Why It Works

Elements of design

Choosing Color: How to Identify the Undertone

Choosing color, whether paint for the walls, fabrics for furniture, or new floors, can be SO tricky and frustrating!  Not only are there so many colors to choose from, but they look different in the store than they do at home so it seems they are always changing.  Add to that the undertones and the process of choosing a color is even more complicated.  When decorating a room, it is usually easy to find the right masstones but if the undertones don’t work, the entire color scheme can look just a bit off.

So how can you determine the undertone of colors?  Here’s how.



Color Definitions – Masstone & Undertone

Before we begin talking about how to determine an undertone, it’s important to understand what it is!  With the exception of the three primary colors {red, yellow, and blue}, all other colors are made by mixing two or more colors together.  A masstone is the major color – the one that is immediately apparent.  An undertone, on the other hand, is the color that has been mixed in, which may or may not be immediately apparent.  For example, blue with a bit of yellow mixed in will look different than blue with a little green mixed in {moss green versus aqua green}.  For some colors, the masstone and undertone are very similar and other times, they can be very different.




How to Identify the Undertone


1.  Compare It to Other Shades

The phenomenon that makes colors appear different depending on what they’re next to is called Simultaneous Contrast.  One way to determine an undertone is to place the color next to other colors and see how your original color shifts.

One method of comparing colors is to compare your selected color to other shades of the color that are in the same color family.



Let’s look at the color blue for instance.  Here is a look at pale blue on the paint fan, but they vary in their undertone.  The ones on the left have a green undertone, whereas the ones toward the right have a purple undertone, giving them a more periwinkle appearance.  By comparing different shades, the undertone starts to become more apparent.


2. Compare it to Other Hues

Another way is to compare your selected color to other hues.  One way is to compare complementary colors.  For example, to see if your blue has any red in it, you’d compare it to green.  To see if it has green in it, compare it to red.  To find if it has yellow, compare it to purple.

Complementary Color Scheme


You can also compare a color to it’s true color.  Here, the color on the left looks blue when compared to orange:



When compared to a truer blue, though, you can see that it has some green in it!




3. Look at it In Your Space

Because colors are influenced by the light and by their surroundings, it’s very important to look at a color in the space you intend to use it.  In one room, a slight undertone might go unnoticed but in another, it might become exaggerated and stand out!  The only way to really know is to look at it in the space you intend to use it and various times of the day {so that you see it in all different types of light}


4. Take a Picture

I’ve learned that not everyone’s eyes are equally sensitive to colors.  Some people truly have a hard time seeing undertones, no matter what other colors you compare them to or what light you look at them in!  By accident, though, I discovered that undertones tend to pop more in photos, allowing those who have a hard time seeing undertones to more easily spot them.

This last weekend, my husband and I went shopping for new wood floors {more about that later}.  We picked out two browns that in daylight, looked nice and neutral.  When I got home, though, I saw a problem!  One of our neutral floors had a red/purple undertone and no matter how much my husband looked at it, he just couldn’t see what I did.  {Red is the one color that won’t work in my house.} He happened to be looking over my shoulder when I snapped a picture, though, and suddenly, he could see exactly what I saw!  Can you see it here?




So when in doubt, take a picture!


If you’ve ever gone to the paint store and wondered why there are so many choices, now you know and hopefully, you now know how to spot undertones a little bit better!


Need more info about choosing the right paint color!  Try THIS POST!

Tidbits&Twine How to Choose the Perfect Paint Color



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The Beauty of Neutrals

When it comes to my home, I am not good at commitment.  I get bored and like to change things up and move things around from room to room as I shop my house.  For this reason, I’ll forever be a neutral-loving girl when it comes to basic furnishings.  But after I finished my “someday” living room design plan, I started getting a little nervous that I hadn’t included enough texture or color to keep the room from looking too plain.

I then turned to one of my favorite places {Pinterest, of course!} for inspiration to remind myself how beautiful and cozy neutral rooms can be.  I think the key is to include a variety of textures, wood tones, metallic finishes, and pattern to help give the room depth in the absence of color.  Add in a few plants and colorful accessories and you’re set!  So here’s a look at some of my favorites that show the beauty of neutral living.


