Why Orange Will Never Be the New Black


Orange, a secondary colour that sits between red and yellow on the colour wheel has both a warm overtone and a warm undertone.

No matter which you way you alter it, adding black to shade just makes a deeper orange, white tints it lighter, grey softens it, yellow makes a yellow-orange and red makes a red-orange, all of them remain warm undertone.   Add blue to orange and it stops being orange, but you can’t cool it down with blue until there is so much blue in it it becomes a warm grey and no longer orange.

Orange is a gorgeous, yummy warm colour that is fun and friendly.

This is why orange can never be the new black.

Orange is warm.

Black is cool.

They just aren’t in the same family.


Like any colour – orange has three colour properties:

Value – how dark or light it is, overall it sits on the medium to light end of the value spectrum

Intensity – how bright or muted it is, you can have brighter and more muted oranges

Undertone – how warm or cool it’s temperature.  The more yellow in the orange the warmer it becomes, but a red-orange is still warm!

You can see in the image above that there are brighter oranges and more muted ones.  Lighter oranges and darker ones.  But they are just all warm – there are no cool oranges.  Orange should never appear in a cool colour palette.  If it does, then there is something wrong!

nderstanding the colour properties of orange and how to mix it with other colours



What to Wear with Orange

Orange works with warm colours (because of its warm undertone).  You can mix it in all sorts of colour schemes..

Understanding the colour properties of orange and how to mix it with other coloursOrange works beautifully with all sorts of other warm undertone colours and you will just want to consider its intensity when mixing it with other colours.  Brighter oranges work with other brighter colours, softer more muted oranges work better with other softer more smoky colours.Understanding the colour properties of orange and how to mix it with other colours

What to mix with orange?  That will depend on your colour contrast (that is how many colours you should wear at the same time and what kinds of colour schemes suit you) which you can find out more about here, and of course, your personality preferences.

  • Mixing orange with the warmer neutrals of gorgeous brown, beige and camel makes for a harmonious and delicious feel.
  • Put it with something next door on the colour wheel (analogous) such as the warm reds and pinks, or go the other way to the yellow oranges and yellows for a great combination that is easy to wear.
  • Add either green or violet to your orange outfit and you’ve moved into triadic territory which creates a brighter more vibrant look.
  • Really want your orange to pop?  Then team it with warm blues as they create a complementary colour scheme and make each other look bright and vibrant.

Which colours do you like to wear with orange?

More Orange Tips and Reading

How to Overdye Difficult Colours Such as White, Beige, Navy and Orange

What’s Your Happy Colour?

Psychology of Colour – Orange

What is Navy and What Colours Work Well With It?

How To Make Your Colours Pop

How to Mix Colours

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  • Love orange and just can’t get enough of it (fabric) I wear orange tops with navy, brown and white and navy spots with my orange skirt. Not to mention my cycadelic orange knit that I have in a top and tights, love it.

  • I love burnt orange accessories, small cross body, earrings, bracelets, scarves, whatever!! This color goes well with my Spicy color family, olive, teal, tan, brown. Thanks, Imogen, I love my colors,,
    You are the best!!
    Faithful fan,

  • Orange is one of my favorite colors, which probably puts me squarely in a minority as a female! I just have been working on my style recipe and the first word (the one thing that my style must always be) is warm, so this article just made me smile.

    As a Soft Autumn I trend towards the bottom left side of your chart, with the tones of orange. It is a great visual spectrum for comparison.

    Love your blog Imogen!


  • Orange is great… as a fruit. That’s pretty much where it stops for me.
    I think it’s the single trickiest colour, because – unlike all others – it cannot be “made to” fit a person with a cool colouring. There are “warm” blues, but there are no “cool” oranges, so it will always and inevitably look wrong on someone like me.

    I still turn (cool!) green with envy at the sight of my favourite kind of orange: natural red hair on those blessed with copper tresses.
    The beauty, the beauty.

  • Imogen, I feel like you have read the depths of my mind – I have been loving orange lately, to the point where most of my wardrobe is some hue of orange and even my decor is as well. After a couple years of trying to nail down my coloring/best colors, I finally realized orange is the best color on the wheel for me, and I am embracing it fully! It’s too bad it is such a highly disliked color, but your article definitely explains why. Thanks for sharing.

  • Finally I understand the color orange much better! I feel like it has been imposed upon me since I was a child, and I never knew how I felt about it. I love it, and I’m always told I look healthy, or alive when I wear shades of bright, clear orange. I never realized that yellow makes it warmer. I’m finally understanding color so much better! (except yellow… I can’t figure out yellow. I just know that yellow is not my color, but I can’t figure out why)

  • I particularly love tomato-y red orange (used to be a redhead) and wear it with bright aqua, bright buttery or saffron yellow, bright slightly blue-ish (not lemon-y) greens, and neutral prints like gold, warm gray, caramel, brown. I also like it with neutral navy or dusty blue bottoms, particularly when accessorized with one of the other bright colors I named.

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