There are only so many colors in the world. Despite Pantone’s claims to “invent” new colors, many of today’s designers are obsessing less about which exact PMS to specify, and more about how transparent it should be. Chromatic Gels is a trend that is finding traction from Architecture to Furniture: the use of highly chromatic colors as semi-transparent surfaces, tinting everything behind them in a rich saturated hue. This is not to be confused with Candy Transparencies, which began with Apple’s rainbow-hued assortment of iMac products in the late ‘90s, and quickly moved down-market. The palettes in this trend are more sophisticated, nuanced, and layered: sometimes just a hint of chromatic tint is used, or more subtle in-between tones are preferred over bright primary colors. Architects like to let sunlight wash through these gel surfaces to change the white incoming sunlight into a tinted dream-like interior glow. Also, edge-lit materials like fluorescent acrylic offer incredibly intense surface-edge color, seeming almost to be lit from within. Whichever the treatment, Chromatic Gels are meant to be strong first-read design elements, not subjugated to small regions or competing with other materials, colors, or forms. Their depth, richness, and lightness are the primary design element upon which every other part of the design should derive. If designing for a line of differently colored products, definitely avoid the “rainbow” effect of having all the primary colors represented at full saturation. Instead, try more subtle, low-intensity variations of those hues, or stay within a very limited range of the color wheel. Transparent Avocado anyone?