Are you a Colour Scientist? Take This Test

via Cote de Texas

Calling all colour scientists, I really need your help!

First in order to find out how much of a scientist you are, I’m going to talk about a behavioural profile test called the DISC Assessment, and my observations from the people who attend my classes and comments that I receive.

I’m talking about DISC because Terreeia is trained in analyzing this assessment. When she consults with her clients, she always has them complete a DISC assessment (below). You can take a free test here.

We also have everyone we hire complete one as well. This assessment is truly enlightening. Of course, no one lands in entirely one box. We can all function in all 4 quadrants. However, we will be strongest in one quadrant.

 

In every one of my Specify Colour with Confidence workshops, usually, all four personality types are represented with everyone who attends.

So in my courses, there are always the D – Drivers, like me who just want the coles notes for everything. “Give me the information, entertain me and let’s get it done and bottom line, don’t bore me.”

Then there’s the I profile- the people who sit in the room and just smile at me. They love everything, they are very social, and every time I look over at them, they’re smiling. They are people-people.

The S profile – Team player, inclusive, always wants us to compile a class list of everyone’s emails to distribute to everyone.

Then there’s the C profile – (This is also my wife Terreeia by the way) Organized, diplomatic, analytical, the scientist. It took Terreeia 6 months to buy a blender because she had to read about each one to figure out which one would be best.

This is also the colour scientist personality.  This profile asks the probing questions that make me think?

Questions like “Maria, when does a colour become a neutral?”

It’s the scientist/analytical personality who will call the office and say “I have some issues with Maria’s theories?” to which Terreeia once replied “Maria doesn’t have a theory, she has a system”.

Please note, I’m ONLY looking for SPECIFIC feedback on the functionality of my colour wheel based on your advanced understanding of undertones. You will have this if you are long time reader OR you have read my eBook White is Complicated, A Decorators Guide to Choosing the Right White, OR you have attended my colour workshop.

If you are new to my system, it will not make a lot of sense to you unless you have spent the last week reading my blog from top to bottom.

Today, I’m not looking to clarify random questions about white in the comments. If you need help choosing a white, you’ll want to download my white eBook or check out our eDesign packages.

What I teach is NOT colour theory, it is a SYSTEM for choosing colour and neutrals, not only for paint, but for fabrics, exteriors, hard finishes, ANYWHERE you need to choose a colour. If you understand my 9 Undertones system, it will transform your world.

If you’re still not sure, go read the almost 900 comments on this post, and at the same time, enter to win one of the 50 prizes that I’ll be announcing July 1.

Okay, so my colour wheel (below), is almost ready for the prototype stage. I need it to be almost perfect at this stage.

Maria Killam, Founder of the Understanding Undertones System

We have whittled statements about each undertone including the whites, down to less than 35 words or 150 characters, which is how much room I have to describe each undertone on the finished wheel.  It’s taken me an entire week to do this along with additional edits and input from my team.

So, before I send it back to my artist, I need you, the colour scientist, to weigh in on each statement. Now is the time to poke holes in what I’ve said so that I can make it even clearer, if that’s possible. NOT after I’ve printed 3000 copies of this wheel.

Okay and here’s the other thing, I don’t want you to get stuck on the images I’ve posted to go along with each statement.

Each statement is designed to stand alone, so pretend there is no image when you read them. The images are only here to add clarity.

 

PINK BEIGE

via Residence Magazine

Often described as mocha, latte or tan, this is the most overused and limiting neutral undertone. Do not use as a default neutral.

ORANGE BEIGE

Image via Pinterest (with Pink beige slabs in this image)

While Orange Beige is not as often used as other beige neutrals, it can still be the necessary and correct choice, when its already established in a colour scheme

YELLOW BEIGE

Interior by Maria Killam

Yellow Beige will show an obvious yellow undertone, making it relatively easy to diagnose.

