The Science behind Colours

They say there is a science behind colours, so we find out what a colour consultant can say to unravel the mystery.

If you’ve had to choose paint colours for your home and found it to be a real pain – you’re not alone.

Choosing from a tiny swatch of colour from a paint brochure is like trying to decide if a dress suits you by just looking through a peephole in a door!

Serene Pang says that colour trends are a great reference but shouldn’t be followed blindly.

That is why there are colour consultants, who specialise in developing colour schemes by understanding colour and how it affects humans in their day-to-day environments.

“A colour consultant assists people in choosing the right colours either for their business, products, interior or exterior walls or any other materials to achieve the desired result for their project. A trained colour consultant can help in areas where colour decisions need to be made,” says Serene Pang, Sales and Marketing director of The Duha Group and colour consultant to Nippon Paint Malaysia, in an email interview from Singapore.

Pang – who was trained at the School of Architecture at the National University of Singapore – has 18 years of experience working for the architectural, building and colour industry in the Asia Pacific region.

So, do women or men make better colour consultants?

Pang says over the years, she has met more female colour consultants than males, but diplomatically adds “that doesn’t point to the fact that a male may not perform better!”

She noticed that many survey and focus groups have indicated that females tend to be more sensitive and inclined towards colours, and have a flair for colour in decorating.

“This is also the reason why a lot of colour marketing – be it in advertising or consumer products like cosmetics, magazines and paint – is targeted towards the female population,” she says.

According to her, one of the most popular groups that forecast colour trends is the International Color Marketing Group (CMG), an international not-for-profit Association of Color Designers.

“Colour forecasts used to be done 24 to 36 months in advance, but with the current fast changing lifestyle likes and dislikes, coupled with shorter product lifespan, colour palettes are usually now done 12 to 18 months in advance,” says Pang who is a member of the CMG and actively involved in colour forecasting conferences.

CMG’s main focus is to identify the key drivers of colour trends and how that is translated into a colour palette.

The Colour Directions forecasts are developed annually through the collaborative efforts of the members who attend the CMG’s Conference.

Each member prepares his or her own individual Colour Directions and usually after rounds of group discussion, a general consensus is reached to develop a forecast palette, for the consumer and contract industry.

“The influence on the forecasting could run from social issues to politics, the environment, economy or cultural shifts. It is an understanding of the influences that provides the most useful information that would help develop a colour direction. Usually, a colour from each colour family may be represented, instead of one single colour for the year,” she explains.

Pang says that the Colour Trends 2011 Asia Pacific palette projects high energy and reflects joy, radiance, purity, playfulness and trendiness. It is a lively palette which aims to inspire and create positive energy in living spaces.

“Home owners are more adventurous nowadays, and willing to experiment with bolder colour schemes versus using just one colour, most likely a pastel, for the whole house,” she notices.

Paint companies are very much aligned with the trends, according to Pang. Most of them are already part of the colour forecasters.

“They draw and share information based on their interaction with the homeowners, interior designers and architects, to find out what industry and society looks at and what would be the latest trends in home decoration,” she explains.

Paint companies have come up with new colours these days that include a feature such as odourless, spotless, easy wash or anti-bacterial. Why don’t they put all these goodies in one paint or is it simply a marketing ploy?

“Generally, paint companies are developing products specifically suited to the local conditions and market needs. With the current paint technology, they offer solutions that would work beautifully in every part of the house,” she explains.

She cites an example that most, if not all, of Nippon Paint’s decorative paints are water-based products which are low in volatile organic compounds (VOC) and have less odour, which is, less damaging to people and the environment.

“The reason for the different features is to cater to the different surfaces and needs of the home. The different paint product features allow home owners to have a choice on the different finishing and gloss to their walls,” she adds.

When it comes to choosing colours, Pang stresses that “colour trends are a great reference, but don’t try to follow them blindly.”

She advises that: “It should be a colour you would feel comfortable with, and suitable for the specific activity in the space, for example, a soft yellow would be more suitable for a baby’s room, rather than a chromatic yellow, as exposure of this tone for long periods of time causes agitation and fatigue.”

The great thing about painting, Pang says, is that it is one of the least expensive component of decorating and can be easily rectified, unlike expensive furnishings and fittings.