Choosing tile colors for your decor is fun and creative. Simply, we recommend you choose a tile color you love. Of course, you’ll want to choose a tile color that works well for your space, matches the rest of your decor, and is something that you’ll enjoy looking at every day. These parameters will help you narrow your choices. Yet another thing to consider is how a particular tile color makes you feel.
Color psychology is a powerful interior design tool that takes into consideration the various emotions associated with a given color. Colors may affect how you feel, think, and act, so a crucial step in choosing the right tile color is to consider what kind of atmosphere you want to create in a given space and which color will best help achieve this atmosphere.
The Color Wheel
In physics, color is understood as our eyes’ and brain’s response to wavelengths of light reflected off of objects.
When we think of color, we often think of the paint color wheel, which posits that red, yellow, and blue are the primary colors from which all other colors are derived. Combine the primary colors and you’ll create the secondary colors of green, orange, and purple (or violet). Combinations of all of these colors create the tertiary colors and complete the color wheel: yellow-green, blue-green, blue-purple, red-purple, red-orange, and yellow-orange.
Understanding the following color wheel basics can help you use the color wheel in interior design:
- Complementary colors: Colors that sit directly opposite each other on the color wheel (such as violet and yellow or orange and blue), complementary colors typically work well as accent colors.
- Triads: Triads are colors that form a triangle on the color wheel, such as red, blue, and yellow or violet, green, and orange. While triads can work as accent colors, they need to be balanced to avoid overwhelming the space.
- Analogous colors: Analogous colors are groups of three colors that sit right next to each other on the color wheel, such as red, orange, and red-orange.
- Monochromatic colors: Monochromatic color schemes involve just one color, but can include varying shades — for example, ranging from mint to forest green.
- Cool and warm colors: Cool colors include blues, greens, and purples — colors that remind us of water or grass and thus evoke a cool feeling. Warm colors — reds, oranges, yellows, and pinks — remind us of fire or the sun, evoking a warm feeling. The use of cool or warm hues can help create a certain mood in a space.
- Noncolors: Noncolors are hues that aren’t on the color wheel (such as white, gray, black, beige, and brown), but are still important to interior design.
Tile Color Psychology
So what is the psychology behind each tile color? Let’s find out.
Beginning with what’s arguably the boldest color on the color wheel, red tile is simultaneously evocative of love, passion, and desire and of determination, power, energy, strength, danger, and war. Think of red tile as a tool to heighten the senses, raise energy levels, and stir up excitement — the kind of color that creates a memorable first impression and gets people talking.
Of course, the shade of red that you choose also makes a big difference:
- Light red: Love, passion, sexuality, sensitivity, and joy
- Pink: Love, romance, and friendship
- Reddish brown: Fall and harvest
- Dark red: Willpower, vigor, courage, leadership, and longing
How to use red tile: Red tile can work as a great accent to warm up a “cool” space, or can create a dramatic impression when used in larger applications or for an entire room (think of a red tile alcove or bathroom). Kitchens can also benefit from red tile, since red is thought to increase appetite. When used for a tile feature wall, red can visually change the proportions of long and narrow rooms.
Combine red tile with other colors to alter its impact. For example, when combined with soft grays and magentas, red can make a space feel feminine and cozy. Earth tones paired with a rustic red tile make for a warm and natural feel. In general, purple-reds emote quiet and intimacy and orange-reds are energizing.
Pink has become the brand color for breast cancer, and pink tile is following suit as a trending way to add elegance and feminine strength to home decor. Pastels such as blush tile create serene and sophisticated style, bold hues establish boho and industrial chic looks, and orangish pinks such as coral tile lend vibrant, buoyant, yet comforting vibes.