GOLD BEIGE

Via Pinterest (Pink beige is in the artwork)

When Gold Beige and Pink Beige have the same value, they can look similar and can sometimes be used together in a colour scheme.

GREEN BEIGE

Image via Behr (this house is NOT an example of earth tones appearing fresher)

One of the most versatile neutrals, Green Beige can be useful in helping earth tones appear fresher.

GREEN GREY

image source (The floor in this bathroom is concrete)

Green Gray is the most neutral of the grays and is the colour of natural stone. It is not as useful in rooms decorated entirely in earth tones.

BLUE GREY

Interior design by Kathy Kunz Interiors (NOT an example of an earth toned room)

Blue Grey will show an obvious blue undertone. It is not as useful in rooms decorated entirely in earth tones because they are usually devoid of blue.

VIOLET GREY

Image source

Violet Gray is most used when these undertones are already established in a colour scheme. It can be useful when paired with Pink Beige or Taupe in moving towards a fresher look.

TAUPE

Luxe Interiors & Design

Taupe is a combination of beige and gray with a pink to violet undertone. It reads a few degrees earthier, warmer and dirtier than gray.

BLUE WHITE

Image via House & Home

Blue White is useful in creating necessary contrast when paired with the whitest of decor and hard finishes.

TRUE WHITE

via pinterest (see the white euroshams?)

True White is the control white against which to compare all other whites.

OFF-WHITE

Interior Design by Maria Killam

Off White is a versatile white, and can be combined with light earthy colours as well as clean colours, greys and blacks.

CREAM

BHG (Earthy, pink beige walls)

Cream works best with earthy colours, and can also, given sufficient contrast, work with greys and soft blacks.

GREIGE

via Style at Home

Greige is a useful wall colour for interiors decorated in greys or clean colours. To fully appreciate this colour, you need natural light. It is rarely a useful trim colour.

AGAIN,  I don’t want you to get stuck on the images I’ve posted to go along with each statement.

If it’s easier, here they all are again without the images:

PINK BEIGE

Often described as mocha, latte or tan, this is the most overused and limiting neutral undertone. Do not use as a default neutral.

ORANGE BEIGE

While Orange Beige is not as often used as other beige neutrals, it can still be the necessary and correct choice, when its already established in a colour scheme

YELLOW BEIGE

Yellow Beige will show an obvious yellow undertone, making it relatively easy to diagnose.

GOLD BEIGE

When Gold Beige and Pink Beige have the same value, they can look similar and can sometimes be used together in a colour scheme.

GREEN BEIGE

One of the most versatile neutrals, Green Beige can be useful in helping earth tones appear fresher.

GREEN GREY

Green Gray is the most neutral of the grays and is the colour of natural stone. It is not as useful in rooms decorated entirely in earth tones.

BLUE GREY

Blue Grey will show an obvious blue undertone. It is not as useful in rooms decorated entirely in earth tones because they are usually devoid of blue.

VIOLET GREY

Violet Gray is most used when these undertones are already established in a colour scheme. It can be useful when paired with Pink Beige or Taupe in moving towards a fresher look.

TAUPE

Taupe is a combination of beige and gray with a pink to violet undertone. It reads a few degrees earthier, warmer and dirtier than gray.

BLUE WHITE

Blue White is useful in creating necessary contrast when paired with the whitest of decor and hard finishes.

TRUE WHITE

True White is the control white against which to compare all other whites.

OFF-WHITE

Off White is a versatile white, and can be combined with light earthy colours as well as clean colours, greys and blacks.

CREAM

Cream works best with earthy colours, and can also, given sufficient contrast, work with greys and soft blacks.

GREIGE

Greige is a useful wall colour for interiors decorated in greys or clean colours. To fully appreciate this colour, you need natural light. It is rarely a useful trim colour.

One more thing, I think we should all start spelling grey with an e instead of with an a. Grey wins hands down over gray in hash tags so it’s a no brainer. #grey not #gray it means most of the world spells it with an e that’s all.

