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How to Use a Color Wheel in Home Design

It always seems like the homes you see on TV are just so perfectly coordinated, so dazzling. Rooms that interior designers set up, those show homes with staged areas…if you see them and think “I could never do that in my home,” you’re not alone.

Knowing how to mix and match the right colors and patterns always look totally easy when someone else is doing it on TV. But there’s a secret that designers know, a cheat sheet that they pretty much all use. It’s the color wheel. And when you know how to unlock its power, you can also be a totally amazing designer and make your home look perfect, too.

Related: Colors that Go with Red Interior | Colors that Go with Blue Interior | Colors that Go with Yellow Interior | Colors that Go with Beige Interior | Colors that Go with Brown Interior

What is the Color Wheel?

The color wheel is a circle that has shades of rainbow colors on it: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple. There are 12 colors on the basic color wheel. This wheel shows how colors combine, contrast, and blend together. When you know how to use it, you can create amazing designs that have a perfect balance of complementing and contrasting colors. You can learn a lot about home design just by learning the color wheel.

When you know how to use the color wheel, you’ll know how to design a well-balanced room and create an amazing overall color scheme just like a professional interior designer would.

Who Invented the Color Wheel?

A close look at a person using the color wheel.

Essentially, it was none other than Sir Isaac Newton himself who invented the color wheel in 1666. He performed a prism experiment and learned that pure, white light actually contains the entire spectrum of color. This was basically the first color wheel. Since Newton’s experiment, the colors of the world have been studied by philosophers, psychologists, scientists, and designers, among others.

In Newton’s color wheel, there are three primary colors: yellow, red, and blue. All other colors are made up of some combination of two or three of these colors. The secondary colors are created when two primary colors are mixed together. These colors are orange, green, and purple (or violet).

Within this basic framework lies the entire world of color. Every shade, every tone, every blend of color all exist somewhere on the color wheel. If you can learn how to use it, you can learn the secrets of beautiful home design and the know-how to create a great-looking overall color scheme.

How to Use the Color Wheel

So how do you find the complementary color on a color wheel? First, learn how to find tertiary colors. These are the colors that are created when a primary color is mixed with the secondary color right next to it on the color wheel. For example, yellow and green or red and orange.

These are primary and secondary colors. The tertiary colors result when these are mixed together. All three of these colors complement each other. When you start playing around with different shades and contrasting and complementing hues, you’re creating a color scheme.

What kind of color scheme do you want to create in your home? Use the color wheel to make it work. You can even use the wheel to create a monochromatic color scheme. This can look very elegant when it’s done well.

A person looking at a color wheel.

Start with a single color you love and then use the color wheel to find complementing shades. Decorate your room using shades of this color against white, black, gray, or a neutral color palette. Now you’re learning the art of great home design.

Create a contrasting color scheme if you want to create a dramatic look in a room in your home. It’s easy to use the wheel to find contrasting colors. All you have to do is pick a color and then look directly across from it. These two colors are contrasting, but in a way that plays off each other well.

These opposite colors work well together. Just be sure to bring some balance to the design by adding some colors that are next to your main colors on the wheel. This ensures that you have some complementary color in the design as well.

Focus on colors that are next to each other on the wheel to create a complementary color scheme where everything is in harmony. You can always use dazzling white or black to create contrast and add a little needed tension to the design. A little contrast will make your harmonious color combinations stand out even more.

The Rule of Good Interior Design

Design a great look for any room in your home by following a simple rule that many interior designers follow. It’s called the 60-30-10 rule. That means you design the room using 60 percent of the dominant color, 30 percent of your secondary color (a contrasting or complementary color), and 10 percent of an accent color. Remember, you can use different shades of a color to give the room lots of depth and create a gorgeous, multi-toned effect.

It’s always best to mix cool and warm tones in home design. You don’t want to use all cool colors or all warm colors in the same space. Even just a few little accents can make a big difference if you need to warm up a cool color scheme or cool down a warm one. You want the rooms of your home to feel well-balanced and inviting. If the design isn’t balanced, people may be more ill at ease.

A close look at a couple of color wheel paint samples.

If you’re feeling especially bold, try creating a triple color scheme, also known as a triadic color scheme. Do this by picking out three colors that are evenly spaced from each other on the wheel. This creates contrast and balance at the same time. Make one color dominant and use the other two to bring the design together. You can always add neutral tones to the design so you don’t just overwhelm the room with color.

What’s the secret of great interior design? Good color mixing. Learn how to use the wheel and you’ll know how to design amazing rooms. The basic color wheel is a great starting point, but the wheel can be used for all color shades in both muted and vibrant tones.

Start looking at other shades of color in more intricate versions of the color wheel and start really playing around with the home design, color scheme, and all the many looks you can create.

Designing with the Color Wheel

Brushes and various cans of paint on a wooden table.

Use the color wheel to create well-balanced, great-looking designs in beautiful color schemes everywhere in your home. Create a look that’s bright and energetic that pops with contrast. Or try a mellow look in soothing complementary tones. Be bold with a monochromatic look in different shades of red set against dazzling white.

Get creative and have fun. The color wheel is one of the main tools that even the most skilled and sophisticated designers use for home design. If you can master it, you’ll be able to create interior designs that have a professional look to them for your home.

When you know how to use the color wheel, you can take a lot of stress and guesswork out of beautiful home design.