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Summer Blogging: Introducing Color Theory Part 5: Color Wheel & Color Schemes

August 4, 2017

There are different color wheels that designers or homeowners can use and often times you will notice that each color wheel will always have primary, secondary, and tertiary colors (the basic color wheel). Primary colors are: Red, Yellow, and Blue. These colors cannot be created by mixing other colors. Rather we use these primary colors to create secondary colors and tertiary colors. Secondary colors are mixing the primary colors to create: Orange, Green, and Violet. Secondary colors can then be mixed with primary colors to create tertiary colors: Red-Orange, Yellow Orange, Yellow Green, Blue-Green, Red-Violet. Notice that the primary color usually appears first during the naming conventions of tertiary colors. You can also add tertiary colors with either the primary and secondary to create more colors such as Red Red-Orange or Red Orange-Orange.

Below is a more detailed color wheel that I worked on in my Applied Color class during my first semester.

The goal was to only use the three primary colors: red, yellow, and blue, to create the 24 colors on the wheel. Individually mixing and creating each color took time and practice. We were training our eyes to distinguish the correct color and understand the amount of hues that were required in each result. Mixing colors from scratch was fun, but it was tedious work. Eventually, colors became to make sense and the wheel was completed! With those 24 colors that we finally produced, we also tinted and shaded each color. Tinting is adding white to the color and shading is adding black; you can see the final color wheel below:By understanding the color wheel, it will make it easier to create and select color schemes for any design. When you first deal with color it is normal to constantly refer to the color wheel. As you slowly get use to the color relationship, it will come naturally to know the correct color scheme terminology.

Monochromatic color is in its name itself. The color scheme would use only one color but use tints and shades of that one color. An example of this monochromatic color theme is this bedroom at Brighton by Brookfield Residential shown below. Blue is used throughout this room, except there are different tints and shades.Analogous color are colors that are closely related to each other on the color wheel. It creates a harmonious look and feel, typically using ¼ of the color wheel. An example of analogous is this 3D heart that I created in my Interior Design Lab class. Each butterfly was individually hand punched from chip board. I chose Green as the dominant color to represent a feel of nature, spring, and happiness. This analogous color scheme consists of color that range from yellow Blue Green-Green.Complementary colors demonstrate two color that are opposite to one another on the color wheel.  A pair of color directly across from each other would be red and green, or yellow and violet. Complementary colors can also be created with tertiary colors such as blue-green and red-orange.

Split complementary colors allows more flexibility and variety when working with colors. This color scheme uses one side of the color wheel with the opposites being two separate colors, typically creates a letter “Y” on the color wheel. However, do not get this confused with the color scheme Triad. With Triad color scheme, the three colors are equidistant from each other.

An example of split complementary using red would be two different greens, one being more blue and the other being more yellow.

Double complementary color scheme uses four different colors, having two pairs of complementary colors. Double complementary typically creates a narrow letter “X” on the color wheel. Colors are usually close together on one side and no more than 1/4 of the color wheel. Double complementary color scheme can be a tricky theme to plan. If the color selections are not carefully planned the colors can appear random and unorganized. Also, do not get double complementary confused with Tetrad. Like Triad, Tetrad color scheme uses 4 different colors that are equidistant from each other.

To better understand these color schemes, take time to study the color wheel and use sample color chips to make up the desired color scheme. It’s also fun to use programs like Photoshop from Adobe to change colors of space without the actual work, Playing with color schemes virtually is also cost-efficient, because there are no mess ups; just simply click “delete” or “undo”. Recently, I’ve discovered Color Snap and Color Visualizer from Sherwin Williams. Although I’m still learning the benefits of these two color tools, it’s quite fun to experiment with existing space and see what creative color scheme design I can come up with.

All in all, it is important to understand color schemes because when a color is selected in the design and there is no relationship with other colors, it will often times appear to be random, unplanned, and cause dissatisfaction to the eye.

Wishing everyone a great weekend!



“Every day, be full of awareness of the beauty around you. Be full of gratitude for friends and family, for the goodness you find in others, for your health and all you’re capable of.” -Barbara Cage

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