If you are a colour scientist, you’ll have read this whole post and not just scanned the pictures and raced to the bottom to post a comment! So here’s the answer to “When does a colour become a neutral”. The closest answer to this question that is USEFUL, is this: “When it’s not obvious anymore that it’s RED, ORANGE, YELLOW, GREEN, BLUE, or PURPLE. In other words, undertones in COLOURS are much more obvious than undertones in NEUTRALS, which is why neutrals are the biggest focus in my colour workshops.

For example, if you see a green and blue duvet cover. You could probably say “That’s kelly green and turquoise”. If the same duvet was green, blue and beige, you might have a harder time trying to determine ‘which beige’ was in that duvet. Is it pink beige? Green beige? Yellow beige? Maybe it’s grey? Which one? Blue, green or violet?

But if you understand the 9 undertones in my system, you could systematically figure it out and end up with the correct beige or grey on your walls if that’s what you wanted to paint them.

Thanks in advance for your feedback, I’m looking forward to reading your comments! Thanks always for being there and for your great support!

Related posts:

When Colour Theory is Literally Dangerous

There are 9 Neutral Undertones in This World (See them Here)

How NOT to Use the Understanding Undertones Colour Wheel

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  1. Hi Maria,

    The statements you assign to each undertone need to align with your objective for the Colour Wheel. Do you envision the Colour Wheel being used to identify a pink beige? Or to explain how a pink beige might be used? Or both?

    For me, the most useful statements are those which guide me in discerning undertones. For example, “Taupe is a combination of beige and gray [grey] with a pink to violet undertone. It reads a few degrees earthier, warmer and dirtier than gray.” This description gives me some useful clues in evaluating whether a neutral is in the taupe family, or not.

    The statements I find less helpful are those which diverge from the purpose of defining or describing undertones. For example, ”Orange Beige is not as often used as other beige neutrals.” While this may be perfectly true, the statement doesn’t help me assess whether the sofa in my living room has orange undertones. You have a lot of insight and advice regarding colour; don’t feel you have to summarize all of it into these few statements on your Colour Wheel 🙂

    Toward the end of your post, you said, “. . . if you understand the 9 undertones in my system, you could systematically figure it out and end up with the correct beige or grey on your walls.” For me, the sorting/elimination process can be frustrating. I often second guess myself and even question what I am seeing. This is why I find these verbal descriptions, which accompany your Colour Wheel, so useful. Thank you for including the statements with your Colour Wheel.

    • Overall seems great. I agree with Ann’s comments. I was pretty much following along but got hung up on the Greige blurb. It doesn’t really explain what greige is. I was also wondering how is greige different from taupe (which you probably explain elsewhere).

      What I do in a situation like this is choose my favorite or most comprehensive blurb and use it to create a template so I can measure the other blurbs against it.

      I’m a C/D which is consistent with how I see myself. 🙂 Another personality profile tool that I have gotten really into and highly recommend is Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies. It’s satisfying to know what one’s own tendency is and that of one’s loved ones and close colleagues. Gretchen has a book on the tendencies coming out in the fall, and an entertaining and informative weekly podcast. http://gretchenrubin.com/happiness_project/2015/01/ta-da-the-launch-of-my-quiz-on-the-four-tendencies-learn-about-yourself/

    • Picking up on Ann’s comment- I think each colour definition is clearest and most relevant when it opens with a description of what the colour is then is followed by a second sentence of how it is/is not used best. You’ve used this formula on Blue Grey:

      “Blue Grey will show an obvious blue undertone. It is not as useful in rooms decorated entirely in earth tones because they are usually devoid of blue.” To be even clearer, the first sentence could read, “Blue Grey is a (cool?) grey with an obvious blue undertone”.

