What Are Mid-Tone or Medium Colors and How Do They Affect Your Mood?

Colorful mood meter with emoticons in different mid-tone or medium colors

We all know that colors can affect our moods. Even art institutions like the Bauhaus went to great lengths to explore how colors impact the psyche. You don’t have to do any reading to discover the interplay of mood and color, just pay attention to how you feel the next time you look at a bright splash of yellow or a swath of deep blue.

Whether you want to learn more about colors for your own edification or because you want to take on an art or interior design project, understanding just how colors shape your moods can be a worthwhile and rewarding experience. Today, we’ll be taking a look at mid-tone colors, also known as medium colors, and how they can affect your mood.

What Are Mid-Tone or Medium Colors?

Before we start delving into just how mid-tone or medium colors shape your mood, it’s a good idea to review their definition. On a value scale from completely white to completely black, mid-tone colors sit in the middle. This means they aren’t too dark or too light. The mid-tones strike a balance. They aren’t overly bright and airy-seeming like high key colors, but they don’t risk coming off as overly dark or oppressive as low key colors sometimes can.

How Do Mid-Tone Colors Affect Your Mood?

Girl painting wall from cloudy gray to clear mid-tone blue sky bringing positive vibes and a better mood

We’ve known that different colors, as well as different tones of the same color, can shape mood for quite some time now. In fact, some alternative medicine practitioners have even started offering color therapy as an adjunct therapy for clients. Color-focused meditations, color workshops, and even being in the presence of a colored light can all be a part of color therapy.

However, you don’t have to be a firm believer in the practice of color therapy in order to choose a color palette for your next project. Today we’ll be focusing on mid-tone colors and their specific effects on mood. When you think of a mid-tone color, you probably think of something fairly standard. The crayons labeled simply as “blue” or “red” are often mid-tone versions of their respective colors.

You may also think of these colors as being easy to live with. Much of this is due to the fact that the mid-tone colors have a natural balance between light and dark. They are bright enough to be noticed but not so bright that they command your complete attention. In some cases, especially if you’re designing an interior with all mid-tone colors, they can run the risk of appearing too dull.

The balance in these colors lends them a kind of quiet confidence. And when your living space is full of mid-tones, you’re likely to feel more confident and comfortable, too. Depending on the exact mid-tone used, these colors can make you feel as though you’re safe and in a cocoon of sorts. However, since they aren’t overly dark, mid-tones aren’t likely to make you feel trapped or suffocated.

Essentially, surrounding yourself with medium colors is likely to support a medium mood: confidence without cockiness, peace without languishing. This type of color scheme may not be for everyone, but when executed well, a color scheme using primarily mid-tone colors can make for a beautiful living space.

What Other Factors Affect Mood?

The tone of a color, while it’s very important to mood, isn’t the only thing that shapes how you feel. Color psychology also holds that different colors have near-universal emotional effects. If you’re planning an interior or an art project with a mid-tone palette, you probably want to make sure that the colors you choose for it have the intended emotional effect on your audience or visitors.

Emotional Effects of Mid-Tone Colors

Illustration of human face silhouette in medium colors symbolizing emotional effects on the mind

Here are some common colors and the emotions they often evoke, especially when mid-tone versions are used.


Red is an interesting study in color psychology. It’s linked to danger (likely because many venomous animals, like the black widow, have a red patch or spot to warn off potential predators). It’s also linked to both love/passion and anger/aggression, which makes it somewhat contradictory. This is a good candidate for a mid-tone color scheme. The added darkness can mute some of red’s more aggressive connotations. A mid-tone red can look regal without becoming overpowering.


Blue is a trustworthy, stable color, although it is often associated with sadness. A mid-tone blue is likely to offer a sense of peace and calm, which is often appealing. However, a darker mid-tone blue may run the risk of inspiring sadness. As a side note, blue is also associated with productivity, making it a good choice if you’re planning to paint a home office soon. It’s fairly common to see high key blues used to paint walls, but medium blues can be every bit as beautiful, if not more so.


Plenty of people associate green with nature, and it’s said to be a calming color. This is why performers often wait in “green rooms”. The soothing color can help them relax before their moment in the spotlight. Mid-tone greens in particular can be very soothing. They have a good mix between the green of new grasses and the darker, calming green of a forest.


This color is associated with optimism, happiness, and warmth. However, it reflects more light than other colors, so it can be a little overwhelming. Thus, a mid-tone yellow can be a nice compromise if you’re looking for something that’s energizing but not overstimulating. In particular, jewel-toned yellows can add a cozy effect to any room.


Purple may seem like an uncommon interior, but it can be a beautiful addition if it’s used in the right way. Purple is largely associated with spirituality, imagination, royalty, and even mystery. A mid-tone purple can be a soothing, comforting color to look at, especially if it’s balanced out with lighter accents or accessories.


Brown might sound extraordinarily dull, but a mid-tone brown can add a rustic feel to your home. Brown is a color that inspires a sense of stability and reliability. That can be a good thing, but lots of people find that brown is too dull for their tastes. If you like the idea of the secure feeling that brown brings, you can always balance out brown walls with some brighter furniture. This is the advantage of a neutral palette for your walls. Neutrals will go with just about every color, although it’s usually good to keep mid-tones with mid-tones.


Orange is generally considered an emotional color, and many people see it as enthusiastic and happy. However, like yellow, orange can be seen as a very loud color. By choosing a mid-tone orange for your interior, you can get some of orange’s cheery glow without the intense energy, which is a decent compromise.


Pink interiors may be somewhat uncommon, but this color, especially when used in a mid-tone, can have a calming effect. Pink is often associated with romance, but its calming influence is well-established. Some jails even use pink walls to help calm inmates down.

Using Mid-Tone Colors in Interior Design

Mid-tone colored wall in Scandinavian style interior with armchair. Minimalistic interior design

As you can see, choosing a mid-tone color palette has some advantages, especially when it comes to creating an atmosphere that feels comfortable and safe. But choosing the colors you want to use is an equally important part of creating a room that feels balanced.

We mentioned above that mid-tone rooms run the risk of appearing dull. In this case, there are a few things you can do to brighten up the atmosphere. One thing you can do is to incorporate a complementary color into the space. Pieces of furniture or accent pieces are a good way to do this. This can make the wall color effectively “pop.”

Another tip is to make sure the space has enough light, preferable natural light. This is because mid-tones are a little darker than many color palettes, and in rooms with little light, they can start to feel suffocating.

Keep in Mind That Different Colors Affect People Differently

Color theory is not an exact science, and people may react differently to different colors. Part of the reason for it to be inexact is the fact that people’s individual experiences, cultural differences, and personal preferences impact how they see a color. It’s wise to keep this in mind, especially if you’re planning to design a space for someone else.

Mid-tone colors are generally safe in terms of emotions, but it’s a good idea to check with a client before choosing a color scheme. Depending on a person’s experiences or beliefs (or even personal preferences), they may react strongly to certain colors.

Wrapping Up

The color world has its bright, energetic high key colors and its darker, brooding low key colors. But it also needs mid-tone colors, which achieve some much-needed balance between light and dark. When you choose mid-tone colors as a part of your project, you’re choosing a safe, comfortable palette that’s just bold enough.