The color wheel – an expert guide to cracking color theory for decorating

Trending 1 week ago 4

The colour instrumentality should ever beryllium your archetypal larboard of telephone erstwhile choosing a colour strategy – and not conscionable for decorating, it tin beryllium utilized to get colour combinations close successful covering and art, too. 

If you haven't heard of it before, the colour instrumentality is simply a elemental instrumentality that shows however primary, secondary and tertiary colors subordinate to each other. From monochromatic and complementary palettes to divided complementary, contrasting and triadic, it tin beryllium utilized successful operation with colour mentation to assistance you make palmy decorating schemes and warrant decorating success. 

Conceived successful 1666 by Sir Isaac Newton to representation retired the assorted relationships betwixt colors successful the spectrum, the colour instrumentality is fundamentally a ocular practice of 12 halfway colors successful a circle, from superior hues to secondary colors and truthful on.

In interior design, it provides a wide and instant ocular for precisely which hues opposition and coordinate, to assistance you to devise harmonious, tonal oregon contrasting room colour ideas.

What are the rules of a colour instrumentality and however does it work?

The colour  wheel

(Image credit: Alamy)

There are 12 segments connected the colour wheel, each 1 representing a color. The instrumentality shows however colors subordinate to each other, whether they’re broadside by broadside oregon diametrically opposite.

Structurally, the instrumentality includes the 3 superior colors of red, yellowish and blue, alongside three secondary colors, green, orangish and purple (where 2 primaries are mixed unneurotic to signifier another). 

Finally, determination are six tertiary colors, a premix of a superior and secondary color. These are red-orange, yellow-orange, yellow-green, blue-green, blue-purple and red-purple. 

The lukewarm colors – the reds, yellows and pinks – diagnostic connected 1 side. You'll find the cooler hues – blues, greens and purples, connected the other.

What is colour theory?

Pink and bluish  bedroom

(Image credit: Future/Simon Brown)

In essence, colour mentation is the exertion of creation and subject connected decorating ideas. It uses the colour instrumentality to explicate however we spot colors, the effects created by mixing colors, and however they lucifer oregon opposition with each other, arsenic good arsenic however colour tin impact mood, make emotions, soothe oregon aggravate. This is wherefore utilizing the colour instrumentality to make antithetic effects is important.

'Color undoubtedly has the powerfulness to marque our homes look much beautiful,' says Dulux (opens successful caller tab) Creative Director, Marianne Shillingford. 'But it besides has the powerfulness to alteration the mode we consciousness astir them and behave successful them. It tin link spaces unneurotic arsenic overmuch arsenic the radical successful them and it tin marque america remainder better, enactment amended and conscionable consciousness better'.

While applying the mentation of what colour schemes harvester good is beauteous neglect safe, it's important to see what usage the abstraction has. 

Ruth Mottershead, Creative Director astatine Little Greene (opens successful caller tab) agrees. 'For example, the room is often the hub of the household location – usually a spot of activity, the bosom of household beingness and a spot for entertaining friends. A room truthful is an perfect spot to marque much adventurous colour choices and surely the abstraction wherever you tin truly experimentation with vibrant colors.'

'For much tranquil spaces similar the bathroom, see shades that exude serenity truthful you tin make a haven wrong your home. For a strategy that provides you with a calm retreat, usage colors with lukewarm undertones that truly bring comfortableness to a space.'

How does the colour instrumentality enactment with colour theory?

For your home decor ideas, these are the schemes you volition request to see connected the colour instrumentality successful operation with colour theory. We person utilized all-blue rooms to assistance marque the subtle differences much obvious, and included interior plan tips to marque the usher much useful.

1. Monochromatic

Blue tiny  sofa with swallows, bluish  patterned wallpaper

(Image credit: Mulberry Home)

Monochromatic (also called analogous): is simply a strategy that is simply a operation of tones successful a azygous color. Monochromatic colour schemes make a harmonious, calm feel.2. Complementary

Blue painted hallway with woody  flooring, bluish  rug. Bright reddish  bench, bold, colorful artwork mounted connected  partition  supra  bench, painted acheronian  bluish  furniture  successful  corner

(Image credit: Sarah Kaye Representation Ltd)

Complementary: colors are to beryllium recovered connected other sides of the colour wheel, for illustration reddish and blue. These bold combinations are pleasing and each colour makes the different sing much brightly.3. Split complementary

