Learning About Color Undertones

Most of us amateur decorators will spend endless hours at the paint store choosing just the right color for our baby's nursery or big-boy bedroom. We have, most likely, already chosen the bedding set, lighting and some wall decorations. And now for the paint.

I have just read some very informative articles on color from a fabulous blog I follow, Colour Me Happy by Maria Killam. Maria is a color expert and designer in Vancover, B.C. She also conducts True Colour Training and Certification courses.

I'm sure you've heard (and said yourself) the opinions on color: too warm, too cold, that green is too yellow, red is too orange.  I always thought each color, whether in a paint chip or object, was categorized as such.  And I've always wanted to be educated in how to tell, officially whether any said color is a warm or a cool. Believe me, I've spent too much time looking for a warmer or cooler tone.

Living room by Maria Killam Colour & Design

Well, Maria has set me straight and she makes it simple. The answer is: It All Depends. Music to my ears! She explains that one color will offset the other. It's in the comparison against another color that you can say, "warmer" or "cooler," but a color itself is not necessarily warm or cold by itself.

In the photo above, Maria describes the red couch as having an orange undertone and the green pillows having yellow tones. But if other colors were placed in the room, the colors might appear cooler or warmer.

I still have much to learn about colors and am pleased to have found Maria's site.  At least for now, I can stop hunting for warm or cold shades!

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Maria Killam said...

Thanks for the shout!! Love your blog header it's fabulous!
I'll post it on my facebook and twitter next!
Many thanks,

Margaret Ryall said...

Just to confuse you a bit.... As an artist I would like to comment that colours can be warm or cool in and of themselves without the comparison to other colours. It depends on the original mixes you use to achieve the colour. Eg. some pinks are warm and some are cool. You have to go back to the original mixes eg. an orange red (warm) base vs. a magenta base (cool). But it's not that simple. You can add white to magenta and get a cool pink but then warm it up by adding a warmer yellow like oxide yellow. It's complex and only by mixing colours do you get a good sense of it. Every primary colour has a warm and cool version.It is in that fact that the confusion begins.

There is no doubt that comparison/pairing with other colours may accentuate the warmness or coolness of a colour.

Sorry if I confused you again, but I had to comment.

Ellie-A Little of This and a Little of That said...

I'm your newest follower from the Boost My Blog Friday Blog Hop. If you get a minute please drop by and follow back. Have a wonderful week!

Pixie Dust Painting- Benjamin Moore Painting and Decorating Services said...

nice article

Romina Garcia said...

Awesome blog.
Following you now on GFC :-)

You can find me at:


Kathy said...

I love the yellow living room, it looks beautiful! I am very color challenged I look foward to learning more with you. I always enjoy my visits to your blog.

Nan said...

Maria - thanks to you for your blog! I always enjoy reading and learning.

Margaret - thanks for the clarification; just shows I really do need Maria's color course!

Ellie, Romina - Welcome, I hope to see you often...off to see your blogs!

Kathy - thank you for the regular visits!

Happy days everyone!

Debbie said...

Her room is killer! I always know my colors are a little off but I'm at a loss as to how to fix them.

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