The correct use of color in architecture and design

by | Nov 16, 2020 | Architecture, Color, Design, R3Dstudio, Trends | 0 comments

The study of color occupies an important place in human activities such as art, industries, psychology, physiology, physics, advertising, lighting technology, and of course architecture and design, among many other activities.

Its application in the world of architecture is preponderant because it concerns the correct or incorrect reading of an architectural form or space; and when we design we must take it into account from the compositional point of view as it must attract comfort.

To understand the correct use of light, we must first understand the theory of color, which in simple terms tells us that when we perceive an object of a certain color, we see it that way because the surface of that object reflects part of the white light it receives and absorbs. the rest of it. White light is made up of the 3 basic colors: deep red, green and blue violet, the way the light is reflected and absorbed produces the other colors. That is why color is not a fixed quality of shapes.

Over time an understanding of color has developed subject to cultural or social norms that lead people to react to it naturally, instinctively. No other element of humanity (of nature) allows ideas and emotions to be represented, that is why it is of utmost importance in architecture and design –especially in interiors- because it has the quality of modifying the space creating sensations and emotions of the person who lives. the space. Hence its importance, whose good use, or, on the contrary, its misuse, generates the like or dislike of being in that place.

Colors and feelings are not accidentally combined but are consequences of universal experiences deeply rooted since childhood in our language and thought. A color can produce many different effects, even contradictory, but in design and architecture the most important thing is the effect that one color produces when it is associated with another.

Set of colored houses, residential buildings in Hamburg (Germany). Photo by Paul Eis.

According to color theory the classification of colors has been established by the result of their combinations:

1) Primary colors: They are pure colors, that is, they were not obtained from any mixture:

– Yellow: It is the color of optimism, lies and envy, enlightenment and understanding. Also, of curiosity, joviality, and the bright atmosphere. It is used in commercial spaces or restaurants to gain the attention of the consumer

– Red: The color of passions and is determined by two vital experiences: fire and blood. It is the color of life force and drive. It is used in commercial stores and fast-food outlets, where it gives a feeling of compulsiveness and desire to consume.

– Blue: It is the color of harmony and trust. The sky and the sea are blue. It is the spiritual color, of the coarse, serene and deep. It is used in commercial and business spaces, bank agencies, offices, and companies.

2) Secondary Colors: They are those that are obtained by mixing two primary colors:

  • Green: (blue + yellow): The color of fertility and hope. It is related to nature; it is the color of life and health. It evokes calm, tranquility, serenity, and well-being. It is used in spaces related to health and well-being, such as hospitals and relaxation centers.
  • Orange (red + yellow): Conveys the idea of intensity, creativity, euphoria and enthusiasm. It is used in creative environments such as offices and schools.
  • Violet (blue + red): It is the color where masculine and feminine mix. It is associated with wisdom and creativity. It can mean luxury, power, nobility, spirituality, wisdom, and mystery. It is an ideal color to use in designs that promote beauty, anti-aging products, and children’s products.

3) Tertiary Colors: they are the colors resulting from the mixture of a secondary color with a primary one. The main ones are:

  • oranged Red
  • yellow orange
  • greenish yellow
  • greenish blue
  • purplish blue
  • purplish red

4) Black and white: They are not usually considered colors and do not appear in a color wheel:

  • White: It is the presence of all colors. We associate it with the beginning and with the new. It is the color of truth, honesty and good. It represents cleanliness, purity, and hygiene.
  • Black: It is the absence of all colors. It is associated with the end, the universe, and non-light. It conveys depth and mystery. Black is a sign of mourning for death and reverses all positive meaning of any other.
Colors encourage learning. Prestwood Infant School Dining Hall De Rosee Sa in United Kingdom. Photo of the school itself.

The use of color has been changing according to the architectural trend which has been current or fashionable. Particular cases have occurred within interior design where harmonic compositions are used in almost all decorative stylistic trends at the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century and where the use of light and therefore color plays a fundamental role.

When designing a space, one usually thinks about its dimensions and finishes, but the climate of the place is usually forgotten, which is an important factor in choosing the right colors that will be influenced by the arrangement of sunlight (white light). For example, in a tropical climate you can opt for colored furniture so that they contrast with the white of the walls and thus not lose the harmony of the space.

The colors also serve to distinguish different bodies, volumes and spaces, that is to say if they are chosen correctly, they can be integrated into homes with minimal space to get more visual use. For example, in a house of few m2 it is beneficial to use a warm color, which helps to perceive a larger space than it is (thanks to the light it radiates), such as yellow.

The colors used in our environments say a lot about us. Photo Hunter Douglas Perú.

Correct use of color is important in architecture and design because:

  • Without having to touch an object, its texture is revealed by the way it is reflets light.
  • Perception of distance and perspective are affected by the quality of light.
  • Light directs our eye giving or de-emphasizing objects or spaces.
  • Light is the key factor in setting moods, time and environment.
  • Due to the relationships of the composition of objects and spaces, light can visually unite or separate environments.

In recent years color has been widely used in public places such as streets, squares and shopping malls either as part of the architecture or design of the place or as a representation of street art or artistic installations, drawing larger crowds to the streets. . These artistic and architectural practices that involve colors compensate for the daily routine of a normal person and help develop the culture and identity of a city.

Color is frequently used as a representative element for each decorative style. That is why it is important to study each color tone, identify the effect it causes on people and determine which one is recommended to use in each space according to natural lighting, the distribution of spaces, and the characteristics of those who inhabit it.


  • The psychology of color and form in architecture:

  • The role of color in architecture: visual effects and psychological stimuli:

  • Importance of Color in Architecture:

Sobre el autor

Omar Amorós

Carlos Omar Amorós Núñez

Periodista y Docente
Estudié Ciencias de la Comunicación en la Universidad Privada San Martín de Porres. Llevé cursos de crítica cinematográfica y teatral; y he trabajado en Revistas y en Agencias de Medios y Relaciones Públicas. Ejercí también como docente del área de comunicaciones para alumnos de primaria y secundaria, y como asesor de prensa para escritores. Además, escribí sobre arte y cultura en los diarios Expreso y Perfil, y en el Suplemento Variedades del diario El Peruano.


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