Reinventing the (colour) wheel

Designers Guild

Are you struggling to pull together a room scheme? Needing some inspiration for a quick colour refresh? Want to know the difference between your complementary and tonal colour schemes? Well you have come to the right place! We have put together a simple guide to colour basics, to help guide you through the complex world of colour.

Understanding the colour wheel

The traditional colour wheel is a useful way of organising key colours and can really help you put together a room scheme. It is a visual representation of what colours work well together.

There are three main categories:

Primary colours: consist of red, yellow and blue. These are your core colours and the three base ingredients from which all other colours are made.

Secondary colours: consist of orange, violet and green. Each of these tones are made by combining two of the primary colours. So for example, red and yellow create orange, blue and red create violet, and blue and yellow create green.

Tertiary colours: are made by mixing a primary colour with a secondary colour, or by mixing two secondary colours together. Examples include chartreuse (yellow and green) and magenta (purple and red).

Create your colour scheme

Armed with the knowledge of the three main colour types, you will be able to pull a colour scheme together using the trusty colour wheel as a reference. The three most commonly used colour combinations are:

Monochromatic or Tonal: These schemes use tones of the same colour in varying hues. This scheme works wonderfully in rooms where you wish to create a calm, tranquil setting. It creates a balance and gives the room a visual interest. We would recommend using a maximum of 3 varying tones in one room, a light, medium and darker shade.

A great example of a monochromatic/ tonal scheme. Varying shades of grey combine to create a relaxing bedroom environment. Pinterest

Harmonious or Analogous: These schemes feature colours that sit directly next to one another on the colour wheel. These work beautifully together in a room scheme. For example, mix blues with purples, or pair oranges with reds. Using too many colors would disrupt the harmony of the scheme. Also, to guarantee harmony, try to select either all warm or all cool colors. A harmonious colour scheme provides a richer, more colorful solution than the monochromatic scheme, and a vibrant composition, but still not as vibrant as a complementary scheme.

This image shows how blue & purple tones have been combined to create an interesting harmonious scheme. Pic Ideal Ho

Complementary or Contrasting: As the name would suggest this colour scheme uses hues that sit opposite on the colour wheel.  These  colour ways will always look good together, despite the fact that they contrast. This scheme delivers an exciting interplay of colour and, depending on the strength of the colours you select, the look you create can range from playful to dynamic. For example, blue looks brilliant with orange, and yellow works wonderfully with purple.

Orange & Blue create a vibrant colour scheme in this kitchen. You can easily incorporate pops of a complementary colour through your accessories. Pic Better Homes & Gardens


Once you get to grips with the colour wheel and have mastered these basic rules, you can experiment with a wide variety of colour combinations and put together stunning colour schemes with confidence. If you are still unsure about what colour scheme is right for your living room, take a look at our Colour my Room E-Design Package. Or if you would like help in selecting colours for more than one room, check out our Colour my home E-Design package. Each of our colour E-Design packages come with Colour schemes for each room, along with suggested complementary furnishings. Click here to find out more.

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