Have you ever wondered why certain colors just seem to go together while others don't? There's actually a lot that goes on beneath the surface when it comes to selecting the perfect color scheme for your home. The colors that you choose have a huge effect on your mood and the way that you and others feel when they are inside of your home. (Check out my last post on the Psychology of Color to dive into this a little deeper.)
While I truly could chat about the color of psychology and creating beautiful color palettes all day long, today I want to give you a basic understanding of color and how certain colors interact with each other so that you can feel empowered and confident whenever you find yourself building color palettes for your home.
The Basics of Color
To truly understand color we first need to take it back to the color wheel. Does anyone remember seeing this in art class in school? Well, I'm here to tell you that the color wheel is an invaluable tool when it comes to building color combos for your home. To put it simply, the color wheel is a visual representation of each color's relationship to one another. Once you understand the relationship between colors within the color wheel, it can help to determine how a certain color combination will work.
Let's start at the beginning, the core colors of the color wheel are the three primary colors - red, yellow, and blue. These hues are arranged in a triangular configuration equidistant from one another on the wheel. Every other color that you have ever seen is made by combining some form of these three colors.
Between each primary color lies a secondary color. These secondary colors are orange, green, and purple (violet), and are created by mixing equal parts of the primary colors they sit between - meaning orange is created by mixing equal parts red and yellow, green is created by mixing yellow and blue, and purple is created by mixing blue and red.
Tertiary colors are the third set of hues on the color wheel...these six hues include red-orange, yellow-orange, yellow-green, green-blue, blue-violet, and red-violet. Tertiary colors are created by mixing the primary and secondary colors that they sit between, so for example red-orange is created by mixing the primary color red with the secondary color orange, yellow-orange is created by mixing the primary color yellow with the secondary color orange, and so on...
As we start to understand the positioning of colors on the color wheel, we can actually begin to understand the relationships between colors and see what colors complement and contrast each other. By understanding this key information we can begin to create beautiful color combinations for our home.
Color Vocab + Variations
Now that we understand the positioning of color on the color wheel, we can start to learn how to manipulate these hues to create beautiful and unique colors.
You've seen me mention this term several times already, so let me explain what it means. A hue is simply the purest and brightest form of a color, meaning it hasn't been mixed with white, gray, or black. In the color wheel above, the twelve outside colors are considered the hues.
Value refers to the relative lightness or darkness of a color, high-value meaning lighter, and low-value meaning darker.
A tint is created by mixing any hue with white, thereby increasing its value. The second ring of colors on the color wheel just inside of the hues are tints. Tints can vary from mixing just a little bit of white into a hue to slightly lighten it, or mixing large amounts of white so that the tint becomes very faint.
Beneath the tint on the color wheel, you will find the tones. A tone is created by mixing a hue with any amount of pure gray.
Finally, the inner-most ring on the color wheel shows us the shade. A shade is created by mixing a hue with black, which decreases its value. Just like a tint, shades can vary from mixing just a little bit of black into a hue to slightly darken it, or mixing large amounts of black so that the final color is very dark.
The last (but very important and constantly used in design!) color variation that I want to talk to you about is saturation. Saturation refers to the intensity or vividness of a particular hue. A pure, unaltered hue has 100% saturation, while pure gray has 0% saturation. If you look at the color wheel below, you can see the varying degrees of saturation that are achieved by mixing a particular hue with its complementary color (we'll chat more about complementary colors in just a minute!) as you increase the amount of the complementary color that is added to the original hue, the less saturated (and more gray) it will become.
Now that you have a good understanding of the basics of color, we can learn how to play around and pair colors to create beautiful color combinations that flawlessly work together in your home.
Color Combos 101
Just as the nature of color itself is very complicated, there are many more color combinations than what we could ever get into in this one blog post, but here are the most basic, and what I consider the most fool-proof, types of color combos to get you started.
A monochromatic color scheme focuses on one particular hue and uses varying shades and tints of that color. When using a monochromatic color palette for your home I suggest including plenty of texture in your design to help keep things interesting.