If your space needs a burst of energy, orange tile may be the right choice for you. Orange is reminiscent of the tropics, sunshine, and joy and emotes happiness, enthusiasm, encouragement, fascination, creativity, success, determination, stimulation, and attraction. It combines the warm and welcoming aspect of yellow with the excitement of red, with varying effects depending on the shade:
- Bright orange: Adventure and warmth
- Red-orange: Thirst for action, domination, pleasure, passion, and desire
- Dark orange: Confidence and ambition
- Gold: Prestige, wisdom, illumination, and wealth
While people tend to either love or hate the color orange, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute and color expert Leatrice Eisemen explains that orange is working its way up the ladder of consumer preferences — so we may see more orange tile in future projects.
How to use orange tile: Orange tile can be overwhelming if used for large applications, so consider it as an accent color or for small applications such as a backsplash. Like red, orange stimulates appetite, making it a great tile color for kitchens. Orange is also ideal for rooms that require a lot of energy, such as exercise rooms — and as an added bonus, ceramic tile is water-resistant and slip- (and sweat-) resistant!
In general, the brighter the shade of orange, the less of it you need. Likewise, paler and more muted oranges — such as apricot, peach, terra cotta orange, and dusty orange — are ideal for larger tile applications or spaces and more relaxing spaces such as bedrooms. Keep in mind that deep orange tile, while bold during the day, can feel warm and cozy in the evening.
Consider mixing a bright orange tile such as orange tile with yellow and pink accents to invoke energy and excitement, and apricot orange tile with deep grays and browns for a calmer atmosphere. Pair orange tile with gold, brown, and red tile accents or other interior decor for a harvest or fall feel.
The color of sunshine, yellow tile promotes energy, happiness, joy, and intellect. Yellow is even said to spark communication and creativity and stimulate the memory and nervous system. However, choosing the right shade of yellow is crucial, as dull yellows can be more de-energizing than uplifting, and too-bright yellows can be overwhelming:
- Dull yellow: Jealousy, sickness, decay, and caution (rarely used in interior design)
- Light yellow: Joy, freshness, and intellect
- Bright yellow: Optimism
- Deep yellow: Sophistication
How to use yellow tile: Yellow tile is ideally suited for bathrooms, kitchens, and dining rooms.
Because yellow creates the illusion of light, yellow tile is also a great choice for hallways and other windowless rooms — just look for a strong, saturated yellow shade.
The wide variety of shades of yellow tile allows much design versatility:
- Pale yellow tile gives the feeling of spaciousness.
- Muted yellow tile serves as a soothing and peaceful neutral.
- Sun-kissed yellow tile adds the warmth of sunshine to your home.
- Buttery yellow tile lends a cozy glow.
- Muted gold tile and pale ocher tile are timeless and approachable yellow shades.
- Earthy yellow tile pairs well with purple and terra cotta colors for a relaxing vibe.
- Golden tile and honey yellow tile look great with natural wood cabinetry to create a warm and welcoming kitchen atmosphere.
- Deep yellow tile with gray accents makes for a sophisticated space.
The color of grass, leaves, and other natural elements, green is also the most restful color for the eye. Green emotes renewal, growth, fertility, freshness, and harmony; using green tile can lend a sense of emotional safety, security, and calmness to a space.
- Yellow-green: Joy and cheeriness
- Aqua: Protection and emotional healing
- Olive green: Peace
- Dark green: Ambition
How to use green tile: Green tile is a color you can use in any room of the house. Explore the following ideas for incorporating green tile into your home:
- Different shades of green tile can add contrast to a monochromatic color scheme.
- When paired with wood tones, green tile establishes a natural and organic aesthetic.
- Accent light green tile with gray for a modern vibe.
- White color schemes can benefit from pops of lime green tile.
- Mix blue-green tile with grays and whites to create a relaxing atmosphere.
- Emerald green tile makes for a dramatic and elegant space.
- Evergreen, spruce, and other deep greens create a muted look and hushed mood.
- Sea green tile lends an open and airy feel to a room.
- Celery green tile is a popular and versatile choice, looking warm and relaxing in a living room, bright and clean in a bathroom, and light and airy in a kitchen.
