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All Greens Go Together is a Provocative Color Theory

Do all greens go together? Color TheoryAll greens go together

Yes, the idea that all greens go together is a color theory.

Any endeavor that explores and experiments with what colors go together is a theory. Color theory is as much about color relationships and harmony as it is about mixing pigments.

However, do not confuse color theory with color science. Color science, or colorimetry, is the science and technology used to quantify and describe human color perception.

Pantone Color of the year 2017 Greenery

Greenery – Pantone Color of the Year 2017

PANTONE’s 15-0343 Greenery was named the Color of the Year in 2017. Let’s revisit the energy of this lively color and do a deep dive into the theory that says all greens go together, shall we?

David Hicks
Source: ashleyhicks.com

David Nightingale Hicks (1929-1998)

David Hicks was an English interior decorator and designer, noted for using bold colours, mixing antique and modern furnishings, and contemporary art. (thanks, Wikipedia)

In the book, David Hicks on Decoration (1966), he said, “There are a set of loose rules, which when applied to colour cannot fail.… All reds go together, all pinks go together, just as all blues, greens, yellows, browns and all grays do.”

David-Hicks-on-Decoration-Book-1966

It’s About Hue Family

Now, where have you heard that before? (wink) If you can get your head around the fact that all colors – even whites and grays – belong to a hue family then knowing what colors go together is easy.

And that’s what we do here at The Land of Color – we make color easy to understand and use.

It gets even easier if you understand value (meaning lightness not light reflectance value) and chroma. Chroma answers “how gray or colorful is this color?”

Color notations that include Hue, Value and Chroma democratizes color for everyone. Because they eliminate the confusing struggle to see and understand the theory that colors have “undertones” .

The process of using a framework of color notations to map out color harmony is straightforward; it’s about color relationships.

In the case of the theory that all greens go together, the color relationship mojo is about combining colors in the green neighborhood of the color wheel.

Do all greens go together? Color Theory

Any color with any degree or overtone of greenness is fair game. Overtone like the yellow color you see in the image above.

So yeah, it belongs to the yellow hue family however, it’s a muted yellow. When yellow is grayed-down (or could say desaturated), it can shift greenish – that’s just the intrinsic nature of the hue.

Desaturated yellow can look olive kind of like how desaturated orange looks brown. Color know-how like that is just part of the deal when using a color order system.

Also, the yellow in our example here lands on the color wheel slightly past the middle of the yellow hue family leaning over towards green-yellow. Which explains its fundamental yellowness as well as its perceptible overtone of greenness.

Could you call the approach Mr. Hicks suggests monochromatic?

Maybe. Ish.

Technically monochromatic means staying within the boundaries of one hue family, Green-Yellow, Green, or Blue-Green exclusively.

The theory that all greens go together is more inclusive. It doesn’t kick any of the greens to the curb, they’re all invited. It’s like a color block party.

Not classifying this approach as monochromatic means I can reach over into yellow hue family territory and include colors with green overtones.

Losing the label means more wiggle room for creative interpretation.

Realizing many of you are visual creatures, the following images illustrate what I mean when I talk about hue family and hue family neighborhoods.

Here’s the green neighborhood including examples of tints, tones, and shades. These are paint colors from Dunn-Edwards and the Munsell hue/value/chroma color notations came directly from the fandeck.

Green Hue Family Neighborhood

How many times have you heard the mantra that color is all about context?

In order to give the green hue family neighborhood some context, here it is highlighted on your typical 10 spoke color wheel.

That’s what color wheels and color systems do – they provide elegantly organized context for color.

In this case (see below), I’m using my neutral color wheel. 

I flipped the hue parents to the inside of the wheel. Pushing their near neutral child colors to the perimeter makes it easier to see how low chroma, near neutral colors align and relate.

Because it’s the near neutrals and chromatic grays that are more commonly chosen colors for interiors and exteriors – not vividly chromatic hue parents.

Without an organized framework of color order (like my neutral color wheel) color chips, or even abstract ideas of color, are out there flappin’ in the wind all on their own not meaning anything to anybody. 

A color’s peeps and family give it life!

Wonderful Day in the Green Hue Family Neighborhood

Specifically, without the technically correct framework of a color system and/or wheel, it’s impossible to strategically compare, analyze, and manage color.

Said framework being a color system that organizes color into simple and concise categories of hue, value, and chroma. Hue, value, and chroma are also known as the psychophysical dimensions of color.

Fun color fact. Hue, value, and chroma are called psychological dimensions of color if we’re just talking about eyeballin’ color, visually assessing color.

Hue, value, and chroma become psychophysical dimensions when color is measured with a device.

You get to learn cool nuggets of amazingly useful information like that when you take my Camp Chroma online course.

Summary

  • Proclaiming all colors of green go together can be kind of provocative. It may or may not fit your color sensibilities.
  • David Hicks outlined the theory that all greens go together in his book, David Hicks on Decoration (1966).
  • You need an intelligent, simple, framework in order to execute a theory like all greens go together. That framework must be a color system based on how humans perceive color; the psychological dimensions which are hue, value, and chroma.
  • Calling this approach monochromatic might be a stretch, but if it works for you, go for it.

Your Turn

Do you agree with what Mr. Hicks said in his book?

Is it a wonderful day to be neighborly? What do you think about using several, closely related hue families in one color scheme? What about calling this color scheme theory monochromatic?

5 thoughts on “All Greens Go Together is a Provocative Color Theory”

  1. Interesting thought regarding using all hues of green together. I suppose it is true if you just look outside in nature. I do not typically go for a monochromatic scheme. I have , however, often said that any color can be used with green. Some greens can be a designer neutral. What say you about that?

    1. Hey Terri, thanks for stopping by to comment.

      I find it annoying when people call every color under the sun “neutral”. It’s a lazy way to explain why a color palette works.

      Not only that but by incorrectly calling colors neutral that aren’t really neutral, it distorts – and confuses – the proper color hierarchy of hue, muted, chromatic grays and truly neutral achromatic grays (see image). Because having a sense of proper color hierarchy makes it easy to understand how all the components of color work together. It’s where cogent and cohesive color stories come from.

      Know how experts say parents should avoid cutesy names and instead teach their children accurate names for body parts because it’s more empowering? I feel the same way about overusing the word “neutral” to explain why a color scheme works. I don’t see why it’s so difficult to call it what it really is.

      Hue Family, Muted and Chromatic Grays Color Wheel

  2. Well, I published my comment before also adding how useful your course has been in helping me pinpoint the hue family of all colors. It has taken my color expertise up a notch for sure!

    1. For real, it really is extraordinary color expertise. The scale and importance of which you don’t truly grasp until you have it and know it.

      So glad you’ve found what you learned in Camp Chroma useful. The fact you feel your color expertise has been taken up a notch is the absolute best feedback, thank you for that! 🙂

  3. Well, I see I should not refer to greens as neutral, lol. I should have known better. What I really meant is that I find that certain greens will work well as a background to almost every other color. Making it a more balanced color than others that leaves a lot of opportunity to introduce a variety of colors.

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