The colour wheel is a great resource to go to if you ever get stumped on a colour. Whether that is wall paint, décor, furniture or pretty much anything in your home. But beware, you will not find black or white on this wheel as they are technically not colours. Black is a void of all colour which means that these items absorbs all visual light waves while white is actually a reflection of all visual light waves.

The layout of colours on the wheel are very specific but this lesson may bring most of you back to early grade school. Primary colours red, yellow and blue are set in a triangular pattern. Secondary colours are made from mixing these primary colours together. I'm personally thinking back to finger painting and learning for the first time that yellow and blue make green. Finally, tertiary colours are made by combining one primary and one secondary colour. Seems simple enough but you may be wondering how this tool will make it easier to work with colour.

 Holbein Colour Wheel

Holbein Colour Wheel

There are a couple techniques that I have outlined below.

Complimentary: Any colour that is directly across from one other colour. This can be a shade tint or tone of both. So, orange compliments blue or the shocker combo red and green or even yellow-orange and blue-violet. (Little tidbit: any dual named colour starts with the primary colour) For example, If you had orange walls you could very easily put light blue drapes or a royal blue bedspread in the same room .

Split Complimentary: This is where you would choose one colour and use the colour on either side of its compliment. Orange and blue-green or orange and blue-violet.

You may also now be wondering what the heck is a shade, tint or tone! Shade is any colour + black. Tint is any colour + white and a tone is any colour + Grey. Depending on how much black, white or grey you add will determine how dark, light or toned/muted your colour is.

Diad: Using two different colours that are two colours apart on the wheel. Green and yellow-orange.

Triad: Three colours equally spaced from each other on the wheel. Green, violet and orange or red, yellow and blue.  

Tetrad: This is a very flexible scheme as it is about combining 4 or more colours from the wheel.

I know this will not solve every colour question out there and there will still be times when all you want to do with the wheel is play Frisbee with the dog. It shouldn't be the only thing you use to combine colours but it will give you a better understanding of what goes well together and how many different colours you can work into the mix.

AuthorCamille Pacori