axis)
and clear v muted (horizontal axis). 

Now if you can understand all that without having studied colour, you are doing well.

The point of this post is very simple.

If you are doing colour for one room, fine, do it alone. You can only go wrong as far as one room.

If you are doing a whole house, I can almost promise you that you will get it wrong unless you bring in a colour expert to help you.

Why will you get it wrong?

Each paint company offers a gazillion hues as standard offerings, let alone mixing any colour you want. Mind you, the human eye can differentiate only about 150 hues.

Each hue has a gazillion tints, shades, tones and undertones.
I’ll repeat that.
Each hue has a gazillion tints, shades, tones and undertones.
That is scary.

To some extent hues, tints, shades and tones are a matter of personal preference.  The paint companies have colour cards which show pretty combinations of colours and they can help. 

But if you truly invested in your home, you will want more than the standard cards. As nice as they are, you want more - to match to upholstery, furniture, or re-create a room in a magazine. You want your own combination of colours, not the standard colour card.

If you mix colours, the process is of trial & error rather than science. You mix, you see how it looks, you mix again. And again. It can be a long frustrating process.

But if you understand colour – the tints/shades and the tones, you can reduce the trial and error by eliminating those that don’t work in harmony with the colour scheme. Less remaining options means more effective trial & error.

Enter the colour expert

A colour consultant can help you appreciate unusual combinations as well as take you back to basics. They will see possibilities you may miss. That’s what an expert does. Nothing earth shattering so far.

The real value which a colour consultant will add is more than just advising on pretty combinations. They will reduce your trial & error because they know which variations of the hues will work with your room, it's aspect and other colours around it.  They get you to the best outcome fast. Fast means less frustration and more time for other things. 

Undertones – warm v cool

Specifically, the expert understands undertones. Undertones are critical but they sneak up on you & make everything totally right or totally wrong.

Even if you understand cool & warm and you know your sunny yellow kitchen needs a warm white complement, it's hard. Since each paint company offers say, 20 whites – that’s a lot of variation which the human eye, let alone the mind, will struggle to process.

Undertones are like an X factor. When they are right, things feel right & things work – there is harmony in the room. When they are wrong, you may be uncomfortable but you don’t know why. More importantly, if you change the undertone to the more correct one, you will become more comfortable despite the fact that you made the most subtle of changes.

Paint companies

The paint companies have not thought to market paints in terms of these definitions – they think we are too stupid to understand it or that it is too complex to market the concepts. 

So when you look at the 20 versions of white, they aren’t marked for undertone, let alone tint and shade. Yes, you can ask the colour person behind the counter to look up the components on the computer so you have a better feel of what it comprises. But short of that, there is only trial & error. And more trial and error.

Enter a colour expert.

Because there are 20 versions of white in each paint brand’s standard colour chart. And that’s before you do any mixing.  

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