What’s Your Color IQ?

July 26th, 2010 comments 6

hue, tint, shade or tone? I lean toward tones – the grayed down version of hue. It’s in the nuances of tone that I become obsessed. Like many, I’ve spent a good amount of time searching for that elusive (perfect) paint color, and I have a jillion quarts of paint to prove it. But I can’t help myself because I know that when the colors are as they should be, an interior space sings. I ran across this Online Color IQ Challenge the other day and according to their test I have perfect color vision. Really? Then why, do tell, is picking a paint color so dang hard!

My favorite book on the subject is called COLOR Natural Palettes for Painted Rooms by Donald Kaufman and Taffy Dahl. It was first published in 1991 but it’s message and photos are timeless.  When I first bought the book – well before we lived in France – I stared endlessly at photos of Nicole de Vesian’s house “La Louve” in Bonnieux.

The book offered a pallet of tones gleaned from the surrounding landscape. I still gravitate to those colors just as I still love the house and garden.

Kaufman offers this advice to those of us who agonize over color:

  • Visualizes spaces as volumes
  • Consider color and space as one
  • Expand the mock up phase
  • Don’t shortcut the execution
  • Forget Trends
  • Credit your individuality and eccentricity
  • Stick to your belief that decoration can be great and still contain your personal expressions
  • Don’t be distracted by the mass market jargon that is masquerading as expert advice
  • Realize the limitations of all advice including mine

On his website he expands on each of these thoughts and it’s well worth the read. The site is inspiring and beautiful and I particularly like the irregular presentation of the color swatches:

Kaufman’s and Dahl’s work as colorists led them to develop a line of paints featuring  over a hundred luscious colors and I’m dying for a chance to use them. Through their eyes it seems so simple.

If any of you have tried or seen the paints in person I’d love to hear about it!

§ 6 Responses to What’s Your Color IQ?"

  • I’ve had Mr. Kaufman’s book for several years and really appreciate his expertise.

    I think what adds to the difficulty is selecting colors is partly due to the pigments that a particular paint company will use. The quick and cheap way of graying down a color is by adding black (but even blacks differ and have undertones). The way to create a true greyed tone is by adding in a color’s complimentary color, which is opposite on the color wheel. These are considered full spectrum paints, which Mr. Kaufman’s paints are as well.

    Paints that are mixed with their complimentary colors to get a greyed tone have greater depth than one that has had black mixed into it, which will absorb light and look much flatter.

    The light source will affect color… natural vs. artificial, and then the type of artificial will affect it, ie. incandescent fluorescent, halogen, etc.,…

    Light angle also affects paint colors. Not only will a paint color inside your rooms look different on one side of a house or building than the other… but paints will look different depending on what part of the country or world you are in. So when someone says that they have found the perfect “French Grey”, it may not be so perfect for someone else living in a different longitude and latitude.

    Then, if that were not enough to have to consider… color does not sit in isolation and will always be affected by the colors that are near it.

    Decisions, decisions… ~Terri

  • Jeanne says:

    Susan–that swatch chart speaks to me! Terri raises some very good points too. I could not agree more about how light differs from country to country. I have never been one for grey…until moving to England. Not sure I will go there myself but I can understand the appreciation for the colour as it does sit well in this light.

    Jillion…zillion..I agonize over colour as well. Who would have thought that there would be so many versions of basic white! White houses look wonderful in Auckland…brilliant white. I painted ours white and it took forever to get it just right. I then wanted black shutters…jet black. Again, not as simple as it sounds.

    I appreciate every word you are saying here and I love the photos!! I am going to find this book….it sounds wonderful.

    Many thanks too for your very thoughtful comment :)

    All the best


  • Colette says:

    Hello Susan, what a lovely post with so much insight.I will most defnitely look for this book. the images are just beautifull. love Colette x

    • Susan says:

      Terri, thanks for the great input. And Jeanne, light and location change everything don’t they!

      Colette, do try to find the book – it’s a good one.

  • Hello, I just discovered your blog. One word … BEAUTIFUL!
    Lovely post on colors. I will look for the book you mentioned.

    Merci et a tres bientot

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