Color Wheel

Design Corner - Tools - Color Wheel

The Color Wheel

    The Color Wheel


  • Color Basics
  • Color Techniques
  • Color Selection






















Part 1: Color Basics

Choosing color can be a complicated decision to make when decorating. Color is integral to design and architecture, so choosing the right color and/or combinations of color is important. The Color Wheel is a tool designed to help you understand the relationships between different hues. The bases are three primary colors: red, blue and yellow. These are then combined to make the three secondary colors: orange, green, and purple. Finally, the remaining six colors on the wheel are known as tertiary colors and are mixes of the secondary colors, including such hues as red-orange, yellow-green, and blue purple.

There are many different aspects to color to consider. First, colors combined with blacks, grays and whites provide shade, tone and tint to rooms. Second, colors directly across from one another on the color wheel are complimentary colors: red and green, yellow and purple, and blue and orange. Third, colors next to each other on the color wheel are analogous colors: red and orange, blue and green, etc. Last, when choosing colors to create your desired mood, consider the following:

  • Warm Colors: red, yellow and orange (aggressive)
  • Cool Colors: blue, green and purple (receding)
  • Neutral Colors: gray and brown (don't contrast with anything)


Part 2: Color Techniques

There are a variety of ways color can be applied to enhance interior walls. The basic finishing techniques use a combination of glaze and base color to create different textures and looks. Some basic finishing techniques are shown below and are great for beginners until more advanced techniques such as crackling and sandwashing are mastered.

  • Ragging - Creates a lacy, elegant look by using a water-dampened cloth rag to apply color to, or remove it from, the base color
  • Sponging - Creates texture and depth using a water-dampened sea sponge to apply color to, or remove it from, the base color
  • Dragging - Creates a textured fabric look by using a dry brush dragged down still-wet glaze


Part 3: Color Selection

The largest investment in decorating is spent on furniture, drapery and flooring. Paint on the other hand, is mostly inexpensive, but can transform your room quicker than anything else. Let's review a few important tips to help you select color when decorating:

  • Use the fabrics and textures of your furniture, drapery and flooring as your color guide
  • Choose the appropriate sheen for the function of your room being painted
  • Bring swatches and samples of furnishings for the room (if available) when choosing paint color
  • There should be a relationship between adjacent rooms and new paint color for flow and continuity
  • Let the exposure of the room set the tone (cool tones for sunny areas, warm tones for darker areas)
  • When manipulating the perceived size of the room with color, choose light colors and white ceilings to increase size, dark colors and dark ceilings to shrink size
  • Decide on the mood you want the room to evoke and then explore the psychology of colors