Hallway with bold, patterned acheronian  bluish  wallpaper with modern  floral patterns, acheronian  achromatic  flooring, reddish  seat  with achromatic  metallic  frame, achromatic  and achromatic  spotted vase adjacent  to bench, looking retired  to corridor painted pink

(Image credit: Jake Curtis)

Split complementary rooms see the main colour (blue), the complementary colour (red) and a 3rd colour that's intimately related to the second/complementary colour (pink). The opposition present is little stark than successful a complementary room, truthful portion it creates a bold look, it is tempered and calmer.4. Contrasting

Blue painted chamber  with yellowish  painted doorway  and accessories, duplicate  room

(Image credit: Future)

Contrasting color schemes see a bold colour from 1 portion of the colour instrumentality (blue) and a lighter colour from a antithetic colour household (yellow). These schemes tin beryllium utilized to create bold schemes.5. Triadic

Dining country   with bluish  painted walls, colorful, abstract artwork connected  walls, ample  works  successful  yellowish  ceramic cookware  connected  floor, agleam  yellowish  rectangular eating  table, built successful  seat  by window, upholstered spot   and backmost  with cushions, array  decorated with colorful vase and bowl

(Image credit: Sarah Kaye Representation Ltd)

Triadic uses 3 colors from the colour wheel, which mightiness beryllium contrasting, complementary oregon monochromatic. The finished strategy is bright and bold, but inactive harmonious. Here, you tin spot it successful the blue, yellowish and green.How to usage a colour wheel?


(Image credit: Future/Neil Mersh)

Monochromatic colors are each wrong 1 colour family, and make a harmonious scheme. This mightiness beryllium a operation of bluish and indigo, for example. To usage the colour instrumentality to lucifer analogous colors, travel these steps:

Now prime 2 akin colors connected either broadside of the straight complementing color.These volition beryllium your 2nd and 3rd colors.

Complementary colors are opposites connected the colour wheel. When placed adjacent to each different they are pleasing to the eye. To usage a colour instrumentality to lucifer complementary colors, travel these elemental steps:

Pick 1 color from the colour instrumentality – this mightiness beryllium your main colour choice.Look crossed the colour wheel to the other broadside find your main color's nonstop complement.

Split complementary colour schemes uses 1 main colour and 2 complementary ones. To usage the colour strategy to make this scheme:

Pick your main color.Look crossed the wheel to prime a complementary colorPick a 3rd color adjacent to the complementary color.

Contrasting colour schemes usage 2 colors from the other sides of the wheel. To usage the colour instrumentality to make this scheme: 

Choose a bold color from 1 portion of the colour wheel.Choose a lighter color from a antithetic colour family.

Triadic colour schemes uses 3 antithetic colors from antithetic parts of the colour wheel:

Pick 1 color from the colour wheel.Choose 2 different colors, truthful that you make a triangle signifier with your choices.What's the quality betwixt hue, tint and shade?

When discussing color, these 3 words are key. Frequently confused and utilized interchangeably, successful world they’re 3 distinctly antithetic things.

A hue is the purest signifier of immoderate color, whether it’s primary, secondary, tertiary oregon determination successful betwixt connected the spectrum of colors connected the wheel. Hues are precise aggravated and are precise dramatic, truthful they are usually lightened oregon darkened for the bulk of decorating schemes to make a tint oregon a shade.

A tint oregon shade includes the summation of achromatic oregon achromatic to a colour volition make a tint oregon a shade. If you adhd immoderate achromatic to a hue, you make a shadiness and spell darker. If you adhd white, you make a tint and spell lighter.

What colors spell good together?

If you travel the rules of the colour wheel, you volition observe a wide enactment of palettes to take from. Some of these combinations you volition already beryllium acquainted with, portion others you whitethorn not person travel crossed before. These are conscionable a fewer palmy combinations:

Yellow and green.Yellow and blue.Yellow and orange.Blue and red.Blue and green.Blue and orange.Blue and pink.Green and pink.

'Deciphering what colors spell good unneurotic depends connected wherever connected the colour instrumentality they sit', says Helen Shaw, of Benjamin Moore (opens successful caller tab). 'Consider creating a monochromatic strategy which uses varying levels of saturation of 1 color. We would urge utilizing a paler shadiness of 1 and a darker hue of another.'

10 colour wheel-inspired schemes

Flamingo pink, aquamarine green

Pink and turquoise bathroom

(Image credit: Future/Damien Russell)

Decorating with pink? This contrasting strategy pits a airy aquamarine against a flamingo hued pink. Accessorized with a splash of affluent fuschia pinkish connected the reflector frame, the airy bluish flooring gives it an aerial of a modern classic. 

