Creating Colour Harmony – 6 Classic Colour Schemes

Colour Harmony

Colour harmony is created when colours in a scheme work well with each other and are pleasing to the eye. Some people are born with a gift to co-ordinate colours beautifully but you don’t have to be born with this gift to create a lovely colour scheme.  Familiarising yourself with some colour guidelines can help and give you confidence when it comes to making your colour choices.

Nowadays there are no rules when it comes to combining colours, so there is no wrong or right way, you will know when a colour scheme is right when it looks and feels perfect.

The Colour Wheel

The Colour Wheel

An understanding of colour begins with the colour wheel.  This is a useful tool to understand as it shows how colours relate to one another.
A colour wheel consists of primary, secondary and tertiary colours.
Primary Colours – Red, Yellow and Blue. Called primary  because they cannot be mixed using any other colours.
Secondary Colours -Orange, Purple and Green are created by combining two primaries.  Yellow and Red combined make Orange, Blue and Red make Purple and Blue and Yellow make green.
Tertiary Colours are created when you join a primary and secondary colour. Blue and Purple make – Blue-Purple.

When you join primary, secondary and tertiary colours you have a standard 12 colour Colour wheel.

Below are 6 of the classic  interior colour harmonies based on the colour wheel as a guide.

Monochromatic Colour Scheme

A monochromatic colour harmony is created when tints and shades of one colour family are used in a scheme.
This colour scheme creates an uncluttered and calm harmony, which makes it a favourite for minimalist and neutral colour schemes.

Creating Colour Harmony - Monochromatic Colour Scheme
Monochromatic Harmony – Designers Guild

Adjacent or Analogous Colour Scheme

Colours next to each other on the colour wheel are called adjacent colours. For example. Blue and Green or Blue and Purple.  Typically three or more colours lying next to each other are used, one colour as the key colour and the other colours are used to support and enhance the scheme.  Adjacent colour harmonies are very pleasing to the eye and more colourful than a monochromatic colour scheme.

Creating Colour Harmony - Adjacent or Analogous Colour Scheme
Analogous Harmony using Pantone Colour of the Year Ultra Violet.

Complementary Colour Scheme

A complementary colour scheme is one where colours directly opposite each other on the colour wheel are used together.
Red and Green, Blue and Orange, Yellow and Purple
When complementary colours are used together they enhance and balance each other.
In interiors the use of complementary colours creates a vibrant colour scheme which can be tricky to pull off, especially when the colours are fully saturated.

Creating Colour Harmony - Complementary Colour Scheme
Deco Monkeys Wallpaper by De Gournay

Split-Complementary Colour Scheme

A softer version of the complementary scheme. A split complementary harmony is achieved when a key colour is chosen and it is paired with the two colours that lie on either side of the key colour’s complementary colour. For example blue combined with red-orange and yellow-orange.

Triadic Colour Scheme

In this scheme three colours used are evenly spaced around the colour wheel (every 4th colour on the 12 colour Colour wheel)- forming of a triangle. In most cases one colour is chosen as the main colour and the other two are used as accents. The triadic scheme is often easier to achieve and more harmonious than the complementary colour scheme.

Colour Harmonies - Triadic Colour Scheme
Big Archie Fabric by

Tetradic Colour Scheme

Following on from triadic, a tetradic colour scheme involves using two sets of complementary colours – 4 colours that make a square on the colour wheel. This makes for the most colourful scheme.

Creating Colour Harmony - Tetradic Colour Scheme
Creating Colour Harmony –

Hopefully having knowledge of the colour wheel will help in making colour choices and remember use it as  a guide only. If a scheme does not look and feel right – remove or add the colour you would like.

Most importantly have fun.


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