Colour causes people so many headaches. What if I get it wrong? What if the colours clash? What if something looks "off".
Colour can be a tricky beast indeed, but it doesn't have to cause so much trouble. Today we're going to go back to basics and look at how colour wheels can help you to create a colour palette.
1. Primary Colours
You'll remember from your art classes at infant school that there are three primary colours: red. yellow and blue. The unique thing about primary colours is that they cannot be formed by mixing other colours together, yet all of the colours in the world can be created by mixing just these three colours together. How awesome is that?
Primary colours are often used in spaces frequented by children- think schools, nurseries and playbarns, but they are rarely used together at full strength in interior design otherwise.
2. Secondary Colours
The secondary colours are formed by mixing two primary colours together. Let's remember how we mix them: blue and red make purple, blue and yellow make green, while yellow and red make orange. The secondary colours therefore are purple, green and orange.
3. Tertiary Colours
Tertiary colours make up all of the colours that we can see. They are made by mixing a primary and a secondary colour together. The official names for these colours are red-orange, orange-yellow, yellow-green, green-blue, blue-violet and red-violet, but we are more familiar with them as having names like 'teal' and 'mauve'.
This colour wheel is the one that interiors' folk use when they talk about colour. So when they say things like 'opposite each other on the colour wheel', this is the one they mean.
What about black and white?
Officially, black and white aren't colours because they are either pure light, or the absence of light. However, black and white is added to the tertiary colours to make them lighter, darker, 'murkier' or 'milkier'. Think pastels and muted colours.
How to use the colour wheel to create colour palettes
So, let's get onto the good stuff then.
The first thing to consider when creating a colour palette is whether you want a vibrant, busy colour scheme, or a calm and relaxing scheme, because you will use colour differently in each situation.
Creating a Harmonious Colour Scheme
If you are looking to create a colour scheme which is relaxed and laid back, you'll want to choose colours that sit next to each other on the colour wheel. These are known as harmonious, or analagous colours.
Examples include blue-green with blue, or yellow with yellow-orange.
You can use two or three analogous colours in an harmonious scheme, as in this image below where they have used jade, teal and soft faded blue. The overall effect is sophisticated and calm, yet still colourful.
Image via Pinterest
Creating a Vibrant Colour Scheme
If you want to create a more vibrant scheme, you start with one base colour, and add in another accent colour which sits opposite to it on the colour wheel - in this example, green and red.
Examples of complementary colour schemes are burnt orange with teal, or bright orange with navy blue, moss green with cranberry, mint green with baby pink, vibrant purple with shock yellow, lilac and pastel yellow. The stronger and more saturated a colour, the more vibrant the scheme becomes.
Image via Decoist
There are many ways that you can combine colours to create a pleasing palette in your home.
Of course, choosing your colour scheme is only the beginning of the journey. People often come into trouble again when it comes to choosing paint colours for their home. If you have chosen a pale blue and orange scheme (for example) and you come to buy your paint, you're then faced with a multitude of paints to choose from.