TIDBITS & TWINE Neutral Living 1
{via Pinterest}
TIDBITS & TWINE Neutral Living 2
{via The Champagne Taste}
TIDBITS & TWINE Neutral Living 3
{via Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles}
TIDBITS & TWINE Neutral Living 4
{via Vintage Chic}
TIDBITS & TWINE Neutral Living 5
{via Pinterest}
TIDBITS & TWINE Neutral Living 6
{via Ballard Designs}
TIDBITS & TWINE Neutral Living 7
{via Thompson Custom Homes}
TIDBITS & TWINE Neutral Living 8
{via Eye For Design}
TIDBITS & TWINE Neutral Living 9
{via Pinterest}
TIDBITS & TWINE Neutral Living 10
{via Pinterest}
TIDBITS & TWINE Neutral Living 11
{via Houzz}
TIDBITS & TWINE Neutral Living 12
{via Coastal Living}
TIDBITS & TWINE Neutral Living 13
{via Pinterest}
TIDBITS & TWINE Neutral Living 14
{via French Grey}
TIDBITS & TWINE Neutral Living 15
{via Pinterest}


What’s your color story?  Do you decorate with neutrals or do you prefer something with more color?
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Creating Informal Balance

We all know that balance is important when riding a bike, or walking, or just about any physical activity for that matter.  But did you know that balance is also an important element in decorating your home?  Without even realizing it, we look for – and expect – balance in the world around us.  If you’ve ever walked into a space and just felt that something was “off” it could be that the room was out of balance.

Tidbits&Twine Informal Balance Nightstands
{via The French House}


In interior design, there are three ways to achieve balance: symmetrical (formal) balance, asymmetrical (informal) balance, and radial balance.  My personal favorite of these three is informal balance because it creates equilibrium while using different elements, which to me, creates a more interesting space.


Informal balance is created by things that feel alike but don’t look alike


To create asymmetrical balance, you need to take into account the visual weight of various objects in order to decide whether they can balance one another.  The visual weight of an object is affected by its color, texture, size, and shape.  You can apply informal balance in your home in large spaces, such as through furniture arrangement, or in small vignettes, like on buffets, mantels and bookcases.  Informal balance even applies to wall galleries!

Here, informal balance is achieved in the room through the placement of two chairs opposite one large sofa.

Tidbits&Twine Informal Balanced Living Room
{via House Beautiful}



In the photo below, the beverage dispenser on the right is bigger than the cloche on the left, but the pumpkins under the cloche add visual weight, thus balancing the two sides.

Tidbits&Twine Fall Tablescape 12a


Here, the sides of this bookcase are not identical, but the weight, color and texture feels balanced.

Tidbits&Twine Informal Balanced Bookcase
{via Pinterest}


Even this wall gallery feels balanced despite the fact that no two images – or frames – are alike.

Tidbits & Twine Gallery Wall Organic
{via Pinterest}


Why is it important to learn how to create informal balance?  Well sometimes, it might be that you want to create this look, but other times, it might be a look you use based on necessity.  For example, what if you only have one table lamp and want to use it on the side of the sofa but the other side feels empty?  Or if you have two hurricane candle holders flanking your mantel but then accidentally break one (which I did this weekend!)?  Even if you only have one item – not a pair – you can still find a way to use it so long as you can find another object whose visual weight can balance it.


Here are some other photos of asymmetrical balance.  Can you spot the differences?

Tidbits&Twine Buffet

Visual Balance in Bedroom Tidbits&Twine
{via Houzz}
Tidbits&Twine Informal Balanced Mantel
{via For The Love of a House}
Tidbits&Twine Informal Balanced Dining Room
{via Horchow}
Tidbits&Twine Informal Balanced Trophy Display
{via Pinterest}


There are certain rooms in my home that I prefer symmetrical balance, such as in my living room, which has a more formal feel, but otherwise, I find informal balance much more interesting.  It’s not something that has a formula, nor is it something that necessarily looks balanced, but rather something that has to be worked at to decide if it feels balanced.

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