Colour Schemes 101: I can sing a rainbow

I have been teaching my daughter colour theory since she was under a year old, using colourful toys as props. Example, “Sofia, these blocks are red, yellow, and blue. Those are primary colors. When you add them together you get secondary colours like orange”. When I confused her enough with that I moved on to “Sofia, look at these balls, they are orange and blue. That’s a complementary colour combination”. When I recently started struggling with saying, “well..that’s not really red Sofia, its more of a red-orange…” my husband thought it was time to simplify things. Right. Keep it to “I can sing a rainbow”. For now.

However, if you are old enough to be reading this then you are old enough to let me indulge in talking about color schemes without causing too much confusion or stunting your learning curve.

As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, so here are some beautifully decorated spaces exemplifying some common colour schemes.

Monochromatic Color Schemes: using any tint (white added to colour), tone (grey added to colour), or shade (black added to colour) of one colour.

Ah, Sarah Richardson, I love her bold style of decorating

Ah, Sarah Richardson, I love her bold style of decorating

Talk about sunny side up

Talk about sunny side up

Analogous Colour Schemes: using two to five colours consecutive on the colour wheel

analagous yellow-green, green, blue-green

analagous yellow-green, green, blue-green

Another beauty by Sarah Richardson. Analogous orange, yellow-orange, yellow, yellow green color scheme

Another beauty by Sarah Richardson. Analogous red-orange, orange, yellow-orange, yellow, yellow-green color scheme

Complementary: using two colours opposite one another on the colour wheel

I love orange and blue contrasting colour schemes. Or in this case, red-orange and blue-green

I love orange and blue contrasting colour schemes. Or in this case, red-orange and blue-green

Gorgeous lofty red-green contrasting scheme

Gorgeous red and green contrasting scheme. It doesn’t have to look like Christmas.

Split Complementary: Using two colors on either side of the colour’s complementary colour

Loosley a split-complementary red orange, red-violet, and green (though the couch is really more of a yellow-green)

Loosely a split-complementary red-orange, red-violet, and green (though the couch is really more of a yellow-green to be honest. Designers take liberties with these things)

Yellow, red violet, and blue violet (they snuck in a bit of blue-green two but ignore that :-)

Split complementary yellow, red violet, and blue violet (they snuck in a bit of blue-green on the ottoman but ignore that 🙂

Triad: Using three colours equally spaced from each other on the colour wheel

Triadic colour scheme done in red, yellow, and blue

Triadic colour scheme done in red, yellow, and blue

violet, orange, green triadic colour scheme

Violet, green, and orange triadic scheme. Orange is “the mother of all beige” and therefore the beige counts as the third colour in this triad.

Tetrad: Using a combination of four colours that are two sets of complementary colours.

Green, red, blue, and orange tetrad colour scheme. These schemes are mostly seen in children's rooms as they are quite loud.

Green, red, blue, and orange tetrad colour scheme. These schemes are mostly seen in children’s rooms as they are quite loud.

Two common color combinations that do not fit into traditional color schemes include blue and yellow (often seen in French country decorating) and red, blue, and white (often seen in…America)

A little bit of french country yellow and blue

A little bit of french country yellow and blue

Red White and Blue Colour Scheme

Tried and True, American red, white and blue. Its a fairly common coastal cottage type scheme.

Some non-colour “colour” schemes are achromatic, the use of black and white in decorating, and neutral, decorating with beige, grey, and/or cream.

Achromatic Living Room

Achromatic Living Room

Dining room decorated with neutral beige

Dining room decorated with neutral beige

One last colour scheme to consider is polychromatic…that is, the use of all the colours on the colour wheel.

I appreciate the artistry but I would go insane staying in this hotel room

I appreciate the artistry but I would go insane staying in this hotel room

Kids rooms or playrooms are about the only place you should see a polychromatic scheme in my opinion

Kids rooms or playrooms are about the only place you should see a polychromatic scheme in my opinion

Hopefully some of these examples will help you in your next decorating venture.  For more colour combinations pick up a colour wheel from your local craft store and have a gander. If you stick to the tried and true schemes it should help to make your decor a success!

If you don’t feel like buying a colour wheel this link is helpful for looking at different colour combinations on the colour wheel.

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2 Comments

Filed under Decorating Basics

2 responses to “Colour Schemes 101: I can sing a rainbow

  1. Pingback: No-Sew DIY Flag Pennant | fabrictherapy

  2. Pingback: Wishing you a colourful Christmas | fabrictherapy

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