Warm vs. Cool Colors

It might seem strange to use temperature measurements when talking about colors, but certain hues are warmer than others. Warm colors may evoke sunshine and activity, but cool colors create a calm and welcoming atmosphere, because the colors are not as intense. Below, we've shared how warm and cool colors have distinct strengths and weaknesses, which can be harnessed to create confident color schemes. 

Warm Colors

When defining warm vs. cool colors, it's important to understand how color can affect a person's psychological state. Generally, warm colors are more dominant in a painting or home interior, and this is because the pigments have a lighter value and higher saturation. These colors can be psychologically stimulating, and when used in interior design, they have the effect of making a room feel cozier. When you want to grab the viewer's attention, warm colors are the way to go.

Typically, warm colors range from yellow to red, and the warmest hues have an angle of 40 to 45 degrees. This includes orange, red orange, and similar variations, which are some of the most intense pigments on the color wheel. 

Cool Colors

On the other hand, cool colors tend to play a background role in viewers' minds, so they're more relaxing than warm colors. Interior designers love using cool colors to make a room feel more spacious than it actually is, and these colors have a psychologically calming effect. 

Generally, the coolest hues are found in the range between blue and green blue. However, cool and warm colors are most effective when they contrast with one another (i.e. existing on opposite sides of the color wheel), such as orange/blue and red orange/green blue. 

Are all colors considered warm or cool?

In defining warm vs. cool colors, it may be tempting to classify them in absolute terms, but the most accurate way to categorize colors is in comparison with one another. This relative method defines a color as "warm compared to color", or "cool compared to color", but it never says that a color is fundamentally warm or cool. 

Remember, the color wheel has endless combinations of warm and cool colors, and when you're dealing with a hue like yellow green, it's impossible to define it in one camp, because it's a hybrid. However, you can compare yellow green with deep orange, and say that yellow green is a relatively cooler color.  

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