Category Archives: color theory

Using Fluorescents

using fluorescents

You know the fluorescent trend that came out a year or two ago? I didn’t talk much about it then because I was born in the 80’s and I remember it the first time around, thank you very much. Day-Glo oranges and yellows worn together is kind of frightening and not particularly flattering, but that could be just me.

And in case you’re wondering, I feel the same way about parachute pants.

But while browsing the world of Pinterest, I came across this article from Trendland and was totally, surprisingly smitten by how lovely these photos from Floor Knaapen are. Take a look:

floor knaapen

The touches of fluorescent colors mixed with pastels are lovely! Who knew? 

And it got me thinking: if we are going to embark on the fluorescent color train, how do we use them? I can think of three ways off the top of my head.


using fluorescents with neutrals

#1: Fluorescents with neutrals/quasi-neutrals: The brighter or the more saturated the color, the more it’s going to stand out, period. So, why not let it shine nice and bright? Stick with the neutrals (white, black, and gray) or the quietest, dullest shades (the quasi-neutrals) as back-up colors to a single bright hue, and you’ll get that pop of color you want without compromising its brightness or having a color scheme that feels unfinished.


using fluorescents with pastels

#2: Fluorescents with pastels: If you asked me last week if fluorescents could go with pastels, I would have said nope, but Trendland has convinced me they could definitely work. The trick here is to use fluorescents in small doses so they don’t overwhelm the pastels. The lighter, brighter pastels will then help soften the overall effect of a fluorescent color.


using fluorescents with darks

#3: Fluorescents with darks: On the flip side, darker shades will help ground a color scheme and keep brighter colors from feeling too much – too fluffy, too airy, too precious, too trendy. They add a touch of seriousness, so if your color scheme is feeling a little much, go for a dark to match with a bright instead.


As much as I’m discovering I can actually like fluorescent colors, I still think they are best used in small doses. They are so bright and powerful that they can very, very quickly be overwhelming. A little goes a long way, and all that. The thing here to remember is what a fluorescent color is: it’s a super saturated pure hue. It’s going to be bright, it’s going to be bold, and it’s going to grab attention, so use it wisely.

Your turn: would you ever branch out into fluorescent colors? And if so, what would you pair with it?


My Very Favorite Quasi-Neutrals

favorite quasi-neutrals

With as saturated as I like my colors, I also have a bunch of favorite quasi-neutrals that I pull out all the time. The brighter the color, the more it wants to shine all by itself, so quasi-neutrals let them do just that. And when I came across this Top 10 Favorite Warm Gray Paint Colors post on Pinterest, I thought I’d share my own favorites.

And because we’re all visual people, here’s what they look like against My Spring Colors:

favorite quasi-neutrals - 1 sapphire favorite quasi-neutrals - 2 aquamarine favorite quasi-neutrals - 3 chrysoprase favorite quasi-neutrals - 4 pale citrine favorite quasi-neutrals - 5 sunstone favorite quasi-neutrals - 6 ruby favorite quasi-neutrals - 7 amethyst favorite quasi-neutrals - 8 peridot favorite quasi-neutrals - 9 aventurine favorite quasi-neutrals - 10 yellow topaz

I like it.

What’s your favorite neutral/quasi-neutral?


My Spring 2014 Color Combos

my spring 2014 colors - names

I didn’t plan it this way, but it turns out that My Spring 2014 Colors are pretty close to the colors of gemstones. Funny, right? I thought my jewelry designer friends would get a kick out of it, so I ran with the theme. It makes me want to break out my jewelry pliers and start beading.

And, of course, I got all excited playing with color combos. Take a look:

my spring 2014 colors - duos my spring 2014 colors - trios

This is just a sampling – these colors are all singing to me, and they all look fantastic against each other. I haven’t found a combo yet that doesn’t look good, so mixing and matching is going to be a dream. And if you’re looking for more of my Spring colors, I’ve got 150+ color combos and 24 palettes using them in this Palette Club issue.

What’s your favorite combo? Which ones would you mix together?


Pantone’s Color of the Year 2014

pantone color of the year 2014 - radiant orchid

Once I saw the Spring 2014 Colors, I got it in my head that this year’s Color of the Year was going to be Dazzling Blue. Wishful thinking, perhaps? So imagine my surprise when Pantone said it was Radiant Orchid – totally didn’t see that one coming.

