The California Paints Blog

Neutral Paint Colors: Where Does Yellow Fit In?

Posted on Wed, Jul 25, 2012 @ 12:53 PM


Color Theory Trend Edition

An Introduction to Neutrals

With my time winding down here at California Paints, I figured it was time to discuss the elusive neutral color palette. A traditional neutral is generically defined by being without color.  These include gray, beige, tan, white, ivory, and black.  However the neutral concept is ever expanding and changing.  By definition, they are supposed to be void of color, but neutrals most certainly have color and the lighter ones have undertones of a wide variety of colors.  A white might have a green undertone and gray may have a purple one. 

What started as an undertone of color, neutrals have grown to include borderline shades and even true hues! Take yellow for instance.  This season yellow has been dubbed by some color experts as the new neutral! But what does this even mean? How can yellow be a neutral? I sat down with VP of Marketing, Maryellen Mantyla, to get her take on this new trend and the expansion of neutrals!

neutrals newPopular Neutrals 1. DE6199 Pale Beach - Perfect Palette 2. Phelps Putty - Historic Colors of America 3. Casablanca - 20th Century Colors of America 4. Quincy Granite - Historic Colors of America 5. DEW318 Baking Stone - Perfect Palette Whites

TIP: To discover the undertones in any lighter neutral, take a large color chip of a 100% saturated blue, red, kelly green, and violet and place under the neutral chip.  This will reveal any hidden undertones in the neutral, one at a time, and give you a better idea of how it may look in your home project.

An Informal Discussion on Yellow

Victoria: You mentioned in your interview with interior designer, Kerrie Kelly, that the term neutral is expanding, care to elaborate?

Maryellen: The lines between neutrals and hues are thinning across the board, not just with yellow.  10 years ago the term neutral was confined to tans, beige, cream, and white.  Now it has grown to include grays and blacks and is no longer limited to light colors.  Any color that isn't a loud pop can be considered a neutral depending on the situation.

V: What is your opinion on all these major color and design experts dubbing yellow as a neutral?

ME: They present a fresh prospective.  When color professionals announce trends such as yellow being a new neutral, it forces us to investigate and in turn promote our findings. Not every yellow can be a neutral but it all depends on how it's used and what it's paired with.

V: Do you think scientifically speaking it's correct? Or just a fad?

ME: After working in the color industry for 15 years, my training has been hands-on.  My opinions are based on experience rather than scientific training.  With that said, I do believe we now operate in a space where there is no right or wrong with color.  The only rule is to make the customers happy.  We can give advice if needed on what colors work well together  but the ultimate goal is to provide our customers amazing color, especially if it's with schemes they would have never expected to fall in love with.

V: What is your prediction for the life of this trend?

ME:  Yellow is tough.  Either you like it or you don't. It's hard to be impartial towards it.  My initial test for any color(s) is would I wear it or not. A yellow trend would require more universal acceptance of yellow.  From my experience, it is not always an easy sell to convince a customer to move towards yellow. It won't be as long lived as gray, that's for certain.  People can understand gray.

V: They've been including pretty bold hues in this category.  What are your thoughts on that?

ME: Bolds are great.  You can't go wrong with bright punches of color if they are paired with the right thing.  Bold colors certainly serve a purpose in design. We want people to go bold and know designers do too!

V: Of these bold yellows, are there any that you find more neutral than others? Are there other colors when paired with yellow that would dictate that?

ME: It really does come down to what a color is paired with in any question of neutrality. I consider yellows with a brown undertone the most neutral.  Aside from that, it greatly depends on the scheme the yellow is in.

Here's an activity Maryellen suggested to help us understand the flexibility of neutrals. Look at the palettes below from the 2012/2013 Trend Pheonix.  Which color in each palette is the neutral?

neutral testHere are a few more I made to continue to challenge our color knowledge...

yellow testDid you pick the correct neutral? I bet you did because there isn't really any right answers here! Most schemes have multiple colors that can act as a neutral! At the end of the day it got us thinking about what our own definition of neutral is and that is the real take-away here. It may even spark us to create a new and educational color tool in the future.

Tell us what you think the neutrals are! How do you use neutrals in home design? Leave us a comment below.

Hope you enjoyed this inside look at how California Paints perceives neutrals! Want more yellow inspiration? Check out some of my favorite yellows here or visit our Pinterest board!

'Til next time!


Topics: color trends, color theory, neutral colors

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