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Understanding the Psychology of Paint Color

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Color has a large effect on how a space feels as well as on how it looks. Gain a new understanding of the psychology of paint color and how to use it correctly.

Colorful doors
Colorful doors painted in orange blue green and red

Color is an important component of any design, but it’s particularly useful when you’re repainting sections of your home. In fact, choosing the right color palette for your home not only creates a beautiful appearance, but also establishes an unique atmosphere that’s all your own. These effects have to do with the impact certain colors have on our brains, which in turn generate certain moods in relation to the environment. As such, understanding the psychology of paint color is crucial to creating an effective home design and setting the appropriate mood for a given space.

Warm vs. Cool Colors

Designer choosing paint color
Interior designer looking at inspiring photos on laptop screen and choosing color for walls color from palette

As you go about choosing a new color scheme for your home, one of the first things you might consider is whether you want to use a warm or cool color. As their names suggest, these types of hues create atmospheres associated with either welcoming and cozy environments or relaxing and tranquil spaces. This is because warm colors—such as red, yellow, or orange—evoke a heated, fire-like sensation that provides energy to those in that area. On the other hand, cool colors such as blue, green, and purple remind us of rivers, lakes, and other quiet, natural settings.

Going Pale vs. Going Bold

Open cans of paint on bright multicolored background. Top view. Copy space. Trendy green color
Open cans of paint on bright multicolored background. Top view. Copy space. Trendy green color concept.

The effects of color doesn’t end with the hue itself—the strength of the color and how light or dark it is can also influence the atmosphere you experience. In fact, the volume of the color is often considered more powerful in a home than the chosen base color. For example, pale colors are light and airy, bringing more light into a room and creating a more uplifting vibe. Deeper and darker colors, on the other hand, are incredibly rich and overwhelming—making them great for exhibiting class and elegance. Each of these color types allows you to customize the atmosphere regardless of the color you chose initially. So, even if you chose a cooler color, you can still incorporate some energy into the design by making it lighter.

Neutrals

When you’re seeking to understand the psychology of paint color, it’s also important that you know how neutrals effect a person’s view. Most people would consider basic grays, tans, and browns as less exciting additions to a home’s design, but they’re actually incredibly powerful in relation to atmosphere. Things found in the natural world most directly inspire these colors; as such, they have the charming characteristics of your local forests or mountain ranges. This alone creates interest within a space and offers you additional chances to mix and match other colors to suit your needs. Neutrals complement a series of other colors, so you don’t need to be as concerned about clashing when using two different hues in the same space.

Whites

Hand painting wall with paint roller, pastel color. Appartment renovation, repair, building and home
Hand painting wall with paint roller, pastel color. Appartment renovation, repair, building and home concept. Copy space, banner. Tools for painting walls

White is another important option to keep in mind. Pure and unstained by the outside world, people most commonly use this color to create a clean-looking design that promotes creativity. For this reason, homeowners wishing to sell their properties typically paint their interior surfaces white to create a blank canvas for prospective buyers. White and all its variations represent creative opportunity and the chance to bring some light into a darker-styled home. Just be warned that too much white can easily overwhelm a space. This is why it’s generally used in tandem with bolder colors such as blues, greens, and reds.

 

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Karen LeBlanc

Karen LeBlanc is a travel host and writer with a popular travel show, The Design Tourist, and a companion lifestyle blog. As a widely published travel journalist and content creator, Karen is a member of the North American Travel Journalists Association. She also serves as the Design and Travel editor of the national lifestyle magazine, LaPalme. Karen believes that every destination has a story to tell through its local art, architecture, culture, and craft. This immersive creative exploration begins with authentic accommodations where the narrative of place unfolds through art, accessories, accouterments, furnishings, fixtures, and food. 

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