the complexity of color: color studies to the rescue

by clé tile | published: Jul 27, 2023

Three color study panels of orange, yellow, blue and green.

a page scanned from the principles of harmony and contrast colors by M.E. Chevreul, 1981 — image courtesy of

whether it’s fashion or a well-designed space, very rarely does a single hue create the vibe. rather, multiple colors intermingle to create an emotional response. and that’s essentially what our vibrant, color-filled mythology collection of cement tile is all about: the juxtaposing of color to create a mood and tell a story. to do that, the way in which color is combined is paramount.

the science of color

enter the field of color theory.

the study of color has been around (and debated) for centuries. in the book On Colors, aristotle taught that all color was a mixture of darkness and light as well as the four elements — earth, air, fire, and water. these theories were based on observations of how color behaved in the natural world and translated to other general theories about the universe.

this approach lasted for over 2000 years. it wasn’t until 1672 when isaac newton developed the color wheel that the world began to see color in a new way. noting that shining light through a prism revealed colors across the spectrum, newton found he could recreate white light by combining all the spectral colors together again. newton’s scientific approach revealed an empirical truth: we perceive color through the reflection of light waves.

A color study with 12 sections of different colors, including black, yellow, red and orange.

page 7 scanned from the principles of harmony and contrast colors by M.E. Chevreul, 1981 — image courtesy of

color and cognition: the psychology of color

but what about the juxtaposition of color? or the psychology? it would take another 100+ years before these more human aspects of color became part of the discussion. in 1810, poet johann wolfgang von goethe published his book theory of colours, a debunked, but poetic, idea of how color affects perception. his color wheel assigned different qualities to each color — red was “beautiful,” while blue was “common” and violet was “unnecessary.” He then categories these qualities into four areas of human cognition: reason, intellect, sensing, and imagination. Goethe was one impetus for the (still being explored) field of color psychology, and introduced the foundation for what came next.

A watercolor color wheel of ROYGBIV

watercolor inspired by Newton’s color wheel

A color study by Goethe.

Goethe’s color wheel

color studies

fast forward to the 20th century and the enduring impact of germany’s bauhaus school. among many things, the bauhaus brought to prominence a new approach to color through the theories and teachings of artists wassily kandinsky, paul klee, johannes itten, and josef albers. though each of them had different theories, they all believed the power of color lied in the viewer’s subjective experience of it. while mystic followers kandinsky and itten believed color had a direct effect on human emotion, albers’ work looked at the way colors interacted with each other to play with our perceptions.

albers was particularly interested in how colors interacted and how the eye perceived color under different circumstances. in his classic book, interaction of color, albers demonstrated phenomena originally discussed by goethe — afterimages and optical illusions created by color juxtaposition. an afterimage is an effect where the eye continues to perceive a color or image after a period of long exposure.

rectangles with an x of a contrasting color, above a rectangle with the colors switched.
rectangles transposed over each other in varying transparencies.
Grey stripes of increasing opacity over brown and beige rectangles, and a second study of yellow stripes of increasing opacity over red purple and green stripes.

pages from josef albers’ book interaction of color — images courtesy of bukowski's

if all this makes your head spin, you’re not alone. artists have long done color studies for just this reason: to experiment with how different colors work together in a composition. color studies are generally quick explorations that allow an artist to play with lighting, color palettes, mood, etc.... all before the “real” work begins.

A staircase with painted murals and patterned stair risers.

color study, watercolors by mitchal bala

A mural wall and an arched ceiling.

color studies + tile

Color studies are crucial for interiors where lighting can change throughout the day. materials, texture, and finish can all play a part in how a color “reads” in a room. tile is especially complicated for this very reason. variegation and variation can soften the intensity of a color — but also magnify the differences between adjacent colors.

but fear not, we’ve got you covered! we believe that redesigning your space shouldn’t be arduous. successful color pairings shouldn’t feel like a code to be deciphered, but an opportunity to tap into emotions and tell your story. you can’t do this by following trends. instead you need to find the story that you want to tell.

A checkerboard of checkerboard tiles.

cinema collection : mythology duos

built on color studies: the mythology collection

we’ve taken all that into account. in designing mythology, we’ve done the color study for you. blending all the science, theory, and in-depth knowledge about tile and materials, we’ve created seven distinct sets of palettes using our signature cement tile. each palette evokes a different mood you can weave into your storyline. a silky matte finish and handcrafted variations are what makes our cement tile so distinct. and what makes mythology such a powerful, sophisticated creative tool. who knows, it might even encourage you to choose more unlikely combinations, secure in the knowledge that it's all been designed by artists, based on color studies.

the mythology collection puts the all the tools you need in your hands. we’ve done the hard part. now its up to you to tell your story.

shop mythology color stories