A complementary color scheme uses two colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel, for example purple + yellow, or red + green. Pairing colors with their complement allows the hues to naturally play off of and intensify each other, leaving you with an effortlessly beautiful and vibrant feel throughout your space. I love complementary color schemes and feel that this may be the best place to start if you're new to creating color schemes.
The split-complementary color scheme uses a particular hue paired with the two colors adjacent to its complement on the color wheel. An example of this color scheme would be pairing red with yellow-green and blue-green (the colors adjacent to green, which is red's complement on the color wheel) or by combining the color pink (a tint of the hue red) with the colors yellow-green and blue-green (the colors adjacent to green, it's complement on the color wheel) as shown in the example below.
An analogous color scheme is created by combining colors that are neighbors on the color wheel, for example pairing red with red-orange, or blue-green and green as shown below. These colors pair very nicely together, and this is a great color scheme to work within if you're a little more timid in your color pairings.
The final color scheme that I want to introduce you to is the Triad, this color palette is achieved by combining three colors that are equally spaced on the color wheel - for example, red, yellow, and blue or red-violet, blue-green, and yellow-orange.
Enhancing Your Palette
Now that you've got some knowledge of color and color pairing under your belt, I bet you're thinking "Yeah Katie, that's great, but I don't want my house to look like an elementary school room full of bright colors straight off the color wheel!" Or maybe you're feeling leery of adding equal parts of color into your space in fear of it looking cartoonish? Fear not! I've got some tricks up my sleeve to help you create a color palette that is perfectly-suited to your preference and style!
I'm going to use the triad color scheme of red, yellow, and blue in these examples to show you some beautiful variations you can implement when building your own palettes for your home!
1. Change the Values
My first trick is to change the values of the original hues by either lightening or darkening them. As you can see in the graphic below we've manipulated the original color palette by darkening (shade) the red, changing the blue to a nice navy (shade), and lightening the yellow to a lovely soft tint.
2. Change the Saturation
The next trick I have for you is to alter the saturation of one or more colors in your palette to enhance or neutralize specific colors to your liking. In the example below we've kept the red the same, but decreased the saturation of the blue by adding gray and increased the saturation of the yellow to a beautiful mustard color.
3. The 60-30-10 Rule
My final trick is to employ the 60-30-10 rule, meaning that if you have three colors in your color palette, choose one to represent 60% of the color in the space, one to represent 30%, and use the final for pops of color, representing just 10%. Using this rule throughout your space adds a lot of sophistication to your design and will allow you to create a beautiful end result. Keep in mind that neutrals (white, black, brown, and gray) don't necessarily count as a color in your design and don't have the same effect. For example if you have gray walls you may be tempted to call that 60%, but I recommend using the 60-30-10 rule only for the hues within your space, even if you prefer just a little use of color in your home.
How To Use Your Color Palette
Now that you have your final color palette, it's time to put together your space! Keeping in mind the 60-30-10 proportions, you can implement these colors in any amount through furnishings such as rugs, furniture, throw pillows, curtains, wall/ceiling paint, cabinets, decor... anything you can dream up!
To add extra depth and interest to your space, add additional shades and tints of the hues you've selected through varying decor items. For example, using the red-yellow-blue triad color example from earlier, if I had a mustard armchair, I may incorporate a throw pillow with a darker mustard detail on an adjacent sofa, or select window curtains with touches of a lighter slate blue. This not only helps to add interest to your space, but it also allows your eye to move freely throughout the room and helps everything to feel sophisticated and cohesive.
I also never consider greenery as a color in any design - it works flawlessly in any color combo, I promise!
This here is a handy little tool to help you to create your own color palettes!
If you're ready to dive in even deeper and begin to create beautiful color palettes for your home, I've created this beautiful cheat-sheet for you to use whenever you find yourself pairing colors in your designs. Click here to get this free downloadable guide sent straight to your inbox!
If all this color jargon feels confusing but you still want to create beautiful color combos in your home, remember I'm just a phone call or email (firstname.lastname@example.org) away!