Art History Lab

The Enchanting World of Pastel Colors: History, Psychology, and Design Inspiration

Colors play an important role in our lives, and they affect our moods, emotions and behaviors. One of the most popular color palettes is the pastel colors.

They are loved by many for their softer and lighter versions of the vibrant colors and for adding visual appeal to different objects and designs. In this article, we will delve into the world of pastel colors and explore their history, definition, characteristics, and how you can create them.

to Pastel Colors

Definition and Characteristics of Pastel Colors

Pastel colors are colors that are softer versions of the vibrant colors. They are characterized by their low saturation and high value/luminance.

According to the color theory, the pastel colors are created by adding white or grey to the vibrant colors. They are also situated on the lighter side of the color wheel.

Some of the common pastel colors include pastel pink, pastel blue, pastel green, pastel yellow, and pastel purple, among others. These colors help to create an ambiance of calmness and serenity and are commonly used in homes, clothing, and designs.

Creating Pastel Colors and Color Codes

Creating pastel colors is by adding white to the vibrant colors to create tints or by adding black to create shades. The ratio of adding white or black will depend on the desired color shade.

You can also use different amounts of color pigments to create varying shades of pastel colors. The HSV (Hue, Saturation, Value) color system is used to create and manipulate colors.

You can use a color picker tool to select your desired color and adjust the value around 50-60% to create a pastel color.

In addition, the pastel colors have their unique hex codes, as shown below:

– Pastel Blue #AEC6CF

– Pastel Yellow #FDFD96

– Pastel Green #77DD77

– Pastel Purple #B19CD9

– Pastel Pink #FFD1DC

History of Pastel Colors

Rococo and Pastel Colors in the 18th Century

The Rococo era, which began in France around 1730, was characterized by the use of pastel colors in art, fashion, and interior design. The use of pastel colors was popularized by Madame de Pompadour and later popularized by Marie-Antoinette.

Pastel pink, pastel blue, and other pastel colors were used to create an ambiance of elegance, beauty, and sophistication.

Association with Vacations and Modern Popularity

The use of pastel colors gained popularity in the 1950s and 1960s as families began to travel to beach resorts, and pastel colors were associated with holidays. Pastel colors were used in clothing and resort architecture to create an ambiance of relaxation and tranquility.

The pastel colors became popular among male sportsmen in the 1980s, who wore pastel-colored polo shirts and shorts on the golf course.

Today, pastel colors are still popular in fashion, interior design, and branding.

They are used to create an ambiance of calmness, serenity, and sophistication. Many popular brands such as The Body Shop, VSCO, and Airbnb use pastel colors in their branding to enhance their image and appeal to their target audience.


Pastel colors continue to play a significant role in our lives, from fashion to interior design and branding. Knowing how to create and use these colors can make a difference in creating appealing designs and creating an ambiance of tranquility and sophistication.

Understanding the history, definition, and characteristics of pastel colors can also help you appreciate their beauty and significance.

Psychology of Pastel Colors

Feelings and Associations with Pastel Colors

Pastel colors evoke a wide range of emotions and associations due to their soft and lighter versions of vibrant colors. These colors are known for their soothing, calming, and playful qualities.

They are often associated with romanticism and happiness, making them a popular choice for weddings and other celebrations. Many pastel colors are also associated with growth, childhood, and joyfulness.

For instance, pastel yellow is often associated with sunshine, hope, and optimism, while pastel green is associated with nature, cleanliness, and freshness. Pastel colors like baby blue and pink are commonly used in children’s clothing and toys, evoking feelings of innocence and purity.

Pastel colors also have a relaxing effect as they do not overstimulate the visual senses. The softness of these colors can help create an ambiance of neutrality and tranquility, making them ideal for use in spaces like bedrooms, spas, and restaurants.

Gender Associations and Application in Design

Pastel colors are often associated with femininity, thanks to their soft and delicate hues. Baby pink, powder blue, lavender, and other pastel shades have traditionally been associated with baby nurseries and young girl’s rooms.

These colors are also used heavily in fashion and beauty products marketed towards women. On the other hand, various pastel colors can be used to create a calming atmosphere in various spaces.

Neutral pastels like mint green, beige, and lavender are popular colors in hospitals and doctors’ offices, as they create a relaxing environment. Architects and interior designers often use these shades in homes and offices to create a calm and soothing ambiance.

Popular Pastel Colors and Color Codes

Millennial Pink

Millennial pink is a soft pink hue that became popular in the early 2010s, often referred to as Tumblr pink. The color is described as a muted, rosy shade and has been hailed as an iconic hue that defines an entire generation of millennials.

The shade was Pantone’s 2016 color of the year and has since remained a popular color in fashion, beauty, social media, and interior design. Millennial pink is often used in branding and advertising geared towards younger audiences and is seen as a gender-neutral shade, often used in men and women’s clothing.

The versatility of the color has made it a popular component of modern, forward-looking designs. The corresponding hex code for the millennial pink is #FFC0CB.

Various Pastel Colors and their Descriptions

Pastel Pistachio green is a soft and refreshing shade of green. It evokes a sense of calmness and nature, making it ideal for bedrooms, bathrooms, and kitchens.

The corresponding hex code is #98FF98. Pastel Yellow is associated with sunshine, energy, happiness, and optimism.

The delicate shades of yellows, creamy yellows, and pale yellows work well in interior spaces seeking a powerful pop without overwhelming other colors. The corresponding hex code is #FEFB00.

