It’s interesting. There are probably an infinite number of colors. No two people see exactly the same color when looking at the same thing. Some people will see very subtle differences in colors. A small percentage of colorblind people don’t see any color at all, while most can’t see differences between specific colors. Synesthetes see color in relation to senses other than sight.
A color related phenomenon that baffles me is a fear of color, or a fear of using color. I really don’t know what there is to be afraid of. I’ve heard “What if it’s the wrong color?” Well, what makes it “wrong?” If you don’t like a color, don’t use it. If a color creates a negative mood (I do get that), don’t use it. If too much color agitates you, keep it simple. If it’s wrong because it’s not current… Don’t get me started. A few years ago I submitted a photo of my living room to a home décor forum to try and figure out why it wasn’t coming together for me. I knew it had something to do with the arrangement and stated I was very happy with the colors. In every single response I got, the first thing I was told was to get rid of the yellow walls. I love my yellow walls, so I didn’t change them. A few years later my son helped me rearrange the furniture and that solved my problem with my living room. If I’d received a response like those from the forum from a designer I’d hired, they’d be fired on the spot.
If you’re doing the color work for someone else, of course make sure they like it. I have learned to appreciate something I could never live with as long as I don’t have to live with it. For example, a room with black walls was stunning, but not what I’d like for myself. But if it’s for yourself, who cares what anyone else thinks as long as you like it. Way back in the early 70s I had a pair of yellow slacks and a red vest I loved to wear. My mother was so appalled that she refused to go anywhere with me when I wore that outfit. They were both colors she never wore, even separately. I didn’t care. I loved it, felt good in it, and would not get rid of it, as she suggested.
“But what if I decide I don’t like it after all? It’s not what I pictured.” Change it! Try something else. I once had pink and blue living room walls. It looked okay and blended with my adjoining dining room. I like both colors, but it was not as I’d pictured (should have been more turquoise and terra cotta). We moved before I could repaint (and the man who bought the house said he really liked the living room colors), but, if I’d stayed there, I would have painted the room yellow after I saw how much I liked the yellow hallway there.
I use colors I like. My home interior is lavender, yellow (a lot of yellow–obviously a color a lot of people don’t like or consider “wrong”), wine red, apple green, terra cotta, pastel green and a soft green. Blue is one of my favorite colors, but it’s too often depressing and cold on walls, so no blue. I have pale, pastel blue ceilings, which didn’t really work out as I’d hoped. They are very slowly being repainted white. Except in my lavender bedroom. In there I have a deep sky blue ceiling with white clouds. Not at all depressing! My studio, which used to be the family room, was painted pink. That was a big mistake! (We wanted to coordinate with the raspberry carpet, which also turned out to be something we disliked.) The soft green made a better family room and is a great studio wall. My son had a black, orange and blue room for about six months. He liked it. It’s my lavender bedroom, now, repainted as soon as he moved out.
With clothing, I avoid pretty much any color with yellow in it. That’s simply because those colors make my skin look sallow (except, oddly, clear, pure yellow). I really like turquoise, coral, and bright greens, but I don’t want to wear them. Tans, beiges, and browns are not great for me either. I’ll stick to clear colors, mostly jewel tones, for clothing. Pure back and white are my neutrals. Goodwill benefited from my color learning with clothing.
I don’t know what can’t be changed, but I do understand that sometimes it can be a big expense to change. Wallpaper would be too expensive to change. Except where I knew for certain what I wanted, that’s why I chose paint. I’d probably play it safe for painting the exterior of the house, or getting new siding. If I were sewing my clothing, I’d do my color experimenting with accessories and less expensive fabrics, first, until I knew what worked for me.
Considering artistic adventures (painting, quilting, embroidering), is it even necessary to change anything? Isn’t art about experimenting and learning from mistakes. And if you’re using your artistic knowledge, including basic color theory, there’s a good chance that someone, somewhere will like what you consider a failure (sometimes even if it’s a total artistic breakdown).
Similar to fear of using color is being uncomfortable using some colors. I may be wrong, but this simply seems to be not enjoying working with colors you don’t particularly like. If you’re working for someone else (commission work, a gift, professionally–like an interior designer), it’s something you must overcome. Otherwise, use the colors you want. And if you need or want to overcome the discomfort, using the “uncomfortable” colors is the only way to overcome it.
For many years now, when asked what my favorite color is, I answer “all of them” (or sometimes, as a friend answered, “all of them–mixed together”). It wasn’t always so. Once I would have said I really dislike brown or I hate orange. Somewhere along the line I realized that I don’t want to wear these colors because they’re not flattering colors on me, and I don’t want them dominating my surroundings. Beyond that, I actually like them. It surprises me how much I’ve chosen orange for embroidery in the past year or two. In a place where grays and browns are mostly what’s outside for nearly nine months of the year, I definitely don’t want them to dominate the interior. But sometimes (particularly if creating a landscape in any media) those are the perfect colors. They evoke the sense of Autumn (even if it’s not a landscape), with or without a dash of red, orange, and yellow. Even if primary colors aren’t your thing, bold red, white, and blue evoke a sense of patriotism in several countries. When I was little, I hated green. I don’t know why, but now, green, especially many different greens together, evokes nature in various forms.
[And sometimes, even when I do have a “plan” for my post when I start, I can get lost on a tangent and forget what I originally intended.]