Quick Intro to Color Theory

color theory color wheel DIY design home decor home decorating interior design

I know, I know - "color theory" might not sound like the sexiest topic in the world. Maybe you're wondering what use it serves outside of art school. Well, I've got a little secret for you: a basic (i.e., NOT art school level!) understanding of color theory will help you bring your home decor game from okay to incredible!

The Color Wheel

To help you visualize what I'm about to explain, I made a quick, not terribly scientific rendering of a color wheel:

Primary secondary tertiary colors color wheel

Now these can get way more in depth, but this gives us primary, secondary, and tertiary colors, which is really as far as you need to go to get the idea.

Primary Colors

Primary colors are the three colors we learned in kindergarten - the ones that need no mixing to exist. These are red, blue, and yellow. There's some recent discussion about magenta, yellow, and cyan being the true primary colors, but like I said, we're sticking with the basics here.

color wheel primary colors

Secondary Colors

Secondary colors are created by blending two primary colors together. This blending creates green, orange, and purple.

color wheel secondary colors

Tertiary Colors

Finally (at least for the purposes of this post), we have tertiary colors. Tertiary colors are created by mixing a primary color with a secondary color. That gives you yellow-orange, yellow-green, teal, magenta, red-orange, and violet.

color wheel tertiary colors

Putting the information into practice

That's the color wheel! Now how do you use this information in interior design? I like to think in terms of coordinating colors and complementary colors.

Coordinating colors

Coordinating colors sit next to each other on the color wheel. These are great to use for creating a luxurious monotone look. For example, if you have a blue couch, you could add throw pillows and blankets in either teal or violet to add layers of interest without any colors clashing.

Complementary colors

Complementary colors are used to introduce major contrast in a design, whether it be in a piece of art or your living room decor, without clashing. These colors are found directly across from each other on the color wheel. Take that blue couch example again: if you want to add some contrast instead of keeping the look monotone, throw an orange blanket over the back. If you've got a neutral couch below a painting featuring a lot of yellow, use purple throw pillows to increase the visual interest in the room.

By implementing your newfound knowledge of color theory, your home will look like it's designed by a professional in no time!

For more information about how to put this knowledge into practice, download my free guide on how to choose art for your home. It includes specific examples with photos to help you visualize how these rules work in your space.


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