Guest Post: Thinking “faux?” Reading Color

Today's post comes from Barbara Jacobs, of Barbara Jacobs Color and Design.
An IACC-accredited color consultant based in the Boston, Mass. area, Barbara has worked locally and nationally for over 20 years. Her focus is to help people create supportive environments for their homes and businesses. Barbara's IACC thesis subject was on using color in elementary schools. In addition to advising clients on the best colors for their home and work environments, her extensive experience, coming from her fine arts background, includes actually mixing paints and pigments, whether in glazes, plasters, wall paint, or fine arts and pastels.  Barbara also has a blog, ColorViews, you should check out.

Thinking “faux?” Reading color and looking at your space
By Barbara Jacobs

If you’re thinking of doing a “faux painting” project (or…is it a “real” project you want to do?) you will no doubt be making some decisions about color. Technically, a decorative finish will fall into one of these very basic categories:

1. Using applied color that’s opaque: Paint only
2. Using applied color that’s semi-opaque: a glaze base mixed with paint as the colorant
3. Using applied color that’s translucent: a glaze base mixed with tint as the colorant

This multi-colored layered glaze surface includes a variety of reds and earth hues to create the sense of depth.

In any of the above, you will have to make some color decisions, starting with…what color do you want to see as the result? To do this, you need at least a fundamental understanding of color mixing and how colors interact to produce a particular result. But that’s not why I am looking at this subject at this time. What I want to share are a few tips on looking at your end-result color to break it down into components that you can work with.

1. Base, and applied colors
2. Base: decide if warm or cool. Your applied color layers can even include colors that have opposite qualities, to have a toning effect and give a more visually interesting result.

Samovar Tea Lounge, San Francisco
3. Pattern: smaller scale pattern for a more ‘blended’ and uniform look;
larger scale for more contrast of shape (not necessarily contrast of color).
 The more contrast, usually the greater the drama. Smaller scale pattern will usually pull a space together better than a larger scale.
4. Contrast of light and dark/warm and cool: yes, back to that again: more contrast, more drama, more “look at me” with walls being the focus of the space

Look through the color—like rose-colored glasses
Here’s one example of thinking through to your end result and how to get there:

Let’s say you want a soft green, not too saturated but not a pastel either.
  • Do you want a yellow-based green or a blue-based green? (you already know that green = yellow + blue)
  • If you want a stronger-color green you might use brighter, more saturated blue and yellow
  •  If you want a toned-down green you might use a more subdued, orange-based yellow.
In this image, for example, we’re looking at a blue base with yellow over glaze. Result: the green.
The 2nd image gives you the idea of a result when a different yellow tone is used.
  • Use a pattern scale that emphasizes the color type you want to pitch toward
  • Use the base color that establishes the color direction
More examples of seeing color as layers

Here's another one.

In the images, we’re looking at a various base and over-glaze colors. Of course, these are just digital examples for the purpose of illustration, and as such are nothing like paint!

My personal disclaimer: the colors noted are just examples, not instructions.

For more about this subject, check out 11 tips for Decorative Finishes

All images copyright Barbara Jacobs