The light azure pastel blue is perfect for creating a peaceful atmosphere. Used in interior spaces, light azure makes the area look expansive and airy.

It evokes relaxation, making it perfect for relaxation spaces such as bedrooms or spas. The corresponding hex code is #87CEEB.

Pastel baby pink is often associated with baby girls, infant clothing, and sparkling femininity. It can give a room a cozy, romantic, and feminine look with its delicate beauty.

It is perfect for romantic dinner settings, as it is easy on the eyes and ramps up the mood of the setting. The corresponding hex code is #DEA5A4.

The creamy pastel mint green is a perfect blend of pastel green and grey. The color is subdued and peaceful, making it ideal for interior spaces.

It pairs well with colors such as coral and pink. The corresponding hex code is #B7E4C7.

The pastel peach is a beautiful and lustrous color that adds a touch of luxury to any room it is used in. With shades ranging from pastel to pastel vibrant, peach works well for walls, cabinets, and living spaces.

It is associated with innocence, elegance, and femininity. The corresponding hex code is #FFE5B4.

The light seafoam pastel green is a perfect blend of blue and green and has a watery quality that evokes an oceanic theme. The light color is associated with health and tranquility, with a serene and calming effect.

The corresponding hex code is #A6D5CF. Lastly, lavender is a light pastel color associated with serenity and luxury.

Lavender is often used in interior spaces like bedrooms and bathrooms to evoke relaxation and freshness. The corresponding hex code is #E6E6FA.


Pastel colors are beloved widely for their softness, lightness, and calming effects. They are often associated with positive emotions like hope, growth, and happiness, making them perfect for many design themes.

With the vast array of pastel colors, designers and interior designers have limitless possibilities for establishing simple, soothing atmospheres in any space.

Pastel Colors in Design

Versatility and Applications of Pastel Colors

Pastel colors have a timeless appeal, making them a popular choice in branding, fashion, interior design, skincare products, and the food industry. They are fun, calming, and deliver a feeling of freshness that can enhance any design.

In fashion, pastel colors can make a statement or serve as a subtle complement to a bold look. In interior design, pastel colors can create a cozy, comforting atmosphere that many people seek, while in branding, pastel colors can add an element of playful and positive appeal to products.

Skincare products often incorporate pastel colors to evoke a sense of calm, purity, and freshness, especially in brands catering to natural skincare products. The food industry can also make use of pastel colors to create an appetizing atmosphere.

For instance, pastel plates or containers of food can create a charming presentation that attracts customers.

Effective Color Combinations and Complementary Colors

To enhance the effect of pastel colors in different designs, designers can combine them with complementary colors. Blue and orange create a bold and striking effect, while red and green create a vibrant and playful atmosphere.

Softer colors like light pastel purple and pastel yellow create a vintage and playful look. These combinations can be applied in branding, fashion, and interior design.

Designers can also use pastel colors along with soft white to create visually appealing combinations, especially in interior design. Pastel yellow, for instance, works well with soft white and brownish-gold, while lilac and lavender work well with white or grey.

Mixing and matching pastel combinations can add perceived value and create an aesthetically pleasing look in any design.

Pastel Color Combinations in Interior Design

Mixing and matching pastel colors in interior design can create a unique and warm atmosphere. Pastel pink and shades of blue, for instance, add sophistication and elegance to any room.

This color combination works exceptionally well in master bedrooms and living rooms. Pastel yellow and lilac can create a playful and feminine theme in bedrooms or children’s rooms.

Similarly, the mix and match pastel combination can work well with layers of pattern and texture when used in upholstery, textiles, and accessories.

Mixing and Using Pastel Paint Colors

Creating Pastel Paint Colors

Creating pastel paint colors involves adding white to the main color to create a lighter and softer version. The amount of white added depends on the desired color shade, and only small amounts are required to create the desired effect.

Too much white risks washing out the color, leaving it light and dull in appearance. By starting with small quantities, painters can gradually achieve the desired color without losing the vibrancy of the original color.

Use and Application of Pastel Paint Colors

Pastel paint colors are used extensively in painting to create tints to add to color schemes. These colors can be used to create different moods and atmospheres, depending on the colors used and the combination of the tints.

Pastel paint colors also add depth and visual interest to artwork, whether used in watercolor, oil paints, or acrylics. Designers and artists can use pastel paint colors to create slight variations on existing colors to improve the overall impact of their work.

In addition, pastel paints can be used to create unique and distinct color schemes, with a vast array of colors available to choose from.


Pastel colors evoke a feeling of freshness, timelessness, and calmness, making them an excellent option in branding, fashion, and interior design. Designers can apply pastel paint colors to create visually appealing artwork, unique and distinct color schemes, and eye-catching designs.

Whether used to create a relaxing atmosphere in homes, or an appetizing environment in the food industry, the use of pastel colors can significantly enhance any design. In conclusion, pastel colors offer a versatile and timeless palette that evokes feelings of calmness, playfulness, and freshness.

They have a wide range of applications, from branding and fashion to interior design and even the food industry. By incorporating pastel colors into design, we can create visually appealing and soothing atmospheres that attract and captivate.

Additionally, understanding how to mix and create pastel colors allows designers and artists to add depth and interest to their work. Whether it’s using pastel paint to create tints or combining complementary pastel shades, the possibilities are endless.

So, embrace the beauty of pastel colors and unlock their transformative power in your designs, leaving a lasting impression on those who encounter them.

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