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Shades of the Earth : The Earthy Palette

Updated: May 24, 2022

Discovering the subtle nuances of the calming Earthy colour palette by picking up shades from the earth, and from everyday scenes around us.

The bold brown notes of the soil. The muted crimson of earthen pots. The soft beige brown of jute cloth. The soft sunlight flickering in through the cracks of a window. The dark green of the trees after rain. There is a reason why Robert Frost wanted to travel miles in the dark and lovely woods.

The earthy palette is picked up from elements of nature. Think: rust, marigold, burnt sienna brown, terracotta, sage, turmeric, red oxidized floors, maple and more. The colours are infused in the sight of everyday life, be it the pots from the kitchens, the tint of floors or a look into Indian spices.

There is something undeniably calming and grounding about the shades of the earth, the neutral tones resting in the quiet moments of tranquility that surrounds it. As artists and designers, we are drawn by the humble shades of the earth palette.

Colours have the power to evoke emotions and they serve as an excellent medium of expression. Earthy tones, in our experience, have a very calming effect and even a minimal composition can feel warm and familiar because of the tones and textures. When used as the subject or as background, these colours adapt to the composition and stand out. We prefer to let the colours and textures interact, making sure it looks as natural as possible.

While composing any frame using the earthy tones as backdrop, it is important to understand how to play the nuances of the palette against the subject. Picking the right hue from the palette is crucial, like here for example, the muted colour of the jute background serves as the perfect base to highlight the use of orange and green plates.

The simplicity of the earthy tones stands out in how you want to style it. Often it allows the subject to stand out as it subtly compliments it or when used as the main subject, it gives off a calm and grounded scheme. Unlike standard neutral colours, earth tone colours give off a chic and classy vibe. They make an elegant statement on their own, but also create a gorgeous symphony of colour when paired together.

There is an unspoken connection between colours and smells, especially when we explore a colour palette. A lot of colours are inspired by the sense of smell. Right after heavy rain, when you smell the faint earthy aroma of the ground you can imagine the highlighted brown and green tones of the trees even before you see it. Brewing ground coffee and feeling the intense aroma of coffee beans captivate you as you pour the dark liquid into your cup. And this blend of emotions can be used as inspiration when working with earthy tones for a composition.

When we look carefully, we find the comfort of the earth palette everywhere around us, especially in certain Indian architecture styles. Indian homes have been using red and yellow oxide, a sustainable and eco friendly flooring for generations. The cool oxide floors are reminiscent of childhood nostalgia and a sense of home, especially common in South India.

Be it the terracotta pots that our grandmothers used to store achaar in, or the way the city looks in the monsoon season, or autumn leaves- the versatility of the earth colours is rooted in a sense of comfort and calmness resonated in its presence.

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