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Creating colour schemes is one of the trickiest tasks in home decorating. If you’ve tried to tackle it on your own, chances are you’ve found yourself pondering questions like these:
Where do I start? What should I focus on? Which colours work together? Why? How do I choose colours that complement my space and create the right mood?
Like we said, it’s tricky. There’s a lot to consider, and getting it wrong can mean you’re left with a space you don’t enjoy being in. To save you from that fate, we thought it was time we put together a post on the basics of colour schemes. We’ll look at how to create one from scratch, using the same methods as designers the world over, and give you the tools you need to make the process easy. Sound good?
Let’s get started!
The six key colour schemes
Colour professionals (think interior designers, artists, and graphic designers) spend a lot of time with the traditional colour wheel when they’re creating a palette for a new project. This is because it acts like a map for choosing colours that work well together. All you need to make use of its map-like qualities are the right directions, otherwise known as (you guessed it!) colour schemes. Here they are, in easy to follow detail.
Complementary colour schemes can be found by drawing a straight line across the middle of the colour wheel to connect two opposite colours. Blue and orange, for example, or yellow and purple. When using one of these pairings as a colour scheme for your home, it’s best to include a third colour as a bit of a buffer to help the complementary colours pop without jarring. Whites and neutrals are great for this. Take a peek at our Modello Cinque Terre Quilt Cover Set to see a complementary colour scheme (grey-blue and deep orange) in action.
These harmonies pull together different tones, shades and hues of the same colour, so can be found on the wheel by simply drawing a straight line through the same slice of colour as it changes saturation. If you’re creating a monochromatic colour scheme for your home, just make sure you choose versions of the colour that are easily differentiated by the naked eye. If the hues are too close a match, you’ll run the risk of creating a room that’s either bland or overwhelming.
Analogous colour schemes use any three colours that sit next to each other on the wheel. They’re one of the easiest schemes to create and work really well when layered in different textures, making them ideal for bedrooms and living rooms where your focal point (i.e. the bed or sofa) is layered with soft furnishings.
4. Split Complementary
These schemes offer a little more complexity than those already mentioned, and can be found by drawing a line across the middle of the wheel from your base colour – as with complementary schemes – and then using the colours that fall on either side of the colour you land on. Yellow gets matched with blue-violet and red-violet for example, or blue-green with orange and red. The important part of executing a split complementary theme in your home is remembering to make your base colour the hero and using the other two as accents. If you use all three in equal measure, it can confuse the eye.
Triadic schemes use three evenly spaced colours on the wheel. They’re typically tricky to implement well, but add a lot of visual interest in the right hands. For an example of a triadic scheme done well, have a look at how we’ve styled our blue and pink Marena Cinque Terre Quilt Cover Set with a yellow cushion.
Also referred to as double-complementary schemes, these involve the use of two complementary pairs. As you might’ve guessed, tetradic are the most complicated colour schemes to pull off, so only opt for this approach if you’re feeling confident. Clever use of tones will go a long way if you do decide to take the plunge, helping mute your chosen hues into a refined palette.
Now you know how colour schemes work, it’s time to create one, and these tools will help you do just that. Each of these is great for different levels of know-how and different sources of motivation, so have a read, find your best match and get started.
This is, in our humble opinion, the best of the bunch. It’s free, incredibly easy to use, and allows you to save your palettes in one place so you can compare them easily, which is great if you’re trying to narrow down your favourites or see if the scheme you’ve got going on in the lounge will work with the one you’re planning for the dining room. Simply click generate and hit the space bar on your keyboard until you come across a scheme you like.
This handy online tool presents you with a giant colour wheel and a button for each of the colour schemes mentioned above; perfect for those who want more control over their creations. Simply pick a starting hue on the wheel and let Paletton do the rest, adjusting the saturation and tones until you have a palette you’re happy with.
If you’re more wordy than visual, this is the website for you. Simply type in a word (e.g. ‘winter’ or ‘Africa’) and you’ll get a corresponding colour theme. It’s great if you know the look and feel you want to create but have no idea how to get there.
Next time you see a painting, room, or natural vista with colours you want to replicate in your own home, take a snap and upload it onto Pictaculous. The clever generator will pick up on the colours at play in the picture and present you with a corresponding colour scheme you can refer to while you shop.
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