What are Warm & Cool Colors?

Colors can be separated into two main categories, warm colors and cool colors. What colors are classed as warm, and what colors are classed as cool and how can they influence us?

The Color Wheel – Color Theory

It was Isaac Newton who created the first visual circular color diagram around 1665, also known as the commonly labelled (Color Wheel).Warm & Cool Colors, Color Wheel

The color wheel is made up of Primary, Secondary and Tertiary colors using the Red, Yellow and Blue (RYB) color model. The color wheel can be separated or divided to approximately display warm and cool colors as shown.

Warm Colors – The primary warm colors are Red and Yellow. Orange is the main secondary color. Brown, Taupe and Beige are also considered warm neutral colors, ideal for interior design.

Cool Colors – The primary cool color is Blue. The main secondary cool colors are Green, Purple and Violet hues. Gray is considered a neutral cool color.

Warm Color Influences

Warm colors can increase energy levels, physical and mental, speed up heart rates and increase blood pressure, encourage impulsiveness, increases our appetites and generally encourages expression of emotions.

Cool Color InfluencesColor Wheel Slice

Cool colors generally have a calming and relaxing influence. They can lower heart rate and blood pressure and discourage aggressive and impulsive behaviors. Cool colors are generally believed to suppress emotions and appetites.

Warm colors also give the impression of warmth or heat, while cool colors can actually make us feel cold or cooler than the current temperature, hence the labels, warm and cool colors based on their influences.

Depth Perception

Warm and cool colors also affect our depth perception. Artists often use cool colors to make objects seem further away and warm colors to make areas of an image or painting appear nearer or more prominent.

This is because warmer colors have longer wavelengths. Long wavelengths are detected sooner by our eyes, which gives the illusion of warmer colors gravitating towards our eyes or coming forward. On the reverse, our perceptions of cool colors/short wavelengths are not detected by our eyes as quickly, this creates the illusion of cooler colors gravitating away or receding from our eyes.

Depth Perception TestDepth Perception Test, Red & Blue

You should be able to test this for yourself using the image. It may take a few repeat attempts but you should begin to notice a difference in how your eyes perceive the two colors or wave lengths.

Using Warm & Cool Colors

Whether you are planning on creating a work of art where depth perception is important, or perhaps engaging in some interior design to create a desired and comfortable environment. It’s important to understand the influences that colors can have on our minds, emotions and perceptions.

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Color Theory continues with Primary, Secondary & Tertiary Colors

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