The Atlantic

What Makes a Color Warm?

Languages have more words to describe reds than blues.
Source: Chris Hondros / Getty

The internet abounds with techniques for teaching elementary schoolers the difference between warm and cool colors—an often-invisible, somewhat flexible line down the middle of the color wheel to separate warm reds, oranges, yellows, and browns from cool blues, greens, purples, and grays. The balance between them is said to enhance the beauty of Baroque landscapes and the Mona Lisa. Interior designers claim that cool colors recede and make rooms expand, while warm colors make rooms cozier.

Still, the basis for the warm-cool divide has remained murky, largely resting on the sometimes ambiguous and overlapping feelings different colors give

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