A color wheel organizes the visible spectrum of colors
and shows the relationships between them.
There are 12 pure colors on the most commonly used color wheel.
Three primary colors, red, yellow, and blue, are equally spaced around the color wheel. They are called primary because they cannot be derived by mixing other colors.
Three secondary colors, orange, green, and violet,
are derived by mixing equal parts of primary colors:
red + yellow = orange
yellow + blue = green
blue + red = violet
Six tertiary colors result from mixing equal parts of
primary colors with their adjacent secondary colors:
red + orange = red-orange
red + violet = red-violet
yellow + orange = yellow-orange
yellow + green = yellow-green
blue + green = blue-green
blue + violet = blue-violet
Colors outside and inside the ring of pure colors on the color wheel result from adding black or white. Black is the absence of all light. Black paint absorbs all wavelengths of light, reflecting no light of any color. White is the presence of all colors. White paint is white simply because it reflects all wavelengths of light equally. Grays are mixtures of black and white. They are commonly specified as percentages of black.
HUE - The undiluted color from which a tint or shade is derived is referred to as its hue. The three primary, three secondary, and six tertiary pure colors of the wheel are all hues. So are the infinite numbers of colors that result from mixing these 12 pure hues. Tints and shades are lighter and darker than the pure hue, but all share the same hue.
INTENSITY – The purity of a color is referred to as its intensity. The most intense version of any color is the pure color, with no black or white added. When white is added to a pure color, it diminishes the intensity by diluting the color. This is called tinting the color, and the lighter the tint, the closer it is to the center of the color wheel.
When black is added to a pure color, it produces darker, less intense derivatives of that color. This is called shading a color; the darker the shade, the closer it is toward the outside of the color wheel.
VALUE (brightness) – The brightness of a color, as registered by a photographer's light meter or in a black-and-white photograph, is its value.
Adding white to a color increases its value. Adding black to a color decreases its value. High and low values create contrast and depth. A monochromatic color scheme using tints and shades of a single hue thus contains a range of values.
MONOCHROMATIC COLORS – A color scheme using tints and shades of a single color is called a
monochromatic color scheme. Use a monochromatic color scheme to create an aura of serenity, elegance, and unity.
Monochromatic colors do not compete; they cooperate. The infinite number of tints and shades can provide emphasis and
variety or can be used to focus attention on a particular object or area of a room. Monochromatic color schemes are perhaps the
easiest to implement, but it's important to include a range of tints and shades or the results could be bland.
The farther apart colors are on their slice of the color wheel, the more contrast is between them. Select a medium tone or light tint for the walls and choose the darkest shade for the rug, sofa, or accessories. Use a mix of medium tones to tie the scheme together.
TRIADIC COLORS – Three colors that are equidistant from each other around the color wheel are triadic colors.
Triads of nonprimary colors are nearly strong. They create interest through contrast. Use tints and shades. To moderate the visual excitement of a triadic color scheme, use tints or shades instead of pure colors. For no-fail results, select colors from the same ring of the color wheel either inside or outside the third ring. For a more subtle effect, choose hues from different rings. The closer a color is to the center of the color wheel; the more restful it is on the eye.
If a color combination is too dark, select lighter tints. If it is too light, substitute darker shades.
ANALOGOUS COLORS – Colors that are side by side on the color wheel are analogous, or adjacent.
The contrast between analogous colors evokes a feeling of greater depth than monochromatic color schemes offer.
To add more depth, use a variety of tints and shades. Use an analogous color scheme when you want to create a softer, less intense atmosphere while maintaining visual activity.
COMPLEMENTARY COLORS - Two colors positioned exactly opposite each other on the color wheel are said to be complementary.
Color schemes that use tints and shades of colors opposite each other are complementary color schemes. You might expect that pairing
colors spaced the maximum distance apart on the color wheel would produce discordance.
On the contrary, complementary schemes are commonly found in nature, such as the red and green combination of rose petal and leaf. When you want to create a dynamic color scheme with snap and style, go with a complementary color scheme. Toning down the hues with gray can produce subdued color contrasts that are still quite visually stimulating.
ANALOGOUS WITH COMPLEMENTARY ACCENTS – Combining analogous colors with a complementary accent adds zing to a harmonious scheme. A closely related color scheme, the split complementary, pairs a color with those on each side of its complement.
Make a statement. Use either of these color schemes when you want to create a strong visual impact. To soften the contrast, try tints or shades instead of pure colors.
A vivid color is often best to use as an accent in three or four strategic locations. Or create a single focal point by using an accent color on one object or a major design element.
Natural lighting Illuminated solely by the daylight filtering through the window, the colors in a room appear natural. When selecting colors for a room that has large windows and is used predominantly during daylight hours, view color samples in your home in daylight.
Incandescent lamps Illuminated by incandescent wall lamps, the same room has a warmer appearance. When selecting colors, take a note of the time of day a room is most often used. When you're selecting colors for a room used primarily before sunrise and after sunset, choose them under the lighting used in the room.
Fluorescent lamps Illuminated this time by a cool white overhead fluorescent fixture, the same room now seems cold and otherworldly. Fluorescent light offers low-energy usage. Install lamps that are more closely approximate daylight, or select warmer colors for the room. In either case, select the colors viewed under the type of lamp you plan to install.
RULE ONE: Family & neighbors are friends. Most colors get along well with hues in the same family as themselves (different shades of red, for example), or the next door neighbors (in the case of red, that's orange and violet).
RULE TWO: Opposite attract. Colors just naturally look good with color on the opposite side of the color wheel, called the complementary. (For red, that's green.) Warm colors always have cool complementaries, and vice versa.
SUBTLE BLENDS: gives you lighter and darker tones of the same color. This classic palette is simple to work with and comfortable to live with.
WARM DETAILS: is a complementary scheme with accent harmonies selected from the warmer side of the color wheel. This palette gives a subtle and sophisticated look. Count on warm colors to create an inviting home.
COOL DETAILS: is a complementary scheme with harmonies that come from the cooler side of the color wheel. This palette gives you rooms with vibrant, crisp accents and exciting highlights.
We have tried to make the color chips as accurate as possible. But, as with any tool, the proper use is up to you:
All colors look different under different light sources. Compare several color chips under the lighting conditions the room will ultimately have. Check the colors morning, noon, and night, because the lighting conditions probably will change.
All colors paints darken as they dry. Before you conclude that the paint you just purchased doesn't match the color chip, dry a swatch with a blow dryer.
If you want a pastel or medium tone, go three shades lighter than the color you think you want, and you'll likely be satisfied with the result.
Paint darkens as it dries, so let the first coat dry thoroughly before you judge its success.