      I think the other colours here could benefit with this formula. For example, what exactly IS Greige? What makes greige, greige?! Is it an equal mix of grey and beige? Does it usually read as a warm colour? True white might be a control white but what exactly is it? Is it a pure, stark white? This is probably second nature to you (and feel a bit obvious) but I think if you could come up with a clear, concise single sentence to describe the colour then go on to a second (and maybe third!) sentence that addresses its use, you’d not only have consistency across your definitions but they would all be very clear.

  2. Wow! So many diverse comments. IMHO everyone should read “How NOT to Use the Understanding Undertones Colour Wheel”. It is clearly stated how it is to be used! I do agree with many of the comments however that the descriptors of each color should be consistent. Some should be more clarified, ie “off white” and even “taupe”.

    Good luck with this. You have put in so much time and effort to simplify the way we see color. I know that your wheel will be a great success!

  3. Thanks for the interesting test! I’m a C/SD. Are you trying to squeeze the wording to fit in the arc-like areas? I’m only asking because, just as your artist is limiting the number of characters to use, a trimmed circle is what I envision as your final product. Since this tool is guide, like a map, is it possible to put a “legend” on the backside where each colour that comes with a description can be a bit larger, thereby not taking away from the aesthetic of the front of the wheel by crowding it with too much wording?

  4. I think it would be really useful to a novice user like me to list a color that is an example with
    the color your describing. For example….. the color BM oc– is an example of off white or
    SW—- is a pink beige. I’d have a better idea of what your describing……a picture is worth a
    1000 words…..to me anyway.

  5. ps. I like comments such as “orange beige is not as often used as other beige neutrals”cause
    it tells me to steer clear of investing money in a color I may mot use as much. Another
    example is “pink beige overused and limiting neutral”…well that’s a very helpful tip if say
    your going to buy carpeting and the sales peron steers you toward pink beige and after its
    installed and you spent all that money on it and then you find out how frustrating it is
    to work with!!!!

  6. Just as a FYI in case you didn’t know this and in case it needs fixing….. this post shows it has 103 comments. I can only see four. When I click on “older comments” the screen blinks but nothing happens. I can still see the same four comments.

  7. I haven’t read any comments yet. I don’t know if I will offer anything helpful or that isn’t redundant.

    1) Under the headings for GREEN GREY, VIOLET GREY, and TAUPE, you are still spelling “Gray” with an “a” in the text underneath.

    2) Under the heading TAUPE, I think it should say, “It reads a few degrees earthier, warmer, and dirtier than any of the greys” instead of “than grey”.

    3) Under the heading TRUE WHITE, when is it best to use true white? Consistency requires it to be spelled out.

    4) Under the heading OFF-WHITE, is off-white a universal color? Does it go with everything?

    5) Under the heading CREAM, can’t it also work with blues? Especially the warmer turquoise and teal?

    6) Under the heading GREIGE, why do you especially need natural light to fully appreciate this color? You have also said this about whites in the blog, but only mentioned it here under greige. Seems inconsistent.

    If I’m only repeating what others have said, then I apologize in advance. 😉

  8. Hi Maria,

    I found that your descriptions really pinpointed a specific message about each undertone and offered additional, and needed, clarity. After all was said and done, however, I found myself still wanting further clarification.

    What would help me would be two things: (1) a two-inch square of sample paint color demonstrating the undertone in the paint, as well as (2) a grouping of the undertones into “families.”

    For example, my first thought was to group the various undertones by seasons of the year: “Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter”.

    Then I thought you could create your own headings, such as “The Good Guys, The Problem Children, The Handmaidens, and The Gremlins”.

    In essence, I am thinking that there are similarities between/among the undertones, making them logical “family” members, in either how they are found or how they behave. I am not certain this is even true, only you would know. So, if there is a theme among some of the undertones, it might be interesting and helpful to portray it.

    Thanks for the invitation to comment. Good luck to you. You are creating a masterpiece!

  9. Here are some of my edits for sentences that I tripped up on :

    Often described as mocha, latte or tan, this overused neutral undertone is very design limiting. Do not use as a default neutral.

