Color Psychology: Know When to Use Neutrals

 
"The inner equilibrium of Cezanne's paintings, which are never insistent or obtrusive, produces this calm almost velvety air." —Rainer Maria Rilke, referring to the color gray
 
Grey is the truly perfect neutral—the middle ground between black and white. This is why color matching is best done against a gray background. It is a difficult color to find in nature, as things that often appear gray from a distance are usually complex mixtures of other hues.
 

Because of its perceived neutrality, gray has connotations of responsibility, fairness, loyalty, accountability and wisdom. This translates well in the corporate world where those are desirable attributes.

Silver is the more exciting, metallic version of gray. In addition to evoking a feeling of fluidity and motion, it suggests stylishness and class.
 
Taupe and beige share many of the attributes of gray, but are warmer and sometimes lighter. They are thought of as authentic, organic, modest and unobtrusive. Hues of taupe and beige have a timelessness and basic lack of "trendiness" that fosters a confidence in the longevity of the shades.
 
Off-whites are another important sector of the neutrals. They have a subtle, stylishly elegant and classic connotation attached to them, and have come to suggest environmental responsibility. They have often symbolize sustainable resources such as natural fibers and recycled paper products.
 
The hard-working neutrals are an often used tool for those who work with color. Their flexibility and staying power make them an important part of your color mix.

  • Neutral Grey: Classic, sober, corporate, practical, timeless, quality, quiet, neutrality, logical, deliberate, reserved, fundamental, basic, modest, efficient, dutiful, methodical.
  • Charcoal Grey: Steadfast, responsible, staunch, resolute, restrained, conservative, professional, classic, sophisticated, solid, enduring, mature; Depending on context, they can also read dull, conformist or detached.
  • Taupe: Classic, neutral, practical, timeless, quality, basic, authentic, organic, versatile, inconspicuous, understated, discreet, compromising, modest; be careful to pair it with colors that keep it from appearing bland.
  • Ivory/Cream: Classic, neutral, soft, warm, comforting, good taste, smooth, subtle, natural.
  • Silver: Sleek, classy, stylish, modern, cool.

 

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