Ever wondered how to use colour theory in your home? Here’s how.
Colour theory can sound important and overwhelming if you don’t know how to use it. But it is actually quite straight forward once you get to grips with it. Colour theory can help you to create a foolproof colour scheme that you know is going to work.
A great place to start is to ask yourself this question: What overall mood or feel do you want to create in your living space?
The colour wheel
The colour wheel is hugely useful when picking your colour scheme. It allows you to view colours in a visual diagrammatic form. And it can ensure that you pick colours with an understanding of how they will work together.
The colour wheel is divided into cool and warm colours: green to purple is cool; and pink to yellow is warm. This is important to know when considering the kind of feel you want your space to have.
We refer to the colours on the wheel as hues. The colour wheel is divided up into primary, secondary, and tertiary hues. Use the handy key below to see which hue is which on the colour wheel.
Primary colours are the root of every hue – in different combinations, they make up all other hues on the wheel. There are three primary colours which can be seen in the diagram below:
The secondary colours are made by mixing together the primary hues. There are three secondary colours which can be seen in the diagram below:
The six tertiary colours are made by mixing together the primary and secondary hues:
Other values that affect a colour’s appearance
As well as the positions of the colours on the wheel (hue), a colour’s appearance can change according to two other values. In the example below we are using red as an example of changes to its saturation and lightness.
How bright and deep a colour is.
Colour palettes & the colour wheel
There are three main kinds of palettes you can create using the colour wheel.
1. Contrasting Colour Palette
‘Opposites’ on the colour wheel
A contrasting colour palette uses colours that are opposite one another on the colour wheel. If we start with the three primary colours, you will see that they are always opposite secondary colours on the colour wheel. For example, red (primary) and green, yellow (primary) and purple, blue (primary) and orange.
This example uses opposites yellow and purple. This is a bold look and only for the brave!
However, there are plenty of other ways to create a contrasting scheme that is less intense... keep your eyes peeled for a post dedicated to contrasting colour palettes coming soon.
2. Tonal Colour Palette
‘Analogous’ on the colour wheel
A tonal colour palette uses colours that are analogous or next to one another on the colour wheel. You could pick two, three, or four colours.
The layering of colours in tonal interiors looks grown-up and considered. Tonal interiors create less contrast than usual, but they don’t need to be flat. The key to tonal interiors is to create contrast with large areas of whites/neutrals/black or with the colours themselves.
The success of this tonal interior is the variation in lightness of the hues, which creates contrast. The scheme only uses two hues – a primary red and a tertiary red/purple – but significantly alters their appearance by changing their lightness. This gives a clever illusion of many contrasting colours.
Each hue takes both a shade and a tint of its original to create four colours that are more sophisticated than their root.
3. Even Colour Palette
‘Triadic’ on the colour wheel
An even colour palette uses three colours that are evenly spaced around the colour wheel. It also uses the same kind of colours i.e. primary, secondary, tertiary. Even interiors make a colourful impact. As with other combinations, you can change their appearance with saturation and lightness too.
This even colour palette makes use of the three primary colours red, blue, yellow. This creates a vibrant scheme that is colourful and dynamic. It is stopped from looking too ‘primary’ because it adds in two tints and shades of the root primary colours – a shade of the blue and a tint of the red to create a dark blue and a pink.
If you want to create a colourful, almost rainbow effect, then this is the scheme for you.
So what is your palette personality? Which palette is YOU? Is it contrasting, tonal, or even? Now you know the theory, give it a go yourself!