A Very Pink Kitchen

As an indie game developer, I have to wear a lot of hats, and sometimes, that means delving into some areas that aren't really programming-related. One of the things I have to do a surprising amount of is selecting colors for things. So, when a friend of mine presented the conundrum of decorating an incredibly pink kitchen, I thought I'd take on the challenge of coming up with colors to go with it.

I can usually eyeball my way to a good palette, but I wanted to do things in a more methodical fashion for this, in case it helps somebody else learn a few tricks.

I don't have rights to my friend's photograph (which may be from a real-estate site, anyway). So, I've sampled some colors, so you can get a notion for what's going on in this scene:


The ceiling, floor, walls, left cupboards, and back door are all light pink. The cupboards on the right are a much darker shade of pink. The counters are some indeterminate light color. The large appliances and curtains are white. There is, somewhat bizarrely, an orange backsplash behind the oven.

The easiest way out, here, is going to be to stick to charcoal and white. But we're not taking the easy way!

First, let's break down the dominant colors into swatches.


Something looks off, here, and we should probably figure out what that is, before we start trying to add more colors into the mix.

Let's start by popping these colors into Adobe's RBY color wheel, so we can visualize the relationship between these colors.


Generally, if you are using different colors together, you want them to be at least 30° apart on your color wheel. The dark pink cupboards and the orange backsplash are the right distance apart to use together, but our lighter colors are clashing with both the backsplash and the darker cupboards. You can get away with this, to a degree, with desaturated colors, but it's a risky play.

This leaves us with the somewhat awkward question of whether we should anchor our color wheel to the red and the orange, because they are more saturated, or whether we should anchor them to those pale pink walls, because there's more of that color in the room.

I'm going to guess that we want to harmonize with the more saturated colors, so let's start there. I'm going to go to a tool that I created, myself, called Colorwheely. Colorwheely is pretty handy when you just want to bang out a quick RBY or RBG color wheel for one or two anchor colors.


Now that we've got our color wheel, we should select a good accent color to offset that oppressive pinkness. We could experiment with different color harmonies, but right off the bat, I think we're going to want to avoid colors that are near the clashy mess at the top. We're probably going to get the best results from one of those southwest blues, our Complementary green at the bottom, or one of our yellows, off to the right.

So, let's start with a Complementary color:


Obviously, that green is a bit lurid for decorating with. Luckily, we can go into HSV/HSB mode in our favorite paint program, and adjust the brightness and saturation of any of our color wheel colors without shifting their relationship to the other colors. (If you don't have a tool to do this, you can try the one here.) So, let's tone this green down a bit, by adjusting the brightness and saturation.


Well, now, that's got some potential.

My RBY wheel has a very traditional painter's warm/cool split. Adobe calculates their RBY color wheel a bit differently from mine, so if you use Adobe Color CC or the wheel in Photoshop or Illustrator, you're going to come up with a somewhat bluer shade of green for your Complementary color.


At this point, I think it comes down to personal taste. I'm preferring mine, but I could make a case for either.

Let's go back to the green from my color wheel, and then pull in one of those yellows, as an accent:


Not bad! That shade of green was really hip a few years ago, so you may still be able to find a fair bit of thrifty stuff in that color. Let's try out that yellow, with one of our blues as an accent:


Yellow is very sunny in there, but I think that it might get lost on some of those paler pink surfaces.

I love this blue, and it's not really pulling its weight in my mockup of the room, but it looks good over the real photo:


Now this shade of blue is a standout in there, but you're not likely to find decor in that hue:


Anyway, I suggest tinkering with more colors from the color wheel. Eyedropper them, adjust the brightness and saturation, and block some swatches in over your photo.

Or, if all else fails, you can always just go back to charcoal and white!