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category of colors in architecture and design

Category of Colors in Architecture and Design


Color is the visual perceptual property corresponding in humans to the categories called red, yellow, white etc. Colors are derived from the spectrum of light (defined by the distribution of light energy divided by the wavelength) interacting in the eyes with spectral sensitivities of the light receptors. Color categories and physical specifications of color are also associated with objects, materials, light sources etc. based on their physical properties such as light emission spectra, reflection or absorption (Content Source: Color Perception). Therefore color is an important element of design as well as visual arts and plays an important role in Architecture. Color Wheel is the best way to understand the color classification.

Color Wheel Application of colors in architecture color psychologyDifferent Categories of Colors in Architecture –

Primary Color:

Magenta, Yellow and Cyan are the three primary colors which exist in nature by themselves. These colors cannot be derived from any other color. Traditionally, primary color are believed to be red (magenta), yellow and blue (cyan).

Secondary Color:

Secondary color which are prepared by mixing any two of the primary color are called secondary color. For example – orange (red + yellow), violet (red + blue), green (yellow + blue), etc.

Tertiary Color:

Tertiary color are prepared by mixing primary and secondary color. For example – browns, grey etc.

Contrasting Color:

The colors which have an exact opposite effect on vision are called contrasting color. For example –

Blue is contrast of Orange

Green is contrast of Red

Purple is contrast of Yellow

Black is contrast of White

The pairs of contrasting color can be more clearly understood through a color table and also from a photograph and its negative.

Warm and Cool Color:

Warm color are those which are heat (and light) absorbents such as different shades of brown, black and grey. The colors related to red are also warm colors such as red, orange, yellow etc.

Cool color are those which are not (or less) heat absorbers. These colors represent coldness,  for example – different shades of blue, purple (violet) and green.

Whites and Pastel Color:

White, off-whites and other colors such are light blues, pinks, browns and greens belong to this category. These may be cool or warm color but they are soothing to eyes.

Bright and Dark Color:

Bright colors such as red, yellow, orange etc. and dark colors such as blues, brown, grey etc. belong to this category. These color represent a specific mood and create particular environment.

Dark colors and bright colorsSome Important Terms related to Color –

Hue : It is the color’s location on the spectrum. For example – light green, dark green, sea green all belong to the same hue that is green. Similarly all shades of pink and red belong to the same hue that is red.

Saturation : It defines the ‘density’, ‘intensity’ or ‘brightness’ of a color. For example – the color red can be deep red as well as bright red.

Value : It defines how light or dark a color is. For example – green + yellow = light green ; blue + white = light blue, etc.

Tint : A color made lighter by adding white. For example – blue + white = light blue ; red + white = pink ; green + white = sea green, etc.

Shade : A color made darker by adding black. For example – blue + black = dark blue ; red + black = maroon ; maroon + black = brown, etc.

Read more about Application of Colors in Architecture

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