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The Muted Color Palette

definition of muted colors

When we think of the term “muted” we think quiet and unassuming. This is true insofar as a muted palette is one of desaturated and dulled colors.

symbolism of color


The color black is an important one in a desaturated color palette, even though it is more often than not associated with sadness, morbidity, and grief.


Blue is the color of the sky and the sea so it is considered to symbolize openness and honesty. In art, as well as in daily life, the color blue represents trust, wisdom, and good character.


When we think of muted colors, most of us will probably immediately think of brown. It is an earth tone, reminiscent of trees and soil, and is one of the most restful of colors on the spectrum.


Muted colors are also known as “grayed” colors. Gray creates a sense of peace and is at the same time symbolic of restraint and caution.


Green symbolizes growth and new creation; it is the color of nature. There are myriad tones of green, the more muted of which have a calming effect on viewers.


This is a lively color that is associated with spontaneity and youthful fearlessness. It invigorates the brain and stimulates positive mental activity.


There is an argument in artistic circles that white can either be considered a color in itself, or the absence of color. For our purposes, we deem white a color and one that is associated with purity and freshness.


Purple s a regal, luxurious color, particularly the darker shades. It should be used carefully, however, because it can engender feelings of sadness and despondency.


Yellow represents sunshine, light, and warmth, and creates feelings of happiness and hope in viewers. It is an optimistic, summery color that gives the feeling that everything is right in the world.


Red is a dynamic color that is symbolic of many positive emotions such as love, excitement, strength, and power. Conversely, red is also the color of danger so it should be used frugally.

using a muted color palette

If your base colors comprise a dull color palette you will have more control over your focal point and where you direct the eye to look.


Muted colors, also known as dull colors, consist of a desaturated color palette. As the name suggests, when you want to create a muted color you would tone it down by mixing it with gray.


More often than not, journalers choose colored ink over black ink as it is more visually appealing to them. Conversely, digital devices come in muted colors such as black, white, and silver or gray.

famous paintings with a muted color palette


Composition in Red, Blue, and Yellow (1929) Piet Mondrian


The Ballet Class (1871) Edgar Degas


Fishing Boats on the Beach (1888) Vincent Van Gogh


Whistler’s Mother (1871) James McNeil Whistler