The Importance of the Right Color Palette

This past week color palettes have been on my mind.  The decorator Miles Redd was on The Washington Post for its online decorating hour.  Color featured a lot and he had this important thing to say:

Q.USING COLOR:Welcome Miles! I’m so excited about your new book! I’ve noticed that many of your rooms use really bold colors, often in unusual combinations. That can be tough to pull off though, and I’m wondering if you have some advice about choosing color combinations that are daring, but not clashing. Thanks!
A.MILES REDD : People always say that, but really, my color choices are not so bold- all you have to do is look in nature. The most interesting combinations already exists – acid green lichen on grey/brown bark, a monarch butterfly wing- and all the flora and fauna of the ocean….It is all there!

This got me thinking about color palettes – in fact, color palettes in nature.  Yesterday I visited Shanendoah National Park’s Skyline Drive.  The weather was sunny, the light fantastic, the fall foliage phenomenal.  It as an intoxicating combination of harmony and vibrancy.

We saw color on a broad canvas, taking in a whole mountainside:

fall leaves
Color was also a close experience, full of wonderful scents and glorious combinations – reds, yellows, greens, browns – all against the backdrop of a brilliant blue sky.
fall leaves with sky
yellow fall leaves against blue sky
We can take color cues from nature – not only this glorious fall foliage but also flowers, rocks, shells, oceans and their changing landscape over the season – the combinations are staggeringly endless.  At the same time, there’s what I’d call a manmade palette.  We associate red and green with Christmas and the holidays for example.  Political parties do this all the time – and companies brand and trademark their color – we all recognize Tiffany blue and people make whole palettes around it!
I recently made a birthday card that was a gift at the same time for my divine grandmother-in-law.  It’s an invitation to a Mexican restaurant we all love.  If I’d used a purple and green it wouldn’t have had the right visual vocabulary – they’re not the colors people expect when they think of Mexican images.
birthday dinner invitation
Choosing the right color palette is integral to the success of a graphic design.  Let me help you make the best choice as you create your own personal color palette.