Understanding Value and Colour

Before we start let me just clarify a few ‘interior designer’ words so that we all know what we are talking about!

Hue is just another word for colour.  Tint is adding white to a colour (in varying degrees).  Tone is adding grey to a colour (again in varying degrees) and Shade is adding black to a colour.  The Value is how light or dark a colour is, as mentioned in the title of this post.

Designers think of Value before they think of actual colours, usually on a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is the darkest and 10 the lightest.  If you look at a sitting room, for example, think of balancing the items in it, from the sofas, cushions and curtains, down to the walls, ceiling and floors.  By giving each item a number on the value scale it is easier to get a balance of light and shade which will work in harmony in the overall scheme.

Cool Colours – these are Greens, Blues and Violets and are sometimes called receding colours as they draw the eye towards the background and Warm Colours – Reds, Oranges and Yellows are sometimes called advancing colours as they draw the eye to the foreground.


This is the first type of scheme you can create and, as the name suggests, is a clever way of using a single colour but within that colour many different tints, tones and shades.

It is amazing how many different (but similar) colours can be achieved using just one main colour and then tinting and toning.  This sitting room gives off a calm and ordered feel.
Whilst in this picture, even though it is more or less monochromatic you can clearly see the balance in value.  The sofas are dark, as is the fireplace, so the walls and floor and curtains balance the darkness to keep an airy feel.  And the blue is not cold as there is quite a lot of brown in the scheme – in terms of furniture – and blue and brown are good friends in the colour world – but more about that another time.

In this yellow scheme however, the values are the other way around.  The sofas are light so there is an opportunity to have bold floors and blinds, giving a huge pop of colour but without the scheme being overwhelming.  Yellow can be quite daunting, but this scheme looks fresh and inviting.
Next time, we will discuss two colour schemes using complementary (opposite) colours on the colour wheel.  Until then, I hope your colours are happy ones and please feel free to leave a comment if you have any tips to share on your decorating projects.

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