Green is the color between cyan and yellow on the visible spectrum. It is evoked by light which has a dominant wavelength of roughly 495–570 nm. In subtractive color systems, used in painting and color printing, it is created by a combination of yellow and cyan; in the RGB color model, used on television and computer screens, it is one of the additive primary colors, along with red and blue, which are mixed in different combinations to create all other colors. By far the largest contributor to green in nature is chlorophyll, the chemical by which plants photosynthesize and convert sunlight into chemical energy. Many creatures have adapted to their green environments by taking on a green hue themselves as camouflage. Several minerals have a green color, including the emerald, which is colored green by its chromium content.
During post-classical and early modern Europe, green was the color commonly associated with wealth, merchants, bankers, and the gentry, while red was reserved for the nobility. For this reason, the costume of the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci and the benches in the British House of Commons are green while those in the House of Lords are red. It also has a long historical tradition as the color of Ireland and of Gaelic culture. It is the historic color of Islam, representing the lush vegetation of Paradise. It was the color of the banner of Muhammad, and is found in the flags of nearly all Islamic countries.
In surveys made in American, European, and Islamic countries, green is the color most commonly associated with nature, life, health, youth, spring, hope, and envy. In the European Union and the United States, green is also sometimes associated with toxicity and poor health, but in China and most of Asia, its associations are very positive, as the symbol of fertility and happiness. Because of its association with nature, it is the color of the environmental movement. Political groups advocating environmental protection and social justice describe themselves as part of the Green movement, some naming themselves Green parties. This has led to similar campaigns in advertising, as companies have sold green, or environmentally friendly, products. Green is also the traditional color of safety and permission; a green light means go ahead, a green card permits permanent residence in the United States.
Most people would agree that there are seven colors in a rainbow. But how boring would life be if we only had seven colors to ever choose from and if we weren’t allowed to combine colors together? Luckily, the world isn’t as simple as it may seem. There are thousands of colors out there, with many colors being shades of one particular color. Not to mention that the shades of green color being used have grown substantially, with some variations having only existed since the late 1800s.
Whether you’re looking for a specific shade you vaguely remember, or if you need to find matching colors for your design or website, there are almost endless options out there; half that you may not even be aware of. Below are a variety of shades of green color with names, Hex, RGB, and CMYK codes.
In the Middle Ages and Renaissance, the color of clothing showed a person’s social rank and profession. Red could only be worn by the nobility, brown and gray by peasants, and green by merchants, bankers and the gentry and their families. The Mona Lisa wears green in her portrait, as does the bride in the Arnolfini portrait by Jan van Eyck.
There were no good vegetal green dyes which resisted washing and sunlight for those who wanted or were required to wear green. Green dyes were made out of the fern, plantain, buckthorn berries, the juice of nettles and of leeks, the digitalis plant, the broom plant, the leaves of the fraxinus, or ash tree, and the bark of the alder tree, but they rapidly faded or changed color. Only in the 16th century was a good green dye produced, by first dyeing the cloth blue with woad, and then yellow with Reseda luteola, also known as yellow-weed.
The pigments available to painters were more varied; monks in monasteries used verdigris, made by soaking copper in fermenting wine, to color medieval manuscripts. They also used finely-ground malachite, which made a luminous green. They used green earth colors for backgrounds.
During the early Renaissance, painters such as Duccio di Buoninsegna learned to paint faces first with a green undercoat, then with pink, which gave the faces a more realistic hue. Over the centuries the pink has faded, making some of the faces look green.
The 18th and 19th centuries brought the discovery and production of synthetic green pigments and dyes, which rapidly replaced the earlier mineral and vegetable pigments and dyes. These new dyes were more stable and brilliant than the vegetable dyes, but some contained high levels of arsenic, and were eventually banned.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, green was associated with the romantic movement in literature and art. The German poet and philosopher Goethe declared that green was the most restful color, suitable for decorating bedrooms. Painters such as John Constable and Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot depicted the lush green of rural landscapes and forests. Green was contrasted to the smoky grays and blacks of the Industrial Revolution.
The second half of the 19th century saw the use of green in art to create specific emotions, not just to imitate nature. One of the first to make color the central element of his picture was the American artist James McNeill Whistler, who created a series of paintings called “symphonies” or “noctures” of color, including Symphony in gray and green; The Ocean between 1866 and 1872.
The late 19th century also brought the systematic study of color theory, and particularly the study of how complementary colors such as red and green reinforced each other when they were placed next to each other. These studies were avidly followed by artists such as Vincent van Gogh. Describing his painting, The Night Cafe, to his brother Theo in 1888, Van Gogh wrote: “I sought to express with red and green the terrible human passions. The hall is blood red and pale yellow, with a green billiard table in the center, and four lamps of lemon yellow, with rays of orange and green. Everywhere it is a battle and antithesis of the most different reds and greens.”
With the alluring connection with nature, there is so much scope for decorating with green walls. Pale shades can create relaxing spaces, rich, velvety greens offer a sophisticated aesthetic, while vibrant tones can feel enlivening and exuberant.
A naturally organic shade, green is very easy to live with. Take inspiration from the varied greens and textures of the forest. For a soothing ambiance, layer lighter or darker tones with tactile fabrics such as linens and velvets.
There are many different shades of green across the spectrum that pair well with many other colors within interior design. The important thing is to pair whatever hue you choose with the right accent color to create a feeling of flow throughout a room. This is why it is important to know how to use a color wheel.
Green room ideas promise to renew your connection to nature and is said to evoke feelings of balance, vibrancy and good fortune. It comes to life with plenty of natural light but can also work in a dark narrow space.
