“Color Selection: The Basics”


Color has fascinated mankind since cavemen dodged dinosaurs; maybe it started with a warm sunrise flickering through a jungle landscape or a spectacular sunset exploding over a lake. Today, in the paint and coating application industry, selecting, mixing and matching has become a lost skill or a feared territory to enter. Outside of the decorative painting segment, craftsmen no longer make product and rarely adjust hue intensity on site. Yet paint color envelopes nearly every finish we spread; and it has the power to evoke quite the spectrum of emotions from soothing, cool shades to sizzling, hot tones.

When part of the everyday work process centers around putting the correct color on, it is an essential business building block, as well as a best professional practice to understand and over time achieve some degree of comprehensive color expertise. Most every other construction trade does not have the versatility to change the mood of a space as quickly as the application of a liquid coating. Color knowledge is a vital skill to the savvy painting pro. Every modern craftsman must embrace color to provide superior service for customers and to truly work towards mastering the trade.

It is important to recognize that color is a science that has many aspects or different approaches to understanding how it all works. Like any discipline, people are still pushing for further clarity, experimenting and occasionally making advances. As mentioned, color goes way back, but for the scope of our consideration, we will start with the color wheel. In the paint and coating industry, understanding the wheel or circle starts with the Primary Colors. Red, yellow, and blue, may be referred to as historical or basic primary colors.

What is important to know about primary colors is that red, yellow and blue are the basis of every hue (rhyme intended). In paint color making, all hues come from the three primaries, which begin from the purest source. Primary colors cannot be made from other colors; but by mixing primaries, all colors are made. If all three primaries are mixed, black may be achieved. When mixing two primary colors together, a Secondary Color is made. Green, violet and orange are the secondary colors. Orange comes from mixing red and yellow, violet from blue and red, and green from yellow and blue.

The next step in understanding the color wheel is Tertiary Colors, which are made by mixing the adjacent primary and secondary hues. There are six tertiary or intermediate colors: yellow-green, blue-green, blue-violet, red-violet, red-orange, and yellow-orange. The tertiary color names begin with the primary color then the secondary color, like yellow-green.

Okay, we have twelve colors, three Primary; three Secondary and six Tertiary. The next time you are on a project, take an inventory of the walls, trim and all the painted surfaces, and see where the colors fall on the wheel. It may be a challenge at first, but after some practice you will begin seeing colors in a more complete way. A color expert has developed the skill of seeing what goes into a selected hue and may better interpret a given scheme or improve combinations.