Using the color wheel to create color palettes for decorating

We know choosing a color scheme can be intimidating, but what if we told you there was a fool-proof way of creating a color palette that’s not only easy on the eyes, but one you’ll love to live with? The secret lies in the color wheel and understanding how to use it to create winning color combinations.

Primary colors on the color wheel

The Basics

Based on scientific color principles, the color wheel is organized in a way that shows how colors naturally combine, blend and contrast.  It’s divided into 12 colors and three categories: primary, secondary and tertiary. Primary colors are red, yellow and blue. All other colors are created from these three colors.

Secondary colors on the color wheel

Between each primary color on the wheel are the secondary colors, orange, green and violet, created by mixing two primaries.

Tertiary colors on the color wheel

Tertiary colors are formed by mixing a primary color with a secondary color next to it. They are yellow-orange, red-orange, red-violet, blue-violet, blue-green and yellow-green.

Color Schemes

The color wheel is an essential decorating tool as long as you know how to use it. Below are the most popular color schemes created by using the color wheel. But before we start, keep in mind: blues, greens and purples tend to be cooler tones that are more calming, and oranges, yellows, browns, reds and pinks are warmer tones that are more exciting. Before you pick a color palette, it’s important that you know what kind of feel you want in your room.

How to choose a color palette for your room with a color wheel

Monochromatic Colors

Nothing says you have to decorate with a medley of colors. In fact, going monochromatic with tone-on-tone color can result in a really sophisticated, edited look. Start with a color you really love (thinking about what color you wear the most is a good starting point), then have fun with mixing varying shades, from light to dark, or keep it classic by sticking to one shade. Everything is fair game, from the walls to upholstery to accessories.

How to choose a color palette for your room with a color wheel

Generally, a well-balanced room has both cool tones and warm tones, but not necessarily in equal amounts. So if you have a monochromatic color scheme with all cool tones, warm it up a bit with a natural fiber rug, wood furniture and brass, black or oil-rubbed bronze finishes. Conversely, anchor a warm palette with white walls and neutral upholstery.

How to choose a color palette for your room with a color wheel

Analogous Colors

If you like the simplicity of the monochromatic color scheme, but want more interest, the analogous color scheme is for you. It’s a no-fail way of creating a successful color combination with a mild contrast. It’s as simple as partnering two to three colors that are side by side on the wheel. The best way to create a cohesive look is to follow the 60-30-10 rule — 60 percent dominant color, 30 percent secondary color and 10 percent accent color. To create a more relaxing vibe in a space, such as a bedroom, choose muted hues or cool tones. For a more energetic feel, go for more saturated hues or warm tones.

How to choose a color palette for your room with a color wheel

A popular analogous color combination, and one we particularly love, is blue and green (image example?). You can go either way on the wheel to introduce a third color with yellow or violet. Even adding just one thing, such as a painting or an upholstered chair, in that third color adds excitement.

How to choose a color palette for your room with a color wheel

Complementary Colors

As they say, opposites attract. Choosing two complementary colors creates an energizing, high-contrast color scheme. It’s also a pretty simple concept: pair two colors from opposite sides of the color wheel, such as purple with yellow, blue with orange or red with green. Obviously, you’ll want to look beyond the primary colors to create that winning combination of just the right shades.

How to choose a color palette for your room with a color wheel

For example, invigorate a room with spa blue and a touch of coral, go global with aubergine and saffron or freshen up with raspberry and lime green. When we use two contrasting, vivid colors, we like to favor one color over the other, or use both of them for accents against a neutral background. A healthy dose of white and plenty of natural light never hurts!

Triad Color Scheme

Feeling adventurous? A triad color scheme is made up of any three colors evenly spaced on the wheel. This color scheme creates a vivid contrast, but it’s balanced, so it feels a little less intense than a complementary color scheme. Make it easy on the eyes, and let one color dominate and accent with the other two. If you really want to go bold, use saturated versions of all three colors, or soften the colors and incorporate plenty of neutrals.