Reminiscent of both the sky and the ocean, blue tile emotes feelings of freshness and calm, as well as strength, dependability, truth, confidence, loyalty, trust, intelligence, wisdom, faith, and heaven. This elemental color has serious benefits for both the body and mind, reducing blood pressure, slowing the heart rate and metabolism, and producing a calming effect. Of course, the impact depends on the specific shade of blue. For example:
- Light/pastel blue: Understanding, healing, health, tranquility, and softness
- Dark blue: Seriousness, integrity, power, and knowledge
- Midnight blue: Luxury
How to use blue tile: The calming effect of blue tile makes it a great addition to any space in which you want to be able to relax, such as a bedroom, bathroom, or kitchen. Blue tile is also trending for use in creative blue backsplash designs. While classic blue is Pantone’s 2020 color of the year, numerous blue tile shades allow you to create a specific mood with your design:
- Bright French blue tile and sunflower yellow accents make for a cheerful combination.
- Sapphire blue tile adds a burst of energy to a space.
- Sky blue, baby blue, and other light blue tile makes a room feel tranquil, and can even visually enlarge a room if used on the ceiling.
- Navy blue tile and other dark shades lend a touch of drama.
- Blue and green tile are a classic combination that’s said to be calming.
- Teal and turquoise tile create a beachy aesthetic.
- Vibrant blue tile works well as a statement or accent.
- Blue and white tile create a refreshing look when combined.
- Midnight blue tile accented with amethyst hues is the ultimate luxurious look.
Purple is associated with luxury and creativity and is purported as the favorite color of pre-adolescents. A combination of bold red and calming blue, purple tile can be either vibrant or understated, depending on the shade or tone: Dark purples are rich, dramatic, sophisticated, eccentric, exotic, and regal, whereas lighter shades are soft and soothing.
How to use purple tile: Purple tile is a great tool to add depth to or brighten up a neutral design scheme. If you’re looking to create a specific vibe with your purple tile, pay special attention to the shade:
- Dark purple tile adds a mysterious vibe to a room and creates the perfect backdrop to show off silver and crystal accents.
- Neon purple tile makes a bold and edgy statement.
- Combine purple tile with pastel tile or pastel accents for a hip feel.
- Eggplant purple tile paired with crisp white tile accents or trim creates a sophisticated and lush look.
- Mix purple tile with soft greens and/or blues for a tranquil color palette.
- Make your space more lively by pairing mustard yellows with mid-tone purple tile.
- Light purple tile shades such as lavender tile and lilac tile add a soft and soothing feeling to a room — or a happy vibe, when paired with colors such as chartreuse or aqua.
- A combination of raspberry and black, claret tile adds richness to a design scheme.
- African violet tile and other warm purple shades create a sense of coziness.
White emotes purity, cleanliness, perfection, innocence, completion, wholeness, peace, calm, hope, comfort, encouragement, and protection and signifies a blank palette or clean slate. White tile alleviates emotional turbulence and creates a sense of order and efficiency, helping to declutter your mind and your life. As a result, white tiled interiors feel clean and fresh — think of Scandinavian design with its tendency toward all-white spaces and sparse decoration, as well as Hygge design that uses white, light, and neutral colors for simplicity and to promote a sense of space and calm.
How to use white tile: White tile can make a room look bigger, but can also seem cold, sterile, or barren if it’s not balanced with other colors or accent pieces. The undertone of the white tile also makes a big difference: White tile with yellow undertones looks soft, creamy, and relaxing, which is a great option to soften any warm or neutral color scheme. White tile with blue undertones looks crisp and striking.
All-white tile bathrooms have been a popular trend since the Victorian era, and white subway tile is a classic backsplash choice. White tile pairs well with black tile in classic designs such as the octagon and dot pattern and checkerboard tile. White tile’s broad use makes it a staple for many decor styles, such as farmhouse, transitional, and minimalism.
