You Can Fool Mother Nature!

“Mother nature plays tricks with our eyes every day! but I have a few tricks of my own!”

We all have experienced crazy color phenomenon with vision and things certainly are not always as they appear to be. You might look at a color swatch in the paint store and be convinced it’s yellow because it looks like yellow and it’s named yellow so therefore it must be yellow. But you take that can of yellow can of paint home and as you start painting you can’t help but think that you got the wrong color! Your wall is green! Well, yes and no. It’s still the same yellow you selected, it’s just that there are many other factors that influenced the way the color appears in its final home. A trained color consultant almost never picks color straight from a deck because it looks like the right color. They pick a color that will change and morph into the correct color when all other conditions are taken into consideration. So, here’s a few tricks of the trade that professionals use to get color right every time.

Never (and I mean never) sample a color against white! Just as color next to another color alters its appearance, white will change it even more! The higher the contrast the more distorted the appearance. Solution? Always, check color against gray. Gray is considered neutral and will exhibit their true personalities. If you’re a color consultant have a gray surface to work on. (I use a large gray sheet of paper on mine)

See the illustration below. I’ve taken the same color wheel and put them against three different backgrounds. Look what happens! The black background makes the colors appear to be much brighter. The white background makes the colors appear to be much darker. And  the gray background shows the colors exactly as they will appear on the wall. Do you see the difference? background-comparisons

Always Match Your Undertones! Why ? Because it creates a harmonious palette. If I paint my walls a yellow-green and put in a beige carpet that has a red undertone next to it, the carpet will look like a big Band-Aid. It just looks bad, but even worse it “feels” bad. If you understand that there are only four undertones in architectural color, you will be far ahead of the game. the four undertones are red, green, yellow and blue. All materials, including natural materials fall into these categories. 

These 4 samples are all versions of beige but when we look at them next to each other you can see their true undertone

Undertone - Green
Undertone – Green


Undertone - Red
Undertone – Red


Undertone - Yellow
Undertone – Yellow



Here’s another trick. Take an 8.5″ x 11″ sheet of gray paper and cut out various size holes in the middle. (See the template at the end of the page and feel free to download!) Use it to view colors on the wall or in a sample book. This isolates the color so it is not influenced by surrounding colors. You can also use the smaller sample to isolate colors in textiles, wallpaper prints or other patterns to get a true sense of the color.color isolation trick

Color Isolation Template – Please feel free to download

So those were just a few tricks. I have many more up my sleeve! If you have any questions or comments, let me know in comments. If you have any specific requests or need help with a project you’re working on, let me know via comments or email.

Teresa Tullio is a color expert and instructor to designers, color consultants, architects and painters. Looking for help? Contact us here CONTACT

ColorIQ Instructor-01



Please follow and like us:

2 thoughts on “You Can Fool Mother Nature!

Leave a Reply