July 17, 2019

The Color Wheel: Your New Best Friend

Bedroom Complementary Color Wheel

Color Wheel Organization

Color Wheel Primary Secondary Tertiary Colors

There are many ways of choosing what colors to combine within your color scheme, but they all come back to the color wheel.

Further on in this article, I'll take you through

  • Monochromatic Colors
  • Complementary Colors
  • Analogous Colors and the
  • Triad Color Scheme.

The color wheel shows us how colors naturally combine, blend and contrast.

The natural world does it brilliantly and we'll look at some examples of those but we can break it down quite logically. The color wheel is divided into 12 colors and three categories: primary, secondary and tertiary.


Primary colors are red, yellow and blue. All other colors are created from these three.

Secondary colors are created by mixing two primary colors. If you look at the color wheel above, you will see that green is yellow + blue, purple is blue + red and orange is red + yellow.

The tertiary colors are created by mixing a primary color with a secondary color next to it. The tertiary colors are yellow+green, blue+green, blue+purple, red+purple, red+orange and yellow+orange.

There are also some "opposite" colors. For example, mixing red and green from opposite sides of the color wheel gives us brown.

And of course we have black, which is the absence of color and white, which is all colors combined.

Read on to learn how we use the color wheel to create stunning combinations.

It's All About the Ambience

Before you pick a color palette, you must decide what kind of feel you want in your room. The color wheel is an essential decorating tool but you must have your end goal in mind. The ambience you want to achieve.

Generally speaking, the colors around the green, blue and purple area of the color wheel are cool and calming and the reds, pinks and yellows warmer and higher impact. They can create a more exciting feel.

Here are some well researched and documented approaches to using the color wheel.

The Complementary Color Scheme

Complementary Color Wheel Inspired

Using complementary colors from the color wheel is simple, safe and one of my personal favorites.

You simply take two colors from opposite sides of the color wheel, like the blue/purple with yellow in the bright, casual study area above and then throw in a few contrasts and highlights, such as the natural parquet flooring and the splashes of red in the chairs and pouffe.

There's no doubt, opposites attract. Choosing two complementary colors creates an energizing, high-contrast color scheme.

There are so many ways you can use this concept. You could invigorate a room with spa blue and a touch of coral or go global with aubergine and saffron. Freshen up with raspberry and lime green.

When you use two contrasting vivid colors, it's a good idea to favor one over the other or alternatively use both of them for accents against a neutral background. A healthy dose of white and plenty of natural light if you can manage it rounds out the picture.

The Monochromatic Color Scheme

Monochromatic Color Scheme Conversation Area 400

Done right, this can be absolutely, beautifully effective.

Just look at the image to the left. It's basically shades of beige and brown, but how inviting is the overall picture?

I see it not so much as a living area but as a conversation area. It demands that you take your glass of red, sit down on the sofa or in one of the comfortable chairs, and engage in an enjoyable and fruitful conversation with your friends and/or significant other. The whole ambience is warm and relaxed.

There's no rule that says you have to decorate with a medley of colors.

Using a monochromatic color scheme with tone-on-tone color can result in a really warm (or cool, depending on what area of the color wheel you use) but always sophisticated look.

Start with a color you really love and then have fun mixing the shades from light to dark, or keep it classic by sticking to one shade. Everything is fair game, from the walls to upholstery to accessories. One way to ensure that you'll love the end result is to take a look at your wardrobe first. What colors do you like to wear?

Generally, a well-balanced room has both cool tones and warm tones, but not necessarily in equal amounts. So if you have a monochromatic color scheme with all cool tones, warm it up a bit with a natural fiber rug, wood furniture and brass, black or oil-rubbed bronze finishes. Conversely, anchor a warm palette with white walls and neutral upholstery.

The Analogous Color Scheme

Peacock Analogous Color Scheme 400

Well, you knew I just had to bring a beautiful bird into this post somehow, didn't you?

The peacock is a wonderful example of an analogous color scheme. And it's been sufficiently effective in impressing peahens for thousands of years to keep the species flourishing!

But what is an analogous color scheme?

Well, if you like the simplicity of the monochromatic color scheme as previously described but want more interest, the analogous color scheme is for you.

It’s a no-fail way of creating a successful color combination with a mild contrast. It’s as simple as partnering two to three colors that are side by side on the wheel. The best way to create a cohesive look is to follow the 60-30-10 rule — 60 percent dominant color, 30 percent secondary color and 10 percent accent color. To create a more relaxing vibe in a space, such as a bedroom, choose muted hues or cool tones. For a more energetic feel, go for more saturated hues or warm tones.

A popular analogous color combination, and one I particularly love, is blue and green. Clearly, this is the way of the peacock. Look at the image above. Blue dominant on the head, muting to a blue-green on the chest and then morphing to a green tail with blue and orange highlights on the "eyes".

You can go either way on the wheel to introduce a third color with yellow or violet. Even adding just one thing, such as a painting or an upholstered chair in that third color adds excitement.

Finally, the Triad

Triad Color Wheel Scheme 400

The Triad can be a great color scheme if you're feeling a little adventurous.

A triad color scheme is made up of any three colors evenly spaced on the wheel.

This creates a vivid, balanced contrast, a little less intense than the complementary color scheme.

You can make it easy on the eyes by allowing one color to dominate and using the other two to supply accents. If you really want to go bold, use saturated versions of all three colors, or soften the colors and incorporate plenty of neutrals.

As well as black and white for neutrals, you can use beige and pale versions of green and blue, depending on what your main color scheme is.

Emma Morgan

My name is Emma Morgan, and I want to inspire you to greatness! I am an Interior Decorator and Designer. Over the past few years, I have taught easy and basic interior design for homemakers who had a desire to decorate their own home, rather than paying for someone to do it for them. I love teaching and watching my students discover and grow in their creativity. Both you and I are going to have lots of fun creating easy and stylish projects for your home. What would you like to do?

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