    While Orange Beige is not used as often as other beige neutrals, it can still be the necessary and correct choice, when it is already established as part of a colour scheme.

    One of the most versatile neutrals, Green Beige can be used to help earth tones appear fresher.

    Green Gray is the most neutral of the all the grays and it is the colour of natural stone. However, it is not as useful in rooms decorated entirely in earth tones.

    Blue Grey will show an obvious blue undertone. It is not as useful in rooms decorated entirely in earth tones because these tones are usually devoid of blue.

  10. Stating that orange beige is not as often used as other beiges doesn’t tell us much about how to identify it or where it best used.
    Yellow beige may be easy to diagnose but what other colours would it be good with?
    Also I think that phrasing “it is not as useful…” is not helpful. Perhaps say “not recommended for use with earth tones.” Then indicate where to use that colour.

    • I agree with the orange beige comment. Although the fact that it is not used as often as other beiges could help eliminate it if in doubt it didn’t provide much information specific to that neutral.
      I don’t envy you this job. Must be frustrating to try to cram so much knowledge into a few words.

  11. Hello Maria, Great work! I am looking forward to getting that wheel.

    I note that your wheel shows a true white to be used to compare and classify all other whites, including blue-whites, off-whites and creams. You call it the ”control white”. I am wondering why you haven’t included in your system a true black (with its possible undertones) and a true gray (overarching the gray undertones)?

    As for the five undertones of beige, greige and taupe, I suppose there cannot be a true colour representing each of them as they are the result of a mix of different colours. Am I right to assume however that the representation of these complex undertones on your wheel is generic enough to allow their use for control and comparison purposes?

    Thanks for this very useful tool.

    • I don’t focus on the undertones of dark colours because people are rarely as confused as they are with just beige and grey. . . Maria

  12. Oh Dear, I really should take your class. For me, looking at the color wheel, any color wheel, is a little like looking into a candy box. I’ll take one of those and one of those. And not one of those; didn’t like it last time. My choices are all over the wheel. Confident your class would help me pull it all together.

    Seriously though, the wheel does help me visualize how colors relate Liked the suggestion that the descriptions are separate rather than on the chart. A flip up portion? Instead of on the back where I’d have to keep turning the wheel over.

    Masterful job of transforming your color system into a visual tool

  13. DISC = almost even blend of traits. How strange. Does that make me a chameleon? Hmmm…can see possibilities there.

  14. Hi Maria,
    Ok, I read your whole post. I’ve come to the conclusion that all of your descriptions of each undertone makes sense. But since I’m not a designer selecting finishes/colors I will never remember all of this. I’m not using your system everyday like a designer would.
    When I read each description it kind of overwhelms me. Because there is so much to learn or remember.
    If I was doing it all the time it would become easier, like anything else. And taking your courses would help too.
    The only thing I’ve always thought would be helpful to me (a homeowner) would be having the names of paint colors that have the specific undertone you are referring to. But maybe that is something that’s provided at one of your seminars or in one of your e-books. I know it was in the White Is Complicated book.
    I also realize that could be difficult because there will many colors that have the same undertone.
    Since it’s so involved, I’m just glad I have your number. Because I can just hire you if I ever need color advice.

  15. This is very exciting for you Maria! I’m certainly not an expert but I have read all of your books. One thing I’m wondering is where more “complex” neutrals, such as BM Feather Down would fit into this wheel?

  16. You asked that we give it to you straight . . .i know you can take it, so here goes, the descriptions are mostly fluff. The Orange Beige sentence could have been written with many other words substituted for Orange Beige. If you strongly believe something should be written, then refer each colour to the page # & e-book that provides useable info. We all love you & your blog & courses since you don’t provide any BS, you write/say your opinion plainly, directly and we get it! Don’t give us fluff. Re-think what you’re trying to achieve/relay with the wording. Oh, and don’t use ‘diagnose’ change it to ‘discern.’

