Understanding the science of colour

Behind every colour combination there is science, art, culture and tradition that influences what works and what doesn’t. This is particularly true for roofing and building. 


This article is aimed at people who are in the process of choosing a new roof and want to understand a little more about how colour works.

For those wanting to cut to the chase, perhaps the best rule of thumb is this - if it works in Nature, then chances are it will work everywhere else. 

In fact, some of the most adventurous and outrageous combinations of colour are seen in animals, birds, flowers, trees and landscapes. Oh, and don’t forget reptiles, fish and insects.

For humans, a number of rules have evolved over the centuries, particularly since the time when humans first picked up a paint brush and began experimenting.

But any discussion about colour should really start with what it actually is.

Light and colour are intrinsically linked – without one we wouldn’t have the other. What we see as colour is actually light shining on an object. Some colours bounce off it, while others are absorbed by it.

In the worlds of fashion, design, art, beauty and even marketing, certain colour rules define the combinations that work best together. Again, these are often dictated by environmental and lighting conditions. 

And when it comes to architecture, understanding what colours work naturally can help you create a space that’s both interesting and harmonious.

The Colour Wheel

The use of a colour wheel is a good starting point. This device shows the full array of hues, tints, tones and shade. 

Hue is a colour in its purest form. Tint, tone, and shade are all derivatives of Hue. Tint = hue + white, tone = hue + grey, shade = hue + black. These four elements are used to create the colour your eyes see.

Saturation relates to the intensity or vividness of a particular colour.  Highly saturated colours are vibrant and intense, while those that are desaturated appear softer and more muted.   

Colours also have a certain ‘ranking’.  When we talk about primary colours we’re referring to red, yellow and blue. These are the three colours that cannot be created by mixing others together. They can, however, be blended with other colours to create many more. 

Secondary colours, on the other hand, are those that are formed after mixing each one of the primary colours together. Yellow + red = orange, red + blue = purple, blue + yellow = green.

Tertiary colours are the colours that are made from mixing secondary colours together along with primary colours. Creating the likes of lime, coral and teal. 

Hot colours are also cool

Colours are then defined in terms of temperature. Cool colours, for example, are all derived from shades of blue, also known as cool hues. Warm colours are based around hues of red, orange and yellow. 

Then there are colours that are defined as ‘neutral’. These colours are understated and are designed to go with any other colour. They include the likes of black, beige, taupe and olive. 

Finally, there are the complementary colours that sit opposite each other on the colour wheel. These are blue and orange, red and green, yellow and purple and so on.  Used together they create enormous contrast which can be eye-catching, particularly when they’re in full saturation.

The COLORSTEEL® colour palette has been developed with all of this in mind. It features a range of contrasting and complementary tones to blend in with, or balance, other parts of your colour scheme. 



Cladding, joinery and other building items have to work as one. Make sure you think about the big picture when deciding on colours, rather than choosing each element separately. 

Technical Info

Test. Test. And test again.

“Our customers can be confident that before we hand it over to them, we’ve put their roof through more trials than they ever will.” Dr Troy Coyle, Manager of Innovation...

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