Whether you’re painting your home or your business, choosing the right color scheme may be the most important decision you make. Beyond the simple aesthetics of your choice, color has power. It can overwhelm, calm, energize, or inspire. Understanding the color palette is your first step toward understanding how to use color effectively.

What Is the Color Wheel?

This is Color 101. For the purposes of this post, we talk about 12-shade color wheels. You find them with as few as three colors or with dozens of gradients. But 12 is the standard for the six main color schemes used in interior design.

The 12 colors in a color wheel include:

  • Three primary colors: Red, blue, and yellow
  • Three secondary colors: Purple, orange, and green, the shades formed by combining the primary colors
  • Six tertiary colors: These are the colors created by combining primary and secondary colors

When you see more than 12 colors on a color wheel, what you’re seeing are tints, tones, and shades. Simply put, tints lighten the pure color by adding white. (Pure colors are also known as hues.) Tones dull the pure color by adding gray, and shades darken the hue by adding black.

What Are Color Schemes?

There are six main color schemes, each described according to the 12-color wheel.

  • Analogous: Uses three or more adjacent colors
  • Complementary: Uses two “opposite” colors
  • Double contrast: Also known as tetradic; uses two complementary pairs
  • Monochromatic: Uses tints, tones, and shades of a single color
  • Split complementary: Uses a base color plus two colors that lie on either side of its complement
  • Triadic: Uses three evenly spaced colors

The color scheme you choose depends largely on the mood or feeling you hope to create in the space. However, don’t ignore personal taste. Make room in your color scheme for your favorite shades.

Example of an analogous color scheme

Analogous Color Schemes

One of the more harmonious choices is the analogous color scheme, which uses three colors that lie next to each other on the color wheel. You get the best result when you choose one color as the primary, one as a supporting shade, and a third for accents.

It’s easy to create a matching décor with an analogous scheme, but some people find it dull. The right neutrals help create the contrast that keeps your color palette looking fresh and interesting.

Example of Complementary Color Scheme

Complementary Color Schemes

The complementary color scheme uses two colors that lie opposite each other on the color wheel, such as red and green. When you use hues at full saturation you get an enormous amount of contrast.

This color scheme can be overwhelming if not managed properly. Some people choose tints or tones instead of pure colors, which helps mute the complementary color scheme a bit. Or, they save the complementary colors for areas they want to really stand out, relying mainly on neutrals for the rest of the space.

Example of a Double Contrast Color Scheme

Double Contrast Color Scheme

Also known as a rectangle or tetradic color scheme, this palette uses two pairs of complementary colors. It offers an incredible level of variety, but it works best if you choose a single shade as the dominant color.

When using the double contrast color scheme, try to balance your warm and cool colors. Warm colors are energizing and tend to make a space feel smaller. They include reds, yellows, and oranges. Cool colors have a calming effect and make a space feel larger. Blues, greens, and purples are common cool shades.

Example of a Monochromatic Color Scheme

Monochromatic Color Scheme

A monochromatic color scheme may sound dull, but with so many shades, tints, and tones within a single color, you have nearly endless possibilities. And, of course, there are also the numerous neutral shades available.

Typically, a monochromatic palette relies on the pure color for its accent. Your dominant and secondary colors will be your tones, tints, and shades.

Example of a Split Complementary Color Scheme

Split Complementary Color Scheme

In the split complementary color scheme, you choose your base color and then the two hues on either side of its complement. You get the benefit of contrast as with the complementary palette, but it’s a bit less jarring to the eye (and psyche).

This is considered one of the easier palettes to incorporate. Most people choose the base color for their accent as it is typically the most vibrant of the three.

Triadic Color Scheme

This palette uses three colors that are evenly spaced throughout the color wheel. The three primary colors are the most obvious, but you can use any three colors, providing three other colors separate them on the wheel.

The triadic color scheme is extremely energetic and vibrant. Not even the unsaturated versions of your hues do much to tone it down. The most successful uses of this palette choose one color to be the dominant shade. Then, use the other two colors equally as accents.

Example of Neutral Palette

What Are Neutral Colors?

Neutral shades fill the majority of color “space” in a room. Whites, earth tones, grays, and black are all examples of neutral colors.

You’re probably used to seeing whites and earth tones, but don’t be afraid of grays and black. As with all neutrals, they go with every color from pale pastels to vibrant jewel tones. No matter which neutral shades you choose, they help your accent colors “pop” without letting them overwhelm the space.

Black isn’t used often, but it’s a great way to add both balance and depth to a color scheme. It’s rare to find a color that’s both neutral and dramatic, but black pulls it off.

Are You Ready to Get Started?

Whether you’re painting interior or exterior, commercial or residential, color choice is vital. The team at CBP of Arizona can help you find the perfect palette for your project. For a free quote, call us at 602-678-1380. Or, complete our contact form and we’ll call you!