Decorating with green can allow for you to get back to nature with a fresh palette. ‘It’s all about what you pair it with,’ says Judy Smith, color consultant for Crown Paint. ‘Greens with a blue base are impactful colors, so introducing softer tones of clay white and chalky grey in furniture and accessories and keeping to a light, natural flooring will help to balance a scheme and add a calming quality.’
Meanwhile, greens with a yellow undertone such as olive pop alongside metallic gold or bronze touches that enhance their warmth and give them shine. ‘My go-to colors are green with a touch of gold,’ says the artist and designer Margit Wittig.
One of the most on-trend of kitchen colors, green kitchen ideas are perfect for cabinetry, walls and accessories, and you can pick from muddy, moody shades for a traditional feel, and brighter greens for a livelier space.
Green, like most shades, looks fabulous with white – and is perfect for cabinetry and backsplashes, if you are looking for classic painted kitchen ideas. You can’t beat the clean crisp feel that the two colors together create – especially in modern rustic or country kitchens with low ceilings.
Interior designer Kate Guinness(opens in new tab) believes that finding the perfect color combination to go with green is all about the particular mood or atmosphere you want to create. ‘Pinks always work really well with greens though most other colors can work too, depending on the shade chosen.’
This green bedroom is soft, delicate and soothing – just what you want for the most used space in your home.
Forgo any notions of the avocado green bathroom of the 80s. These days, green bathroom ideas are subtler, sophisticated and elegant. Here, a charming cottage-style white bathroom teamed with a green bathroom floor tile idea and half wall is ample for adding color into an otherwise neutral scheme.
We all know the healing properties of green. It comes in a huge array of shades, which is why a green bathroom is such a good choice. Get the tone right and you’ll wonder why you’ve never considered this bathroom color idea before.
Green is in general a calming and relaxing color, and works beautifully when paired with natural and raw materials.
Being the color that represents nature, it’s one that makes us feel good and positive. ‘The poet and philosopher Goethe used to describe green as a useful color, a good color to have around,’ explains Francesca Wezel, founder of Francesca’s Paints(opens in new tab).
Here, natural materials such as wood and stone are perfect partners against walls in Moss by Francesca’s Paints in a room by Retrouvius(opens in new tab).
The source of the adage of never mixing blue and green has murky roots. Scratch beneath the surface and its origins are hard to fathom. One of the most likely theories, given that so much idiom in the English language derives from maritime vernacular and superstitions, is that sailors were warned not to paint the hulls of their boats green lest they become invisible when capsized. But it’s tenuous.
For decorator and designer Susan Deliss(opens in new tab), it’s nonsense. ‘It just doesn’t occur to me to work with a rule book when it comes to color. It’s about what feels right for the room, its light and the environment around it. It’s a question of tone and judgement: in a sunny climate, you can probably get away with pairing acidic greens and cobalt blues for example but in an English country house, it’s important to rein things in and look at greens and blues from nature for inspiration.’
Add a pop of green on furniture. Deep colors are the way to go this season and work especially well against a light backdrop.
Celebrated interior designer Nina Campbell is a big fan of using green in interiors but counsels approaching using it with caution, suggesting that it’s at its most powerful when used to add a finishing touch to a special piece of furniture or one specific area of your room.
Nina Campbell reveals how to use green in interiors at greater length in our dedicated feature.
Magnolia founder and HGTV’s Fixer Upper star Joanna Gaines is also a big fan of using green, and gave away her tips for using green recently – the most important being to use tones inspired by nature. That doesn’t mean, however, that you can’t contrast it with bolder shades.
While green is widely regarded as one of the easiest colors to decorate with – you can pair various shades of it with just about any other color – it’s also thought that green rooms make us feel positive.
If the ceiling heights and aspect allow it (ideally, tall in the first case and north/north-east in the last), then create a wow factor by choosing one of the color’s more high-impact hues.
Highlight wall paneling ideas with a velvety rich green, such as Botanical Noir from Crown, taking it over architraves and skirting to ceiling height.
Painting all five walls (including the ceiling) in the same shade when decorating with green walls creates a cocooning effect, perfect for snugs.
To make green rooms look good, it’s important to do a little in-room research first. To begin with, consider the room’s natural light. Is it a cool, east- or north-facing light that the room gets or a warm one? Knowing this will help you choose a balancing shade – warmer ones for cooler rooms and cooler ones for warmer rooms.
Next, consider the mood you want to create – cozy and enveloping, in which case a darker green will suit – or light and airy, in which case you will want to choose a paler shade.
All colors complement green – including brights, like red, cool tones, like blues and naturals, such as browns. However, choosing accent colors – whether that is the green or another color – needs to be done carefully to ensure there’s harmony, which is what green is all about, rather than contrast. You can use our guide to using the color wheel for more help with this.
If you are thinking of painting a room in green then consider the tone and warmth of the color as well as the position and lighting of the room. While many greens are beautifully neutral and work well in all sorts of situations, there are certain paint ideas which will work better in different rooms.
Energizing and uplifting, zesty lime, vibrant apple and botanical leafy shades are an uplifting choices for green kitchen ideas while greens with warm undertones, like olives as, are great for creating cozy green living rooms and for north-facing rooms. Alternatively, those at the cooler end of the spectrum such as soft mints and verditer shades are often well-suited to calming green bedrooms.
‘Light greens are a great choice for north-facing rooms because of their warm undertones and are super adaptable, calming and reliably pair with both dark and neutral colors to create the perfect room combination,’ say Rob Abrahams and Rob Green, co-founders of Coat(opens in new tab) paints.
‘Dark greens are also a great choice for smaller spaces such as a narrow hallway or small bedroom. It may sound unusual to choose a dark shade for a small space, but it’s a great way to embrace the coziness that comes with compact areas. Try painting the walls, skirting boards and ceilings in one deep shade to soften the edges of the room to make it appear bigger than it is.’
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