Understanding Color Cast and Undertones

DaVinci color cast undertones
September 26, 2022 at 6:00 a.m.

By Kate Smith, Sensational Color.

Learn more about undertones and color cast to help make the best decision regarding the color of your home.

When you’re looking at your home’s exterior and considering colors, there are two terms that frequently come up. Whether you’re peering at paints or roofing colors, you may come up against the phrases “color cast” and “undertones.”

Let’s explore these two color terms so you understand them.

Understanding undertones

Now, when thinking about the undertones of color, it’s safe to say that color is more than what the eye actually sees.

Look at a stop sign, or a traffic light, or a fire truck… and you’ll see red. But take a closer look and you’ll see that each of these reds has a unique quality that is at first concealed. One may have a tinge of orange or appears to have more depth than the other. That’s part of the color’s undertone. It’s often “hidden” until you really focus in on it.

To understand undertone, you need to know that colors have both mass tone and undertone. Mass tone is the color you immediately see. Undertone is the characteristic of the color that is often concealed when a color is viewed on its own. Undertones become more apparent when a color is place near other colors.

The more intense and purer the color, the less you need to be concerned with underlying colors. Undertones live in the domain of whites and neutrals. You might not even see a neutral's undertone unless you know to look for it. In my experience, either not recognizing, or incorrectly identifying undertone causes most color mishaps.

Beige generally has one of five undertones — yellow/gold, orange/peach, red/pink, warm green or taupe (purplish-brown or gray-brown).

Beige with a yellow and orange undertone is warm and described as tan. Beige with reddish undertones reminds people of malted milk. Beige with warm green leans towards khaki and feels at home in lush green surroundings. Taupe undertones push beige towards gray and can be an excellent color to use alongside stonework.

Most grays have one of four undertones – neutral or cool green, blue-green, blue, and greige, and the gray version of taupe or purplish-brown. To figure out the undertone, compare similar colors to see the differences. White can have an undertone of any color, making viewing a larger sample where you will apply the paint essential to choosing the right white. 

It’s important to “Find the Undertones.” Visit DaVinci’s story on undertones for more details on this direction. You’ll also learn about creating harmonies with colors and how to understand neutral colors and undertones!

Identifying color cast

Color cast describes the overall color of the stone, brick, roofing, or other hardscape materials. To say any of these is a single color would not do them justice since the beauty is in the depth and variations of tones.

Understanding color cast, especially for homes partially or entirely covered in brick or stone, is essential when changing a home's exterior. Color cast is a better way to describe the color of these materials. Generally, these surfaces are not a solid color but a mix of colors; of those, the cast is the predominant color. When there is a repetition of the color cast on the roof and in the paint colors, all hues harmonize, and the home exudes curb appeal.

The color casts may seem as elusive as the undertones of paint, but you can see them more quickly once you know to look for them. Seven color casts of brick and five in stone are standard for residential construction.

Brick is red, pink, cream/tan, white, gray, brown, or black and stone is gray, brown, tan, cream/greige, or white.

Whether brick or stone highlights the entrance or covers the entire home, coordinating the roof and color scheme with the cast in these materials creates a harmonious exterior color palette.

If you’re interested, I also have a great story on the DaVinci Roofscapes website entitled “Color Lesson: Defining Colors” that is a natural follow-up to talking about colorcast.

And, remember you can always visit my website at Sensational Color to gain free color insights, explore color and connect with me!

Have a question? AskARoofer

Find your local roofing contractor in the RoofersCoffeeShop® Contractor Directory. 

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