Bamboozled by Optical Mixing

Have you ever chosen a key colour for your interior by selecting it from your curtain or upholstery fabric but been disappointed with the colour match when you saw it in situ? If so, you may have been tricked by optical mixing.

The colour you chose may well be an exact match to the one in the fabric but our eyes tend to blend colours which sit next to each other.  Georges Seurat the post impressionist painter used this effect to his advantage in order to blend colours, a technique called pointillism.

Analogous colours (colours next to each other on the colour wheel) are particularly prone to this effect, whereas complimentary colours (opposites on the colour wheel) don’t blend but strengthen each other making them appear to vibrate.

So, rather than pick a colour at close range from a swatch on a mood board, remember to stand back and choose a colour that matches the perceived or blended colour.

analogous pattern, colours blend

complimentary pattern, colours strengthen

Choosing Colours for a Vertical Surface

This is going to sound very obvious but possibly because it’s so obvious, it’s something that’s often over looked. If you are choosing a paint colour for your walls remember to either pin the sample to your walls or hold it up vertically rather than look at the sample on a flat surface like a table. Why? Because walls are seen in slight shadow (as are ceilings) and the colour will therefore look darker on a wall than it will lying flat on a table where more light can bounce off its surface. This also applies to bathroom tiles.  If for example you tile a bathroom wall and floor in the same tile, the walls will look darker than the floor.

It is particularly relevant when choosing curtain fabric. Fabric can appear much darker when hung especially when there are folds and ruffles casting shadows.

So remember if you are choosing finishes from a mood board don’t lay the board on a flat desk or a table.

The picture below shows the ceiling looking darker than the walls even although the same colour of paint was chosen for both.