Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Playing the Color Percentages

I don't know who it was or when it happened, but years ago somebody came up with formulas for working successfully with interior colors.  Now widely used, the formulas vary according to the number of colors in the room. 

A 90/10% Blue and Yellow Plan

Percentages for Two Color Plans  

Major Color                    Minor Color
    90%                                      10%
    80%                                      20%
    70%                                      30%
    60%                                      40%

How To Make a Two Color Plan Work

If your plan is based on close percentages like 60/40%, there should be relatively little contrast in the minor color to avoid conflict or a jarring impression. With high percentages such as the 90/10% example in this picture, you can use stronger contrast in the minor color to add a spark.

Percentages for Three Color Plans

 Major Color                     Minor Color                    Accent Color
        80%                                    15%                                       5%
        70%                                    25%                                       5%
        70%                                    20%                                    10%
        60%                                    30%                                    10%   

How to Make a Three Color Plan Work

With a three color plan, two of the colors must work together to create harmony in one of the following ways:
  • same coolness or warmth
  • same intensity (brightness or dullness)
  • same value (lightness or darkness)
  • by strongly sharing a common ingredient (neighbors on the color wheel, such as red and orange)

The Only Percentage to Avoid

Avoid a 50/50 color plan which creates tension because there's no winner. For any color plan to work, one color must dominate.

The Rule of (at least) Three

When you pick a color, try to use it at least three times in the room. For example, if you have a sofa fabric with multiple colors, pick one to use in a cushion fabric, in a ceramic piece, and in another item, such as art or in the drapery fabric. It is this repetition of color that creates rhythm and harmony in your color plan.

The Rule of Three in a Olive, Brown and Beige Plan

Color Percentages - The Bottom Line

While the concept of color percentages is helpful, it can be difficult to calculate them in the real world, especially since many of us use prints with multiple colors. I say, don't bother! I consider some so-called "design rules" a starting point only. Instead of worrying too much about achieving perfect color percentages in your designs, choose a color to be dominant, one to be secondary and, if you have a three+ color plan, a couple (or more) to play supporting roles. 

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