Warm vs. Cool Colour Tones — What’s the Difference?


This blog post is your comprehensive guide on warm and cool colour tones, how to tell them apart, and how to choose what’s right for your space!

Changing the colour palette of your space is one of the easiest ways to transform your interior — after you choose the right hue, that is. With a kaleidoscope of colours, picking just a few to adorn your space can become a challenge. And the first step to picking the right hue is understanding the different types — context: warm vs. cool colour tones.


Warm and cool colour tones include different shades and create different impacts on the interior. Understanding both types can help you select the colour palette that creates the ambience you’re looking for.


Delve into this blog post to learn all about warm and cool tones, and how to decide which ones are best for you!


What Are Warm Colours?


Warm colours breathe life and a sense of sunshine into the interior. They have a natural fun energy associated with them, making your space feel exciting and bold. Warm colours include oranges, yellows, reds, pinks, browns, and browns. Whites and other neutrals with warm undertones make it to this category, too.

Credit: Design Lines Ltd


Warm colours breathe life and a sense of sunshine into the interior. They have a natural fun energy associated with them, making your space feel exciting and bold. Warm colours include oranges, yellows, reds, pinks, browns, and browns. Whites and other neutrals with warm undertones make it to this category, too.


Because warm hues create a cosy and intimate space, they’re ideal to use in the kitchen and living room. These spaces provide comfort, so you should instantly feel relaxed as you walk into them — and so, making them ‘warm’ is a fantastic idea.


If you have a large room that feels cold and lifeless, warm colours are the way to go. They will help inject energy, happiness, and playfulness, transforming the ambience and making it cosier.


What Are Cool Colours?


Cool colours are calming, soothing, and sleek. They include greens, blacks, blues, and purples. Whites with cool undertones are also cool hues. Such colours are reminiscent of the sky, water, ice, and snow. They make the space feel light and airy — but a hint of cosiness is lacking. You can make up for this by layering different textures (through rugs), and incorporating wood tones and gold detailing.

Credit: Dominic Fusco Studio


Cool colours are calming, soothing, and sleek. They include greens, blacks, blues, and purples. Whites with cool undertones are also cool hues. Such colours are reminiscent of the sky, water, ice, and snow. They make the space feel light and airy — but a hint of cosiness is lacking. You can make up for this by layering different textures (through rugs), and incorporating wood tones and gold detailing.


Cool colours are particularly famous in entryways, bathrooms and small bedrooms. This is because these shades appear as if they ‘recede’ (the same effect you achieve with light neutrals), creating an illusion of more space. So, if you have a compact space and wish to create an illusion of more room, cool colours are the answer!


Identifying Warm and Cool Colour Tones On The Colour Wheel


You can create an imaginary line on the colour wheel to partition warm and cool colours. All the reds, yellows, and oranges lie on the warm side, whilst blues, greens, and purples are categorised under the cool side. Use this wheel as a quick guide to figure out whether your colour under inspection is cool or warm the next time you go paint shopping!

Credit: Art in Context


You can create an imaginary line on the colour wheel to partition warm and cool colours. All the reds, yellows, and oranges lie on the warm side, whilst blues, greens, and purples are categorised under the cool side. Use this wheel as a quick guide to figure out whether your colour under inspection is cool or warm the next time you go paint shopping!


Creating Balance Between Warm And Cool Colour Tones


No room should have just one type of colour tone; creating a balance between warm and cool tones is key. If you aim for a cosy ambience, use warm colours abundantly, making them the dominant scheme of the space. Next, sprinkle in a few elements of cool colours, ensuring the effect of the warm tones doesn’t get too overwhelming.   On the other hand, if you want a light and airy ambience, opt for a cool-coloured base topped with warm-coloured accessories.

No room should have just one type of colour tone; creating a balance between warm and cool tones is key. If you aim for a cosy ambience, use warm colours abundantly, making them the dominant scheme of the space. Next, sprinkle in a few elements of cool colours, ensuring the effect of the warm tones doesn’t get too overwhelming.


On the other hand, if you want a light and airy ambience, opt for a cool-coloured base topped with warm-coloured accessories.


Understanding Undertones


Whilst several colours distinctly fall into one of the two categories, not all hues do! For example, neutral colours can’t directly be classed as warm or cool — you’ll need to understand their undertones first.   Some neutrals have ‘blue tones’ and are classified as cool colours. Alternatively, some may have pink or yellow tones, and would be called warm colours. You may not be able to tell the difference in individual colours, but when you look at, say, a set of different grays, you’ll be able to tell the undertones apart.

Credit: Knock Off Decor


Whilst several colours distinctly fall into one of the two categories, not all hues do! For example, neutral colours can’t directly be classed as warm or cool — you’ll need to understand their undertones first.


Some neutrals have ‘blue tones’ and are classified as cool colours. Alternatively, some may have pink or yellow tones, and would be called warm colours. You may not be able to tell the difference in individual colours, but when you look at, say, a set of different grays, you’ll be able to tell the undertones apart.


Final Words


When choosing colours for your interior design project, it’s essential to think about the vibe you wish to create. Are you aiming for sleek and sophisticated or cosy and intimate? Understanding the difference between warm and cool colour tones is the first step to nailing down a colour palette that creates the exact feeling you’re looking for!


Need some help with defining your colour palette? Just book one of our Interior Design Gurus here! They can look at your space over video chat and give you tips, ideas and guidance on how to achieve an interior that you love. Or, you can book a Guru for their Mood Board services and they can do all the work for you!



👋 Get 5% Off Your First Booking

Plus updates, interior inspiration, exclusive discounts & more!

Thanks for submitting! You will receive your promo code in your email.