Blue hues

Blue country   with armchair

(Image credit: Future/Simon Bevan)

Using variations of 1 colour is simply a calming approach. Here, decorating with blue connected the thorax of drawers makes a blase backdrop to the lighter tinted pulverization blues of the upholstery, portion the teal vessel adds an further furniture of color. This is simply a large operation for living country colour ideas that you privation to consciousness calming.

Plum, pink, aubergine

Purple surviving  room

(Image credit: Future/Simon Bevan)

Purple country ideas are an antithetic choice, but this harmonious living country colour scheme utilizes a big of pinkish and purple shades to large effect. The affluent aubergine colour of the upholstery is echoed by the lampshade, portion the plum walls wrapper the strategy successful warmth. Small splashes of pinkish and yellowish assistance the strategy from becoming excessively moody.

Jade green, petrol blue

Green and bluish  surviving  room

(Image credit: Future/Chris Everard)

Decorating with green is fail-safe. ‘There determination is nary country wherever greenish doesn’t work’, says decorator Suzy Hoodless (opens successful caller tab). ‘One fallacy is astir mixing bluish and greenish – they tin beryllium seen unneurotic and I person paired these shades with large occurrence successful past projects.’

Green is connected the cooler broadside of the colour wheel, ranging from watery blues to heavy wood greens, reflecting the satellite astir america – sky, oversea and earth. This palette tin make a visually beardown connection that is besides lukewarm and precise casual to unrecorded with. A pleasing plain colour paired with a welcoming pattern, is the cleanable instauration for an inviting country scheme.

Gray, green, red

Grey surviving  country   with reddish  chairs

(Image credit: Benjamin Moore)

Decorating with grey is enduringly popular. A divided complementary scheme, chosen from adjacent points connected the colour wheel. The heavy greenish overgarment connected the walls features heavy grey undertones making a striking backdrop for a formed of vivid furnishings and accessories successful appealing shades of reddish and coral.

Terracotta and blue

Terracotta surviving  room

(Image credit:

New neutral country ideas see spicy shades. In this surviving space, the tonal shadiness of terracotta connected the partition provides a lukewarm inheritance for the bold royal bluish sofa. Dashes of brown, terracotta and pinkish connected cushions and artworks echo the partition colors, portion the matching bluish footstool and paler bluish rug anchor the look.

Fresh greens

green surviving  room

(Image credit: Jane Churchill)

Green country ideas are ever restful. Here, a clutch of greenish hues are combined successful pattern, planting and upholstery, with a harmonious popular of blue. All are framed and grounded with beardown achromatic lines and airy pick walls.

Fuchsia pink, coral, peacock blue, wood green

green and reddish  bedroom

(Image credit: John Lewis & Partners)

The rich, pinkish of the sumptuous bedspread is the melodramatic absorption of this bedroom. A classical divided complementary scheme, the summation of the heavy bluish shadiness of the headboard and the wood greenish walls guarantee a cohesive, cosy sophistication.

Duck ovum and red

red and bluish  eating  room

(Image credit: Future/Simon Bevan)

Decorating with red is tricky but complementary hues of vibrant reddish and chill duck ovum beryllium a amazingly caller mix, against which geometric signifier successful crisp monochrome lends a modern edge. The look is softened by the curves of the eating array and chairs.

Blue, olive green, sunshine yellow

blue greenish  and yellowish  decor successful  neutral bedroom

(Image credit: Future/Michael Sinclair)

Yellow country ideas needn't beryllium all-yellow. Utilizing colors from astir a 3rd of the wheel, this harmonious strategy teams blocks of blue, yellowish and olive greenish unneurotic for a calming effect. Patterned wallpaper successful a neutral shadiness grounds the look, portion the airy greenish signifier connected the headboard gives it a caller edge.

Delicate pinks

pink hallway

(Image credit: Future/Alicia Taylor)

Powder pinkish walls and upholstery are fixed other extent acknowledgment to the accessories successful this space. Rich pinkish curtains and a patterned rug successful a plethora of pinkish hues, from airy pinks to astir reddish shades necktie the tonal look unneurotic beautifully.

Now that you're equipped with the cognition of however to usage the colour instrumentality and however to premix colors, you'll beryllium inspired to make your ain cleanable palettes.