Decorating and Understanding the Colour Wheel

Understanding colour

Colour is the most powerful decorating tool of all.

It creates mood, atmosphere and impact and is usually the first thing we notice about a room.

It can be used to stimulate and to relax, and can bring a touch of sunshine into a dark, dismal area.


Some things to remember about colour:

  • Colour is affected by light: consider your chosen colours by natural daylight at different times of the day, and also by the room’s lighting.
  • The amount of colour used affects its apparent intensity, so try to see a colour on the scale at which it will be used to judge its impact.
  • Texture affects how we see colour: a rough, bobbly fabric will appear different from a light-reflecting gloss paint in a matching hue.
  • Our perception of colour is affected by neighbouring colours. A small red and white print, for instance, will appear pink from a short distance away.
  • Neutrals are an invaluable addition to the palette. Use them to provide harmony or to tone down a strong scheme.

The colour wheel

colour wheel

A colour wheel shows how the spectrum of colours turns full circle, each colour graduating into the next. The colour wheel is made up of:

  • primary colours – red, yellow and blue. These cannot be obtained by mixing.
  • secondary colours – obtained by mixing two primary colours: orange (red and yellow), green (yellow and blue) and violet (blue and red).
  • tertiary colours – mixes of a primary and a neighbouring secondary (blue-green, orange-red, for example).

The infinite subtleties of colours are obtained by the addition of black, grey and white, which do not feature on the colour wheel in their own right since they are not, strictly speaking, colours at all, but an absence or saturation of light.

You will find colours referred to indiscriminately as hues, tints and shades, but these actually have specific meanings:

  • * hues are pure colours, without the addition of neutrals.
  • * tints are hues with varying degrees of white added.
  • * shades are obtained by adding black to a hue.
  • * tones, sometimes called mid-tones, result from the addition of grey.

The colours on the red side of the wheel are considered warm and appear to advance towards you, while colours on the blue side are cool, or receding, and can make a space look larger (although a strong blue can be enclosing). The warmth or coolness of a mixed colour varies greatly with the predominance of the hue used in the mix — some greens can be warm, if there is more yellow in them, or cool if there is more blue, for example.

12. June 2011 by admin
Categories: Colour Schemes, Decorating, Interior Design | Tags: , | Comments Off on Decorating and Understanding the Colour Wheel


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