Look Back on the 2020 Colors of the Year in Light of the Pandemic

As we look back on the most anticipated shades of 2020, we are pleased to report they continue to hit the mark today.

For some, autumn means pumpkin spice everything. For the design-minded, it means the newest colors of the year. Every fall, color experts and paint companies announce which hues they expect to infuse our color palettes in the coming year. In the past, we've been introduced to creamy neutrals, moody jewel tones, and punchy pops of color.

The year 2020 was unique. For one, it was the start of a new decade. But more significantly, it will be forever remembered as the beginning of the COVID pandemic—which, of course, the color experts couldn't have predicted when they chose their swatches in late 2019. What they did consider when making their picks: pop culture, architectural trends, and technological advancements. These factors influence the way consumers think about color, shifting the aesthetic mood and orienting us toward certain looks. The experts attempt to tap into that.

But their choices also play a retrospective role, helping define how we look back on a period of design. Think about it: The '80s had splashy neon, the '60s rocked pastels, and the '90s—well, that decade could be defined by Monica and Rachel's living room on Friends. See which hues the experts predicted would be the most popular colors of 2020—and assess whether their picks suited the most unexpected year in recent history.

A chartreuse colored wall in a bedroom with a lamp and side table
Marty Baldwin

Chartreuse by Etsy

Etsy kicked off the new year in energetic fashion with its 2020 color of the year: chartreuse. A vibrant shade somewhere between green and yellow, this lively hue is guaranteed to stand out, bringing happy energy even in the smallest of doses. As Etsy's annual trend report described it, chartreuse is a bold color "known for increasing energy, encouraging unconventional thinking, and evoking feelings of growth and harmony."

The online marketplace also noted that the color choice reflected a broader trend toward the '80s neon shades making a comeback in the design world. Underscoring this resurgence in the color's popularity, Etsy reported a 55 percent increase in searches for neon-green items over the previous three months. Did the trend continue? Another paint manufacturer revealed an uptick in interest in green paints during the pandemic, citing a desire for a fresh, clean aesthetic. We're all for vibrant pops of color no matter the year: Enlist chartreuse as a bold accent color—it's perfect for bringing a happy burst to a sunny bedroom or all-white kitchen.

pantone 2020 color of the year graphic on dark blue background
Courtesy of Pantone

Classic Blue by Pantone

The color of the year by Pantone Color Institute is always a highly anticipated announcement. Founded in 1963, Pantone is an industry leader in color; according to its website, "more than 10 million designers and producers" rely on its products and services for color inspiration and guidance. The company announced its first-ever color of the year, Cerulean, in 1999, and the creative world has eagerly awaited its annual prediction in early December ever since.

When deciding on the 2020 color of the year, Pantone's color experts searched for a shade that would bring a sense of calm to a fast-paced, technology-filled world. Enter a rich, timeless hue called Classic Blue. Reminiscent of a twilight sky, the deep shade of blue evokes a tranquil feeling.

The 2020 Pantone color of the year was intended to reflect a "desire for a dependable and stable foundation on which to build as we cross the threshold into a new era," according to a press release from the company. Deep blue is known as one of the most soothing shades, and considering the unexpected twists of 2020, we think this color was the right one to ease us into a new decade.

first light by benjamin moore
Courtesy of Benjamin Moore

First Light by Benjamin Moore

In 2016, the term "millennial pink" was first coined, and for years thereafter, the flood of soft, muted pinks continued unabated. Benjamin Moore took note of this rosy trend, naming an airy pink called First Light as one of its hottest paint colors of 2020, as did Valspar with Bombay Pink and HGTV Home with Romance. First Light reflects "a shift in mindset from the material to satisfying the core needs in life: community, comfort, security, self-expression, authenticity, and ultimately, optimism," said Andrea Magno, Benjamin Moore director of color marketing and development, in a news release.

The pastel pink joined nine other colors—White Heron, Crystalline, Windmill Wings, Buxton Blue, Golden Straw, Thunder, Cushing Green, Oxford Gray, and Blue Danube—to make up Benjamin Moore's Color Trends 2020 palette. The hues were inspired by a "new era of design rooted in fluidity for the multigenerational, multifunctional, and different states of mind now found under one roof." This color can safely be considered timeless since it acts as a neutral—it's subtle enough to be used on every wall in a living room or bedroom. Pair it with bright white or beige decor.

home office feauturing walls painted bombay pink
Courtesy of Valspar

Valspar 2020 Colors of the Year

Valspar turned to the great outdoors to choose not one but 12 colors of the year for 2020. The dozen nature-inspired hues were intended to "invite serenity into your home," according to a news release. The list contained a mix of pinks, greens, and neutrals, including Winter Calm, Mint Whisper, Canyon Earth, Grey Brook, Tempered Sage, Desert Fortress, Secluded Garden, Bombay Pink, Pale Powder, Utterly Blue, Crushed Out, and Secret Moss.

