10 Color Theory Basics Everyone Should Know


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Buy these products now: SofaFlower potaccent tableMost of us aren’t interior designers by trade and that’s fine. Whether you think of interior design as an enjoyable hobby or a necessary evil that helps keep your home presentable, it can sometimes be difficult to understand the jargon of the industry. After all, how often do you find out Tertiary Colors, anyway? At Freshhome, our goal is to make our content accessible to everyone, no college degree required. So, today, we are going back to basics. Get ready for a bit of Design 101. In this post, we’ll cover the basics of color theory that every design enthusiast should know. After reading, be sure to save this link in an easily accessible place. It will come in handy the next time you’re not sure you’ve chosen the right paint color.

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1. How to use the color wheel

Just like trigonometry, color wheel it’s probably one of those things you learned as a kid and haven’t thought about since. However, to truly understand color, you may need to dust off some of that knowledge. In a nutshell, the color wheel provides a visual representation of which colors go together very well. It eliminates all the guesswork, essentially. Most models are made up of 12 colors. In theory, however, the color wheel could be expanded to include an infinite number of hues. Don’t worry if you haven’t memorized the color wheel yet. There are tons of ways to access it digitally. palette is a website that will allow you to create your own color scheme from the comfort of your computer screen and ColorSchemer offers the same capabilities in one app that is available for iPhone.

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2. What are the basic colors?

We bet some of you read the last paragraph and said, “12? How are there 12 colors on the color wheel? There are only 7 colors in the rainbow. True. But trust us, there are in fact at least 12 hues on each color wheel. Here’s how things break down:

  • Primary colors: Red, blue and yellow. It cannot be made by mixing other colors.
  • Secondary colours: Orange, purple and green. It can be done by mixing the primary colors.
  • Tertiary colors: The six shades that can be made by mixing primary and secondary colors.

If you’re not sure where to start when it comes to decorating a colorful interior, one of these 12 is usually a good starting point. Pick one and it will help you narrow down your selections until you settle on the exact shade you love.

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3. Swapping Colors With Neutrals:

Once you’ve selected a basic color, it’s easy to create many different versions within the same family. All you need to do is combine that color with a neutral to make it lighter or darker. In interior design jargon, this is known as tint, shade, and tone.

  • Dye: The act of lighting up a color by adding white to it.
  • Shade: The act of darkening a color by adding black.
  • Tone: Slightly darken a color by adding gray.

Many artists recommend experimenting with color by mixing paints until you have an idea of ​​how drastically neutrals will affect a color. However, if you don’t have access to art supplies, you can easily see an example of tint and shade by going to your home improvement store and picking up some of those sample color palettes.

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4. Understand color temperature

You may have heard that colors are described as having temperature. A dining room may be decorated in warm tones, while your friend may have chosen a cool color to finish her bedroom. These temperatures also describe where the color falls on the color wheel. Reds, oranges, and yellows are often described as warm colors. They are generally more vibrant and seem to bring a sense of vibrancy and intimacy to a space. In contrast, blues, violets, and most greens are cool colors. They can be used to calm a room and provide a relaxed feeling. When choosing the color temperature for a space, you should also consider the size. Using a warm color in a cramped room can make things feel a bit claustrophobic. However, using cool colors in a spacious room could leave things feeling stark.

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5. Complementary Color Scheme

When it comes to color combinations, courtesy is the simplest. It uses two colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel. Typically, one color acts as the dominant tone and the other as the accent. This means combinations like red and green, blue and orange, or yellow and purple. This color scheme is extremely high contrast, which means it’s best used in small doses and when you want to draw attention to a particular design element. You can use it to make your vanity stand out or to add vibrancy to your home office. If you choose a complementary color scheme, you really need to embrace neutrals. They will provide a place for your eye to rest and keep you from feeling overwhelmed in the room.

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6. Split Complementary Color Scheme

If you like the idea of ​​a complementary color scheme, but are afraid it’s too bold for your taste, the split complementary color scheme is a safer option. To do this color scheme, you first need to choose your base shade. Then, instead of choosing the color directly opposite her base, she chose the two shades on either side of the opposite color. Those two tones will provide a much-needed sense of balance to the room. You’ll still get the visual impact of bold color, but you’ll be able to incorporate more of it instead of relying heavily on neutrals to calm the space. The split complementary works best when you use your base color as the dominant. However, instead of choosing a saturated shade, try to focus on a color that is more muted. Then go bold with your other two shades in the room’s accent pieces.

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7. Analogous Color Scheme

The analogous color scheme refers to the use of three colors in a row on the color wheel. Usually two colors will be primary colors and the third shade will be a mix of the two and a secondary color. For example, you can choose red, orange, and yellow or red, purple, and blue. The key to using this color scheme successfully is proportion. Again, the 60-30-10 Rule comes into play. You’ll want to choose one color to be the dominant hue, one to support the dominant, and the third, most vibrant color as an accent. Interestingly, you can also create a similar color scheme using neutrals. It is usually referred to as a monochrome color scheme. Just choose black, white and gray instead of brighter shades.

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8. Triadic Color Scheme

Triadic color schemes, sometimes also called triads, refer to the use of three colors equally spaced on the color wheel. The three primary colors (red, blue, and yellow) are a perfect example, as are the three secondary colors. This type of color arrangement is usually extremely bold. Because the colors are so high contrast and pure tones are often used, you’ll see this scheme most often in children’s rooms or play areas. When using colors that are so vivid, it’s always important to keep in mind the spaces that are nearby. You wouldn’t want to put two different triadic color schemes next to each other. That would be too busy. Instead, make sure the rooms next to your triadic space are quieter and mostly neutral.

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9. Tetradic Color Scheme

After the triadic scheme, things get a bit more complicated. We are going to balance four colors in space. The tetradic scheme, also sometimes called the rectangular scheme because of its shape on the color wheel, focuses on the use of two different pairs of complementary colors. In this scheme, color temperature plays a very important role. Try to make sure you choose two warm colors and two cool colors to fill the space instead of an odd number. Using an even amount of both will help balance the space. It is also important to vary the way we see colors. Look for patterns that fit your color scheme, and feel free to mix them in between your solid pieces. Using all solids will make the room seem overly saturated, but too many patterns will clash, so focus on choosing one or two to help break up the space.

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10. Square Color Scheme

The square color scheme is very similar to the rectangular one in both number and name. It uses four hues, but instead of focusing on opposite pairs, the colors are spaced evenly across the color wheel. Regardless of the colors you choose, this scheme will be made up of one primary, one secondary, and two tertiary colors. Vary the intensity of the four colors by making two shades more neutral and two a bit bolder. Again, similar to the tetradic scheme, you’ll want to pay attention to achieving equal amounts of warm and cool colors. But instead of paying equal attention to both pairs of colors, you should choose one shade to dominate the space and use the other three as accents.

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Buy these products now: ceiling lightsRugPotstable clockSometimes interior design jargon can feel like its own language. Nobody could blame you if talking about furniture, designs and decoration makes your head spin. There are so many terms! In an effort to make design accessible to everyone, we’ve reviewed some basics of color theory. Use this as a guide before starting your next project and you’ll be able to navigate it like a pro. Did we miss any key color theory topics? Are there any other design fundamentals you’d like us to explore? Let us know in the comments.


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