Gray brings calmness, serenity, and sophistication. While solid grays and grays with cool undertones signalize strength and confidence, softer grays and grays with warm undertones create a sense of delicacy, comfort, and thoughtfulness.
How to use gray tile: Gray tile is often used as a neutral backdrop to make other colors pop. Mixing different shades or tones of gray can also create a look of understated elegance, such as the photo above. Additional ideas for using gray tile include:
- Greige tile is the perfect option when you can’t quite decide between gray or beige.
- Slate-gray tile with chartreuse accents creates a stylish look with personality.
- Cloud gray tile with fawn or ecru accents establishes a soft and inviting atmosphere.
- Dove gray tile combines well with violets and plums for a soothing and soft aesthetic.
- Shades of grey are emerging as the backdrop for industrial chic approaches to home and workplace decor.
- Natural stone look-tile allows you to embrace a gray color scheme but with a little more visual interest.
Black tile is associated with luxury, elegance, and sophistication and, when used heavily in a color scheme, creates a sense of mystery, drama, and power. This go-to color manages to be simultaneously traditional and modern — a fail-proof option to create a timeless and chic look.
How to use black tile: Black tile can be a bit overwhelming when used heavy-handedly, so be sure to limit it to single applications or small rooms (for example, black tile bathrooms are currently trending). Black tile also works as a great accent or contrasting element, as it helps balance other colors so that they stand out more.
Black and white tile is a classic combination, whether in patterns such as checkerboard tile or octagon and dot tile, black marble-look tile with white veining, or pairings of black tile with stark white grout that emphasizes the layout pattern. Red and silver are also classic complements to your black tile.
Beige & Brown Tile
The color of wood, brown symbolizes nature and evokes nature’s stability, security, groundedness, and relaxing quality. This robust, weighty color adds an earthy richness to interior decor that makes a space feel warm and inviting, encouraging your family and friends to stop and unwind.
How to use beige and brown tile: Brown tile often has a traditional look, but that’s not always the case — the mood your brown tile creates relies heavily on the shade of brown or beige and any other design elements in the space. Design tips for brown and beige tile include:
- A lovely way to use brown tile is to contrast dark and light shades and mix textures, such as the wood-look tile pictured above.
- Brown tile is a good choice to emphasize (and tone down) bolder colors such as orange or lime green.
- Blues and greens both benefit from brown accents.
- Pair brown tile with aqua accents to create a light and airy vibe, or with burgundy for a swanky look.
- Light brown shades of tile such as beige, linen, and flax lend warm sophistication to a space and create inviting neutrals for minimalism, farmhouse, and traditional decors.
- For a feminine color scheme that’s ideal for a young girl’s bathroom or bedroom, combine brown and pink tile.
- Soften masculine brown tile with lighter shades of other colors.
- Combining brown tile with cool blue accents elicits the look and feel of the earth and sky.
Maybe our exploration of different colors has helped you realize you want to incorporate multiple colors into your tile application. If that’s the case, you have numerous options:
- Alternate tiles of different colors to create a unique design (think checkerboard tile), or simply sprinkle same-shaped tiles of another color into your layout to add visual interest.
- Patterned tile offers limitless options for multicolor geometric, floral, Art Deco, Spanish-modern, and other designs.
- Mosaic tile allows you to creatively combine tiles of different colors and shapes.
- Trending ombre tile blends one tile color into another, usually from light to dark or vice versa.
- Use a staggered tile transition to go from one color tile to another.
- Variegated tile exhibits different shades in irregular streaks or patches to create a natural or rustic look and is a common beauty trait of handmade tile. Variegated looks are also never more glamorous than in gemstone-look ceramic tile.
- Shimmery iridescent tile creates the impression of multiple colors, depending on the lighting and angle of view.
- Options for different grout colors can completely change the look of your tile and draw attention to your unique layout.
Live in Color
We hope you’ve found a tile color (or combination) that speaks to your personality and the mood you want to create in your home. Whatever color of tile you go with, be sure to choose a color that makes your home look — and makes you feel — your best!