If you enjoyed this article, get email updates (it's free).
Join over 77,235 Subscribers Today.
This is the first in a series of monthly articles about the colour of your choice. I’ve taken the liberty of choosing the first one myself, but from now on, it’s you who get to pick via a simple poll system. Since this is the first of the series, we have decided to select two random lucky winners from our poll and give them something really good!
Without further ado, let us talk about this month’s selection: brown.
To start off, brown is not a colour in itself, rather it is a range of composites. It can be obtained in a variety of ways which can all result in many shades, depending on the quantities used. In essence, it is a mixture of the three primary colours that has a low level of cyan, but it can also be red, orange, yellow or rose with varying quantities of black and white.
This means that there are a huge number of colours that all fall under the collective name brown, so for this reason it is usually preferred to call them by their dominant aspect, for example red-brown or orange-brown.
Human perception causes browns to be perceived as such depending on their surroundings. In fact, they are just low-intensity shades of the aforementioned colours, but when placed in high-contrast environments, they are seen differently.
Although they stem from warm colours, the lack of brightness makes empirically categorizing browns a bit tricky, as it also depends on what they are associated with. Theoretically, they are warm, but as a rule of thumb, the more saturated they are with their base (red, orange or yellow), the warmer they are. Adding black or white makes it a cooler shade, but it stays warm. Unsaturated shades are considered near neutrals.
They are best used as a supporting elements given their capacity to enhance others. Dark shades of brown are excellent as replacements for black, as they emit the same rock-solid stability, but are not so overwhelming or imposing. This can also reduce the sharpness of the contrast and make reading text much easier and relaxing.
It is a natural colour, organic and inorganic, with ties to earth, wood and even animals (think of fur). In general it brings the feeling of stability and order, as well as security and homeyness.
It could also be said that browns are more human. Skin tones can, more or less, fall into the spectrum and brown eyes and hair are some of the most common physical traits worldwide. There has also been a study that noted a possible connection between brown eyes and facial features which give the perception of dominance.
However, through extension, natural can also signify roughness, and stability can turn into stubbornness. When used excessively, they can make things dull and lifeless, although, ironically, brown can be a symbol of life. Tan or beige without a counterbalance reminds most people of stretches of arid sun-scorched ground.
When representing life, vitality or fertility, inspiration should be taken from nature itself. Earth (soil) alone does not mean life, but it provides the means for it to flourish. Trees protect themselves through dark (or sometimes light), thick bark, hiding their more vital parts. This all means that it should be given, as mentioned previously, a supporting role when aiming for a natural effect.
Taking note of the previous points, when combining browns with other colours, they serve as catalysts while still keeping their warmth, but also taking some characteristics from the shade it supports. This leads to surprising and interesting overall effects.
For an earthy and natural effect, green is the best option, although the result can be quite different depending on the shade. With bright green, it will give your design energy and make it more eye-catching, but minty green will result in a cool and vintage look. On the topic of vintage, less saturated browns and pastels are the best options.
Dark brown will definitely make yellow pop, probably not as much as pure black, but the softer and less aggressive contrast makes it much more pleasant to look at.
Light shades (cream, beige, etc.) make pink appear much more feminine, and purple more royal or noble if you will. They are also good substitutes for white in most situations.
We’re giving away two books about colors that will definitely help anyone whether they’re new to design, or consider themselves to be an expert, understand colors better! How do you win these cool items? Simply by answering our poll below. If this is a success, we will be giving away more cool items next month!
by Adams Morioka and Terry Stone
by Leatrice Eiseman
So which should be next month’s colour? Pick your favourite below and get the chance to win the items above! Two winners will be randomly selected.
Poll ends on December 9, 2012!
Poll is now over! We will announce the winners next week!
Join over 77,235 Subscribers Today.
Costin is a passionate multimedia designer focused on graphics, video and web. Coming from the often stressful Bucharest and currently living in Denmark, right now he is probably lost in thought, pondering absurd but creative ideas.