Understanding the colour wheel

You may or may not have heard of one, but if you’re about to embark on a decorating project then it could be your best friend.

Ok maybe not your best friend, but at least a very useful aide. Allow me to show you around the classic and supremely useful colour wheel.

If this is all obvious to you and I’m preaching to the choir, please bear with me and enjoy a quick refresher.

Breaking down the colour wheel

colour wheel

It was invented in 1666 by Isaac Newton, who mapped the colour spectrum onto a circle. The colour wheel is the basis of colour theory, because it shows the relationship between colours and makes our lives a lot easier!

Colours on the wheel are divided into primary, secondary and tertiary colours.

Primary colours (as you’ll remember from primary school) are blue, yellow and red.

  1. Mix two primary colours equally and you’ll get a secondary colour.
  2. You can’t make a primary colour by mixing other colours together.

Secondary colours (say it with me) are orange, green and violet.

  1. Red and yellow make orange.
  2. Yellow and blue make green.
  3. Blue and red make violet.

Tertiary colours are made by mixing primary and secondary colours.

The six tertiary colours are:

  • red violet
  • orange red
  • orange yellow
  • yellow green
  • blue green
  • blue violet
colour wheel

The half of the colour wheel (yellow to red-violet) is considered the ‘warm’ or ‘hot’ colours and the other side has the ‘cool’ or ‘cold’ colours.
This is good to know if you’re trying to create a specific mood in a room or want to make the area lighter/darker or more snug.

If you decide to use the colour wheel to create your colour scheme, there are three main ways to use it, that’ll help you choose.

  1. Analogous – look at three colours side-by-side on the wheel
  2. Complimentary – look at the two colours opposite each other on the wheel
  3. Triadic – look at three colours spaced equally on the wheel

Hopefully these tips will get you on the road to choosing colours confidently and get decorating loudly!

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