Color is one of the most effective tools to establish the mood of a room. Before you even take in furniture, flooring, or decor, color sends a signal the brain. That’s why some 1,500 jails and hospitals painted detention rooms bubblegum pink in the 1980s: the color would calm people down and even lull them to sleep. “Several experiments have shown that different colors affect blood pressure, pulse and respiration rates as well as brain activity and biorhythms,” wrote The New York Times.

The effect is a holdover from evolutionary biology. “When you look at red, it does increase your heart rate. It is a stimulating color,” explained Leslie Harrington of The Color Association to Huffington Post. “This goes back to caveman days of fire and danger and alarm.”

Who knew color was so powerful? (As if selecting paint chips wasn’t difficult enough.) But don’t stress. I’ve put together your guide to the basics of color psychology — including how your color choices affect mood, how to use paint color effectively, and how to develop a pleasing interior painting color palette.

The Color Wheel

This is your starting point: the staggering sea of shades that overwhelm you in the paint aisle. Breaking down the color wheel helps demystify the art of making good color choices.

Color wheel

You no doubt remember primary colors from elementary school (red, yellow, and blue). Secondary colors result from mixing two primaries (green, orange, and purple). If you mix a primary and secondary color, the result is a tertiary color (red-orange).

Keep reading to learn about analogous and complementary colors and how certain colors affect you psychologically.

Analogous and Complementary Colors

Now let’s get into how to create an attractive color palette. While browsing your favorite style or interior design blog, you may have noticed tangerine and teal go well together — that’s because they’re complementary colors, or those directly across from each other on the color wheel. Lime and fuchsia are another complementary color pairing that’s aesthetically pleasing.

Complementary colors

To keep colors from getting too intense, you can vary the tint, shade, or tone. Adding white to any color changes its tint (that’s how we get pastels). Tints are calming, particularly popular in nurseries and children’s rooms. Add black to a color and you get a new shade. For instance, navy is a shade of blue. If you add gray to a color, that changes the tone. Tones look more sophisticated than a color straight out of a crayon box.

Analogous (or harmonious) colors are next to each other on the color wheel. Nature is full of analogous colors — think fall leaves or sunrise colors like purple, red, and orange. Tropical tones like green, teal, and cerulean are analogous, too. Pick one as your dominant color and try using lighter tints of the other two to establish contrast. If you’re tempted to go for a monochromatic look but want to be a little more daring, analogous colors are the solution.

analogous colors

Continue reading to learn about what colors mean…
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