Understanding the Basics of Colour

Updated: May 13, 2019

#home #interior #exterior #paint #colour

Colors affect us in numerous ways, both mentally and physically. Being able to use colours consciously and harmoniously can help you create spectacular results.

By understanding the basic theory of colour you'll be able to put together combinations with results that are outstanding.

Primary, Secondary and Tertiary Colours

Primary colours are red, yellow and blue.

The three secondary colours (green, orange and purple) are created by mixing two primary colors. Blue + yellow = green

Red + yellow = orange

Red + blue = purple

Another six tertiary colours are created by mixing primary and secondary colors. There are six tertiary colors; red-orange, yellow-orange, yellow-green, blue-green, blue-violet, and red-violet. An easy way to remember these names is to place the primary name before the other colour.

Warm and Cool Colours

The color circle can be divided into warm and cool colors.

All colors that contain red/yellow seem to be warm. Warm colors are comfortable, impulsive and friendly. They can also be vivid, energetic, and tend to advance in space. These colours are yellow, orange and red. Red-orange, orange and yellow-orange are supposed to be warm colors.

The basic tone of cool colors is blue. These colours are green, blue and violet. If we add yellow to cool colors we receive yellow-green, green and green-blue colors. Such tones relax, refresh, and give a feeling of depth and comfort. Cool colors can give an impression of calm, and create a soothing impression. They tend to recede in space.

White, black and gray are considered to be neutral.

Tints, Shades and Tones

These terms are often used incorrectly, although they describe fairly simple color concepts.

If a color is made lighter by adding white, the result is called a tint.

If black is added, the darker version is called a shade. And if gray is added, the result is a different tone.

Colour palettes look harmonious if you are working with similar tints, shades or tones with each colour (hue) selected.

Color Harmonies - basic techniques for creating color schemes


The variations of brightness and intensity of one color is used in this scheme. This scheme is simple and elegant, colors are soothing. The basic colors can be combined with neutral ones such as white, black and gray to contrast the elements of a composition.

Complementary color scheme Colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel are considered to be complementary colors (example: red and green). The high contrast of complementary colors creates a vibrant look especially when used at full saturation. This color scheme must be managed well so it is not jarring. Complementary color schemes are tricky to use in large doses, but work well when you want something to stand out.

Analogous color scheme Analogous color schemes use colors that are next to each other on the color wheel. They usually match well and create serene. peaceful and comfortable designs.

Analogous color schemes are often found in nature and are harmonious and pleasing to the eye.

Make sure you have enough contrast when choosing an analogous color scheme.

Choose one color to dominate, a second to support. The third color is used (along with black, white or gray) as an accent.

Triadic color scheme A triadic color scheme uses colors that are evenly spaced around the color wheel.

Triadic color schemes tend to be quite vibrant, even if you use pale or unsaturated versions of your hues.

To use a triadic harmony successfully, the colors should be carefully balanced - let one color dominate and use the two others for accent.

Split-Complementary color scheme The split-complementary color scheme is a variation of the complementary color scheme. In addition to the base color, it uses the two colors adjacent to its complement.

This color scheme has the same strong visual contrast as the complementary color scheme, but has less tension.

The split-complimentary color scheme is often a good choice for beginners, because it is difficult to mess up.

Rectangle (tetradic) color scheme The rectangle or tetradic color scheme uses four colors arranged into two complementary pairs.

This rich color scheme offers plenty of possibilities for variation.

Tetradic color schemes works best if you let one color be dominant.

You should also pay attention to the balance between warm and cool colors in your design.

Square color scheme The square color scheme is similar to the rectangle, but with all four colors spaced evenly around the color circle.

Square color schemes works best if you let one color be dominant.

You should also pay attention to the balance between warm and cool colors in your design.

Have fun and don't get bogged down in rules - these are just guidelines!

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