This collection was intended to showcase shades "that are subdued and livable," which means you won't find anything bright and bold on the list. "The palette of colors that is accepted as neutrals in the home has expanded," noted Sue Kim, Valspar marketing manager at Sherwin-Williams. "We are looking to bring colorful neutrals into our home to add personality and elegance while still remaining comfortable."

Although Kim said she "truly loves" all the hues, Secluded Garden and Bombay Pink were her favorites. "I love the potential of these shades; they have a soft tactile quality," she said. "When used as an all-over room color, each really embodies the immersive color experience we are seeing embraced in the home today." Bombay Pink looks especially luxe when paired with gold accents. All of the colors are available at Lowe's and independent retailers nationwide.

navy blue bedroom walls with white wainscoting
Courtesy of Sherwin-Williams

Naval by Sherwin-Williams

Navy blue is classic, relaxing, and gender-neutral, so it wasn't a particularly controversial choice for Sherwin-Williams' 2020 color of the year. Naval is a deep shade of blue that effortlessly pairs with either serene, muted palettes or more glamorous schemes (think Carrara marble surfaces and metallic accents). "We're predicting that the next decade in color is going to be bold," said Sue Wadden, director of color marketing at Sherwin-Williams, in a press release. "Naval merges the desire for rich, inspiring color with our yearning for relaxation and retreat. In the next 10 years, we'll continue to move away from omnipresent neutrals and design will feel more personal again." Paint bedroom walls with Naval and couple it with crisp white trim for a relaxing retreat, or make a statement in a contemporary kitchen with Naval cabinetry.

HGTV HOME color of the year dining room
Courtesy of HGTV Home by Sherwin-Williams

Romance by HGTV Home by Sherwin-Williams

For its 2020 color of the year, HGTV Home chose a calming yet playful color: Romance. The soft shade of pink is just one of 10 colors included in HGTV Home's 2020 Simply Blissful Color Collection, found exclusively at Lowe's. "2020 is the year to create a glamorous home space, one that welcomes you in with open arms every time you walk through the door and continues to wow you," said Ashley Banbury, HGTV Home by Sherwin-Williams senior color designer, in a press release. The blush pastel pink can easily serve as an updated neutral with white or wood accents. Or pair it with accessories in one of the other bold shades in the collection, such as jungle-green Island Time or vibrant Coral Reef, to energize a room.

living room with green wall
Courtesy of Behr

Back to Nature by Behr

Behr's 2020 color of the year, Back to Nature, was perhaps the most prescient, as muted greens later became a soothing go-to during the peak of the pandemic. This shade of green is inspired by meadows and aims to bring the colors of nature indoors. "As we look ahead to a new decade, Back to Nature encourages us to reengage with the natural world, which we know can have a real, positive impact on our wellbeing," said Erika Woelfel, vice president of color and creative services at Behr, in a press release. Pair the understated green with other hues found in nature, like browns, beiges, and blues, for a relaxing space.

modern office with burnt orange door
Courtesy of Behr

Worldhood Palette by Behr

Before Behr announced its color of the year, we had our eye on the company's three 2020 color palettes. We especially loved the Worldhood palette, comprised of warm, earthy colors just outside of neutral. Erika Woelfel, Vice President of Color and Creative Services at Behr, said in a press release that these colors foster an inviting environment—the kind restaurants, hotels, and other hospitality businesses strive to create. Two of our favorite colors in the palette are Red Pepper, a dark red-wine hue, and Rumba Orange, their take on the burnt orange trend.

PPG Chinese Porcelain
Courtesy of PPG

Chinese Porcelain by PPG

Much like PPG's 2019 color of the year, the company's 2020 choice, Chinese Porcelain, was a rich jewel tone. The violet-undertoned shade of blue instills calmness, reduces anxiety, and encourages sleep, said Dee Schlotter, PPG senior color marketing manager, which were all, of course, near-universal goals in 2020. "This soothing blue imparts slowness, encouraging consumers to practice mindfulness and be more present in their lives while also offering the spirit of hopefulness—a precious commodity in a restless world," she explained. The color works well as an accent wall and on interior and exterior doors alike.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles