When people think of tropical destinations, certain colors often come to mind. Bright, vivid hues like turquoise blue, sunshine yellow, and leafy green evoke a sense of paradise and relaxation. In interior design and fashion, these fun, cheerful tones are referred to as tropical colors. So what exactly makes a color tropical? Generally, tropical colors are bright, inviting, and reminiscent of warm, sunny climates. They include both primary colors and secondary colors which create a vibrant, playful palette. In this article, we’ll explore what specific colors are considered tropical and why they give off that breezy, island vibe.
Warm Primary & Secondary Colors
Many tropical colors come from the primary and secondary colors on the color wheel. The primary colors are red, blue and yellow. These form the foundation for all other colors when mixed together. When you combine two primary colors, you get the secondary colors of orange, green and purple. Both the primary colors and secondary colors in their warm, vivid shades convey a tropical look and feel.
Vibrant Reds, Oranges & Yellows
Warm shades of red, orange, and yellow are quintessential tropical colors. These sunny tones remind us of characteristics like fruit, flowers, sunsets and heat.
|Red||Hibiscus flowers, red papaya, poinsettias, sunsets|
|Orange||Citrus fruits, orange sunsets, coral reefs|
|Yellow||Bananas, pineapple, sunshine, beach sand|
Fire engine red, blood orange, and lemon yellow all conjure up the vivid intensity of the tropics. They create excitement and energy in interior spaces and fashion.
Vibrant Greens, Blues & Purples
Likewise, rich shades of green, blue, and purple remind us of natural tropical elements.
|Green||Palm leaves, jungle canopy, sea glass|
|Blue||Ocean, sky, peacock feathers|
|Purple||Water lilies, orchids, sunrise/sunsets|
Greens like mint, teal and forest evoke lush vegetation. Vibrant blues recall the sea and tranquil skies. And regal purples make us think of exotic tropical blooms.
Tropical Pastels & Neons
In addition to the bright warm primary and secondary colors, tropical palettes also incorporate fun pastels and neons. Soft meadow greens, creamy yellows and wispy pinks capture the colors of tropical flora and sun-faded buildings. Neons like fuchsia, acid green and electric blue have an artificial, Miami Vice vibe that screams tropical vacation.
|Seafoam green||Acid green|
|Pale peach||Hot pink|
|Butter yellow||Laser lemon|
Pastels tone down and soften some of the intensity of primary tropical hues. Neons amp up the voltage even more. Both palettes work wonderfully together to create a playful, modern tropical look.
Looking directly at tropical nature is one of the best sources of color inspiration. The natural landscapes, flora and fauna of the tropics showcase vivid, joyful hues. Specific colors associated with tropical ecosystems and geology include:
|Turquoise blue||Sea & sky|
|Lime green||Rainforest foliage|
|Coral pink||Reef organisms|
|Ocean teal||Shallow lagoons|
Remembering these colors and patterns from nature is an authentic way to add tropical flair. Look at photographs of tropical settings for more specific ideas. Mimicking the vivid turquoise waters, emerald palms, and pastel sunsets is a natural way to incorporate tropical colors.
Cultural & Historical Associations
In addition to natural landscapes, tropical cultures themselves guide the use of color. Traditional arts, textiles, architecture and handicrafts utilize symbolic, vibrant colors.
Some examples include:
|Culture||Tropical Color Associations|
|Hawaiian||Bright floral prints with yellow, orange, red and green|
|Mexican||Fiery red, green and gold tones inspired by folk art|
|Thai||Turquoise, emerald green, gold and orange tones in silk, draw upon Buddhist motifs|
|Jamaican||Red, green and gold from the flag. Reggae and Rastafarian themes.|
|Balinese||Warm metallic gold, ruby reds, black and white in batik fabrics|
Looking at the traditional arts and handicrafts of tropical cultures offers endless inspiration for vivid colors. Incorporating these meaningful tones and patterns authentically brings the tropical vibe into a space.
Beyond nature and cultural motifs, looking at tropical vacation imagery helps define the palette. Postcards, resort ads and snapshots capture the cheerful tropical aesthetic. Common colors and elements include:
|Image||Tropical Color Palette|
|Beach||Light blue, tan, white|
|Sunset||Golden yellow, orange, fuchsia, turquoise|
|Tropical drink||Lime green, bright pink|
|Flora arrangement||Deep green, exotic purples and reds|
|Sea life||Blue, aqua, touches of neon orange and yellow|
Looking at pretty tropical imagery helps define both the vivid signature colors and the tone for secondary accents. Advertising and media steer our perception of tropical aesthetics in a certain direction focused on vibrancy.
Defining a Tropical Color Palette
So how can you take inspiration from all these sources to define your own tropical color palette? Here are some tips:
- Choose your base tones from warm primary and secondary colors like orange, yellow, turquoise, fuchsia.
- Soften them with equivalent pastels.
- Pump up the energy with complementary neons.
- Add nature-inspired green, sky blue and sand.
- Incorporate cultural motifs with reds, greens, gold or black and white.
- Let sunny yellow and sea blue create a resort vibe.
A balanced tropical palette has vivid statement colors paired with softer accents. Use cultural patterns and motifs to unite the scheme. Keep the palette playful by mixing colors and textures inspired by nature. The right combinations evoke the relaxing, inspiring spirit of the tropics.
Popular Tropical Color Combinations
Certain tropical color combinations have become classics in interior design and fashion. Here are some of the most iconic pairings and trios:
|Turquoise, Coral, Lime Green||Nautical and preppy with a pop of neon|
|Robin’s Egg Blue, Citron Yellow||Classic resort palette|
|Deep Teal, Chartreuse||Lush, vibey, tropical jungle|
|Black, White, Gold||Exotic evening glamour|
|Red, Pink, Orange||Sunset palette|
Search tropical color palettes online or create an inspiration board to explore combinations. Identify a base pair like teal and yellow, then embellish with a third color like fuchsia or emerald green. Create something upbeat that transports viewers to paradise.
Using Tropical Colors in Design
How and where should you incorporate tropical colors in interior design or fashion? Here are some key tips:
- Choose statement pieces: Use tropical colors in artwork, pillows, accessories. Pops of color make more impact than all-over schemes.
- Mix patterns: Pair tropical floral, animal and geometric prints. Repeat colors across patterns for cohesion.
- Think texture: Mix glossy and matte varnishes. Combine smooth and textured fabrics. Metallics add glamour.
- Mix eras: Blend modern with antique for a cultured look. A vintage trunk or 1920s fan contrast with sleek, vivid furnishings.
- Consider restraint: Allow quiet neutrals and solids to balance vivid patterns. Not everything must scream tropical.
A blend of exuberant and restrained elements creates a refined, inviting space. Follow your tropical bliss but know when to tone it down.
Tropical colors draw inspiration from the excitement and beauty of the tropics. Vivid primary and secondary hues evoke warmth and paradise. Pastels capture sun-faded allure. Neons amp up the energy. Nature and culture provide meaningful, authentic color motifs. Icons like turquoise, citron and fuchsia transport viewers to an island state of mind. Use these invigorating colors in moderation to create your own island oasis, wherever you are.