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Cool: Warm vs Cool

March 5, 2010

So I was working with blue Color-Aid strips today and I was traumatized to see that my feeling for warm/cool is actually totally opposite of what Color-Aid calls warm/cool.

Here’s a scan of the strips labelled:Betsy Medvedovsky design

I haven’t color corrected at all and obviously all screens will relate these colors differently, but I think it’s the relationship between them that’s important; the absolute colors are less important. The blues I’d call cool are the Color-Aid warm ones and vice-versa. I couldn’t believe it.

Either Color-Aid’s sense is wrong or I am wrong or language is failing. Obviously it’s language. I assume Color-Aid means warm in an extremely formal (?) way: their “warm” blues are tending ever so slightly towards purple, which means they’re slightly tinged red. (I’m actually not sure of how they arrive at what it means to be “cool” then.)

My definition of warmth/coolness in color is really much more about the hue. Every single color can have warmth/coolness to them. Obviously, a straight up blues, reds and yellows that exist ONLY IN RELATIONSHIP TO EACH OTHER will be cleanly cool, warm, warm, respectively. But real colors are very rarely “straight-up” and very rarely in a world where they exist in such a limited context.

I’d guess that my definition is about depth. For me the top row is cool because they have a certain dullness; the bottom row is warm because it has more of a depth.

I should continue doing this investigation with other Color-Aid colors, like yellow and red and see if this is systematically so across the board.

Still, I am amazed that my definition is EXACTLY opposite of Color-Aid’s. Good to know, but I think I will remain extremely stubborn in my usage. If “warm” just means tinged slightly yellow or red, than one could say that, no? Like, a slightly yellowish blue. Whereas I think my definition of warm–which I clearly did not make up and comes from whatever tradition I picked it up from–actually justifies its own word.

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