Elements of Design: Color

Color theory talks about three main topics: hue, value, and intensity. Hue and color are sometimes used interchangeably, and they refer to the named colors. Warm colors, like red, orange, and yellow, are considered stimulating; cool colors like blue, green, and purple are seen as calming.

Value is how light or dark a hue is seen as being. As an example, a rich navy blue is a low value blue; a pale, powderpuff blue (think of a ’70s tuxedo) is a high value color.

credit: perfectweddingguide.com

Intensity is the brightness of a hue. Pure colors are the most intense, but they can be dialed back by adding a neighboring color, a contrasting color, white, black, gray, or any combination of all of these. In interior design color theory classes, you spend entire classes mixing pigments to understand how colors affect one another. Cool stuff.

“That’s great, Dave,” you say, “but how does this help me in the garden?” Color can be used as a way to give a built element a lot of visual impact. I love love love vividly painted stucco and concrete walls:

credit: hotgardens.net

Understanding color can also help in selecting foliage and bloom colors. Now, I hold the belief that Mother Nature is awesome and none of her flower colors ever clash. Color-themed gardens can be a lot of fun, though, and it helps to have an understanding of color when deciding what’s a cool color, what’s a warm color, how everything plays together, etc. A color wheel is a fantastic investment of less than ten bucks (3451 9-1/4IN. COLOR WHEEL DIAMETER:9-1/4″, Amazon affiliate link) that will let you get a better sense of what are contrasts, what are complementary, all that jazz.

That’s the final element of design. I hope you found this series useful! Any recommendations for future topics?

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