Even though that Dazzling Blue guess and my prediction last year aren’t right, at least both are close on the color wheel to Radiant Orchid (I feel like I was in the ballpark there). And out of all the comments on last year’s post, Miss Erin came the closest with a shade of purple. What was your prediction/hope for 2014’s Color of the Year?

And how do you like Radiant Orchid?

As for me, well… I don’t hate it. It’s actually kind of pretty, and purple’s really popular right now, so I can see the reasoning behind the choice.

Out of the two purples Pantone has for Spring, I definitely prefer Radiant Orchid over Violet Tulip (which is so blue-purple, it’s almost entirely blue). Because purple’s not really my favorite color, I often shy away from it, especially if there’s a lot of blue in it… which is my entire problem with this year’s pick. I don’t like a lot of blues in my purples, or softer shades of purple – I much prefer a red-purple, or a saturated purple. Something bolder.

The thing that’s curious, though, is that depending on the site and the photo, Radiant Orchid has different shades. Like this one from Pantone:

pantone color of the year 2014 - Color_Formulas_Guides_Banner

The color I was associating with Radiant Orchid is the background color, not the swatches, because that’s the color Pantone put out with the Spring Colors Report. The background is decidedly purple, and the swatches are decidedly red-purple.

So, if I got the color wrong, if it is indeed a little redder, then consider me a fan. That said, if Radiant Orchid is decidedly red-purple, like the hex code #B163A3 suggests (#2 below), it’s strange that there isn’t more consistency, especially on Pantone’s own website. Because these two photos are from Pantone itself (styled beautifully by Sub Rosa), one would think the top photo, which is the main one on the Color of the Year page, would match, or at least come close to, the actual color. Or that the dominant color used is the correct shade, so people don’t get confused.


pantone color of the year 2014 - radiant orchid shades

Maybe it’s just me.

What I can say is that whichever shade Radiant Orchid really is, it’s a color that works well with other colors (unlike Honeysuckle – remember that one?). Take a look:

pantone color of the year 2014 - swatch 1 pantone color of the year 2014 - swatch 2 pantone color of the year 2014 - swatch 3 pantone color of the year 2014 - swatch 4 pantone color of the year 2014 - swatch 5 pantone color of the year 2014 - swatch 6

And that’s not even scratching the surface.

So, despite my own color habits, it actually looks good against a wide variety of colors, which is a bonus for any designer. Without changing or adjusting the shade, I like it best as an accent, since purples that aren’t really strong and vibrant will have a hard time standing out against stronger or darker colors.

How about you? How are you feeling about Radiant Orchid?


My Spring 2014 Colors

In my last post, I mentioned that I wasn’t in love with Pantone’s Spring 2014 colors. In fact, I was flat out disappointed. Which got me thinking, what colors would I pick if I was choosing colors for next spring?

It’s kind of a big question to tackle, because Pantone is in the color forecasting business, and is therefore watching trends from a variety of industries. Trying to approach it the same way feels daunting. Me, I look at colors from an artist/designer/color theorist point-of-view. So, all I can do is pick colors I like working with, looking at, and want to see at that time of year.

But the idea is so intriguing, and I couldn’t help myself. So, I went back to the post where I compared past Pantone color choices with each other and noticed there’s a formula Pantone tends to follow each season. Working with those same general guidelines, I chose ten colors that I’d love to work with in the spring.

my spring 2014 colors

The first two rows are Pantone’s picks – the top is next spring’s colors, and the middle row is this past year’s spring colors. The bottom row are my choices for Spring 2014.

My thinking is that when springtime rolls around, I want to see colors that are bright, happy, fun, hopeful – everything that spring is all about. I don’t want to see pastels or muted colors, though there is some standards for that, because winter can be so dreary and muted. When the seasons change, I want to see all the colors that I didn’t see in the cold months.

I didn’t stray too far from what Pantone’s done in the past with my choices. If anything, I gave each color a punch of saturation, and went for shades that could have widespread appeal.

Starting on the left, I brought in the strong blue I’ve been hoping to see, along with a shade of my beloved aqua, then a bluish green that feels so happy to me. Next comes a muted yellow, the only quiet color, to help bridge the seasons. Plus, I think it’s soft enough to work with every other color. Then comes a riff off of Tangerine Tango, a pinkish red I can’t get enough of right now, a pumped up version of Radiant Orchid, the yellow-green I mentioned in the last post, a medium teal, and a bright yellow for an extra bit of sunshine.

What do you think of my choices? What would your spring choices be?