  17. A Color Scientist here!–
    I agree with the greige comments. You need to define what greige IS; oftentimes, contrasting two things makes the difference clearer–in colors and in writing! Tell us please how greige is different than taupe in terms of what colors comprise them.
    Also, re: your paragraph about “kelly green and turquoise”.–It’s not clear the point you are trying to make. WHY would it be more difficult to determine what kind of beige is in the duvet with beige.
    Any other questions, just let me know! God bless you!
    PS–I would LOVE to attend your workshops!!! I LOVE COLOR!!! 🙂

  18. Wow, you asked for it and you got it:) I have followed you for years and have all you’re books. I can’t wait to see the final result . I think being consistent with each discripton is the common issue for most of us.

  19. Congratulations on your upcoming wheel. I’m not necessarily a color scientist; but, hope my comments are helpful.

    The descriptions are sometimes descriptive of the color and use or one of the other. I suggest you be as consistent as possible given your length limitations. The clearest descriptions describe the color and it’s best use.

    For example:
    Can gold beige be described without its relationship to pink beige? The description doesn’t stand on its own.

    Green beige- does it have an obvious green undertone like yellow beige?

  20. Hi Maria-I am totally a C and knew right away what feedback to give.
    First, I think you should say why pink-beige is limiting instead of saying not to use it. I’ve been following you a long time and still don’t know exactly why you don’t recommend it except that it doesn’t work with what’s on trend.
    In the Blue Gray description you say why it’s not useful in rooms decorated in earth tones, but you don’t explain why for green grey.
    Greige is not defined-what colors and undertones are in it? How are these colors different from taupe?
    OK. I hope that’s helpful! Good luck!
    Lisa

  21. Maria – I think this is a good first attempt at descriptions and requesting feedback. I, too, am struggling to figure out if your 150 character descriptions are written with the same context — is it to describe the colour, or what it works with?
    For this one: Yellow Beige will show an obvious yellow undertone, making it relatively easy to diagnose. — I agree, except I would use “identify” instead of diagnose.
    And then right below, for Gold Beige, you didn’t really give a description, so I am not sure I could identify it (even though I have purchased your ebooks and read your blog forever). All I know is that it is often confused with (and used with) Pink Beige.
    So, for the descriptions, are you describing the colour, or a general rule, or the context of when it can be used? You decide!! 🙂

  22. You’ll know from my approach that I’m that analytical type 🙂 Some thoughts:

    Maria, What is your goal for these statements? How do you want them to function? If the answer is, “if you remember nothing else” then you’re in good shape. If it’s to assist in IDing color, like a field guide, you’re not there yet. You talk about different kinds of qualities of each color. it’s like talking about the feet of one bird and the beak of another… ok slight exaggeration but you get what I mean…
    You would need to describe what orange beige looks like.
    Ditto gold beige. It’s a bit greener than a yellow beige.
    Green gray is the color of most natural stone… stone that looks like “stone” rather than having some other distinct color.
    Many of your points are “what not to do”.
    Blue white is the coolest white. Important point. In the right context it works and in the wrong context it is stark and cold.
    Love your photo for true white.
    Talk about off white as an option to get a fresher look?
    What is the difference between greige and taupe? I would know when looking at the wheel. Is it important for a person to know the difference without looking at the wheel? (I think of both as gray/beige crosses but with different undertones…)

  23. I just discovered your website. Wonderful!
    My feedback on the wheel:
    1) My eye craves a version of the wheel without the distraction of
    the vibrant colors in the center (circle 1 and 2.) I understand their importance-
    but since I want to learn about the subtleties of undertones,
    I need to see the the undertones in relation to themselves, perhaps
    they could have their own, mini-wheel?
    2) To my eye, and on my computer, the red in the center of the wheel reads
    as a dirty, dark coral, not at all like a primary red.
    Warm regards, Alicia