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Color Glossary
color glossary

This glossary on color in home decor may help you understand some of the different color terminology that is used in decorating.

Accent Color - Color that is used sparingly in a room or space to add life to a color scheme. Usually a brighter and more vivid color, but an accent color can be a neutral.

Analogous - A color scheme which uses two or three adjacent hues on the color wheel.

Chroma - The intensity and purity of a color.

Color Family - Different shades and tints of the same color.

Color Palette - A group of colors that are used together within a space or room to create harmony. Also known as a color scheme.

Color Rendition - The way light, whether natural or artificial, affects the hue of a color.

Color Scheme - A group of colors that are used together within a space or room to create harmony. Also known as a color palette.

Color Wheel - The arrangement of colors in a circle placed in the order of the spectrum. The color wheel shows primary, secondary and tertiary colors.

Complementary Colors - Opposite colors on the color wheel are considered Complementary Colors. The two colors will produce a neutral if mixed together in equal amounts.

Contrast - The way one color will play off of another color. Contrast can also be the way one style or texture of a finish will play off of another.

Cool Colors - Colors which contain blue or green undertones and give the illusion of retreating away from the viewer are considered cool colors with cool undertones.

Custom - An item that is specially made to a clients specifications, regarding finish, size, color or function. Custom items typically have a longer lead time and are usually not returnable.

Dominant Color - A color that is used in the largest proportion within a rooms color scheme. The color of the walls or floor is typically the Dominant color because of the quantity of the color in the room.

Existing - An item, architectural element, applied decoration, furniture or finish that is already in a space when the project begins.

Grayed - When a color has been made less pure or vivid by graying the color. This is done by adding gray, brown or a complementary color to the original color. Also known as neutralizing and/or muting the color.

Hue - The pure state of a color. Intensity - The amount of lightness or darkness to a particular color.

Monochromatic - When one color family is used in a color scheme with diverse tints and shades of that color it is considered a Monochromatic color scheme.

Muted - When a color has been made less pure or vivid by graying the color. This is done by adding gray, brown or a complementary color to the original color. Also known as neutralizing and/or graying the color.

Neutral - Typically neutrals are thought of as only beige, gray, black, white or off-white, however any color can be a neutral if it has been neutralized or muted and is lacking a brilliant hue.

Neutralized - When a color has been made less pure or vivid by graying the color. This is done by adding gray, brown or a complementary color to the original color. Also known as graying and/or muting the color.

Optical Illusion - When something appears different than it actually is. Example: Trompe de oil murals which "trick the eye" into thinking they are 3 dimensional, or when a ceiling appears higher than it is because of colors, etc. used.

Paint Manufacturer Chip - The large "fans" of paint that have a sample of all the particular paint manufacturers shades and tints of colors available in their line of paint. Also available as individual paint chip samples at the paint store. They are an ideal reference to take on site visits to match a color of an item that cannot be removed from the space.

Patina - The mellowing of the surface of a metal object, such as bronze or copper, through a chemical reaction. It is also a paint technique that re-creates the look of naturally occurring patina through the use of paint.

Primary Colors - Any one of the three main pigment colors on the color wheel -red, yellow or blue. Primary color can also mean the dominant color used in a rooms color scheme.

Secondary Color - A color created from a combination of any two of the primary colors on the color wheel. It can also mean a color that is used less than a dominant color within a rooms color scheme.

Shade - A color which has had black added to it and is darker than its normal value.

Spectrum - The bands of color in light. Red is the longest wavelength and violet is the shortest. The spectrum is visible when light passes through a prism.

Tertiary Colors - A combination of two secondary colors from the color wheel.

Tint - A color which has had white added to it and is lighter than its normal value.

Tone - A softened color that is created when white or black are added to the pure hue, creating a tint or shade.

Triad Colors - A color scheme based on three colors on the color wheel that are located at equal distances from each other.

Undertone - The influence of the underlying pigment or other colors within a hue. A mouse gray has a warm undertone (yellow) and a steel gray has a cool undertone (blue).

Value - The lightness or the darkness of a color.

Visual - The impressions and feelings that are picked up from the sense of sight.

Warm Colors - Colors which contain yellow or red and give the illusion of advancing toward the viewer are considered to be warm colors and to have warm undertones.

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