How to Identify Cool & Warm Colors

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Warm and cool colors are principles of colors. Using warm colors in a painting, for example, can help convey the painting takes place on a warm summer day. Using cool colors on a painting, conversely, can help convey a sense of winter, or even dread. You can identify warm and cool colors by just remembering a few of the characteristics present in each type.

  • Examine colors for shades of yellow, orange and brown — colors based on the principle of "warm" colors. If you are looking at the color yellow, for example, or are looking at a different color that is merely shaded or tinted yellow, you are looking at a warm color. The same goes for the colors orange and brown and their variations.

  • Look at colors for shades of blue, green, pink and purple — colors based on the principle of "cool." If you are looking at the color blue, for example, or at a different color shaded or tinted with a blue hue, this is a cool color. The same goes for the colors green, pink or purple.

  • Learn how to change a color from "warm" to "cool." This will be necessary when working with colors while painting, or while using photo editing computer programs. For example, pure red is typically a warm color. However, by blue paint it becomes a cool color. Adding orange paint allows it to remain a warm color. The reverse is also true. Pure green is a cool color, but a yellow green becomes a warm color.

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