Architecture in Colors: Guide for Designing with Colors

In Which Forms Can Colors Be Found in Architectural Projects?

Individuals feel the colors as they affect their five senses: sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch. Designers and artists, even if they sense colors like others, use them in design because they have high aesthetic and expressive characteristics so that they can influence the design of spaces and surfaces such as flooring, walls, decoration, and furniture.

In addition, the colors must have strong durability over time use high resistance to external factors such as ultraviolet rays (light) and various corrosion and thaw constituents, and be environmentally friendly and easy to implement. Colors in architecture can be part of the nature of the material or subject to adding colorings that saturate the original material.

In both cases, the colors come in the form of a coat (Dyes) that are soluble or pigments that are insoluble colors due to their granular composition. The thickness of granules is measured by a small number of micrometer units of nanometers. The coating is used, for example, in the coloring of paper due to its high level of solubility as it dries after the material has penetrated and saturated within it.

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High-rise buildings in colors, Photo by Martin Péchy

On the other hand, it is advised to use pigment colors as an external coloring coat over the plastic material to improve its appearance and function, as being an adhesive but not an expensive material. Using this coating protects the surface of the material from water or dirt. The paint can be either glossy transparent (varnish) or chromatic.

Industrial coatings are now more popular than natural ones and rely on components such as acrylic, synthetic emulsions, silicone, and polyurethane or are used in a powder form.

➤ Read more: 5 Architectural Projects with Remarkable Colors for more information about Designing with Colors and live examples on this topic.

Ways to Implement the Colors

Industrial coatings are now more popular than natural ones and rely on components such as acrylic, synthetic emulsions, silicone, and polyurethane or are used in a powder form.

There are many ways to conduct colors, but it is necessary for the designers to familiarize themselves well with those products and the methods of their how-to manuals before using them within their concepts to avoid unexpected results. Different manuals are available in printed catalogs or scientific reference books of colors.

Nowadays, some of the coatings firms make their goods available online (over an Internet website, for example) that provides all the necessary information needed to properly use their products or even to order them on the go!

Color schemes | Circle of Newton

The passage of light through a glass prism allows the physicist Isaac Newton to analyze the white light beam after its refraction into a group of rays of different seven colors respectively: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet, which together compose the white light beam.

Wheel of colors
Color Circle (as Newton Circle), Photo Credit Lovely Frankenstein Designs

However, the colors are not limited only to this number; In fact, by mixing them with each other, or diluting them an infinite variety of hues is generated. This method leads to resorting, inventorying, and arranging the huge amount resulting from their grades, mixing and placing them in systems by the producing companies.

The multiplicity and complexity of the systems required coordination at the global level through color-producing companies. Color schemes serve multiple sectors such as trades of all kinds: surfaces, architectural design, building façades, interior walls, interior design, and decoration, building rehabilitation, historical building restoration, manufacturing, trade, science, archeology, earth sciences, art, electronic products, food, media, and communications.

The choice of colors is not based on the systems only, but it follows the individual sense (a free method) unique for each one. In other terms, it is not possible to generalize and define the color tones by a mathematical procedure; the choice can follow characteristics such as the degree of color effectiveness in achieving the design requirements.

How Do Colors Affect the Designs?

The technical design in color depends on scientific and practical information that comes from different sources. As we know so far, the design takes into consideration many technical components, engineering facts, and market trends, as well as historical developments, social and environmental phenomena, and psychological factors.

The Color Design relies on 3 Major Effects

1- The Visual effect or The Sight effect: It means using colors to define things. This is an easy and quick way to define the design message and distinguish between voids in terms of their function, and it depends on the visual effects resulting from the use of some colors.

There are colors that bring things visually perceived and affect the size of voids to stand out or confirm things as important or make the background. Colors serve indoor functions and use such as steering systems that provide a feeling of safety and reliability.

2- The Sensory effect: If the design by sight determines the locations of objects and their functions through colors, the design by sensation uses colors to affect and influences the user’s sense. There are colors that suggest roughness and other softness, and here the eyesight can be linked to the sense of touch or smell. There are colors used to create or change our impression.

For example, the bright colors covering the building from the exterior give joyful impressions on what we are expecting to see once we are inside!

The effect may be achieved by controlling the brightness of the color that can provide sensations such as (light or heavy, low or high), or control of the degree of saturation (near or far, moving or static) or color tone (cold or warm, sharp (or approximate). This is the effect of the colors which not only originated from the color but rather through the result of the harmonious mixing between the colors, the shapes, and the structural system of the color.

This makes sense of color design as a complicated process because it depends more on the designer passing through many experiments.

3- The Symbolic effect: After the sensory design in color has been able to create a connection between objects and their users, the role of colors comes to the symbolic expression of things that depend on meanings originating from the culture of society. Colors may have historical meanings (ideological) or environmental meanings (natural geographic), which makes achieving them requires knowledge of the local cultural and environmental context.

Finally, in the overall design of these three effects; the designer searches for the best and simplest solutions to coordinate between the three types, and combines them into one powerful and simple solution.

Lights and Colors

Colors and light are major design tools and are related in some ways; The colors can only be seen in the presence of the Light that falls over them. In the dark, however, the colors cannot be seen. Therefore, we should take into account when designing with colors that Light is not a perceptible material but that it represents a vital element in the design of buildings and constructions.

However, the wrong usage of Light can lead to a catastrophic impact on the project.


The Light and Shade change according to the path of the sun so that objects appear to be moving. When the light shines on something, its appearance changes.

It is absolutely necessary if we want the success of the design, regarding the colors’ use, light to be considered as a major constituent from the beginning of the study, and not after the design has identified the voids, interfaces, and functions of the entire building.
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