A favorite of designers and artists, the wheel makes color relationships easy to see by dividing the spectrum into 12 basic hues: three primary colors, three secondaries, and six tertiaries.
Primary colors are red, blue, and yellow. These colors are pure -- you can't create them from other colors, and all other colors are created from them. Secondary colors are orange, green, and violet. They line up between the primaries on the color wheel because they are formed when equal parts of two primary colors are combined. Tertiary colors are formed by mixing a primary color with a secondary color next to it on the color wheel. With each blending -- primary with primary, then primary with secondary -- the resulting hues become less vivid, as seen in the color wheel opposite.
Video: The Color Wheel
Finding the right colors for rooms in your home can be a decorating challenge but there is a trick to choosing a color scheme that decorators love and you can use too. It's the color wheel. We see color based on how light reflects off of a surface. The segments of the color wheel represent the science behind color, and also show how colors relate to each other. The wheel has three primary colors, red, blue and yellow; Three secondary colors, green, violet and orang; and six tertiary colors; red-orange, yellow-orange, yellow-green, blue-green, blue-purple, and red-purple. Here's how the color wheel works. Colors are laid out on the wheel according to their color relationships. Learning how colors affect each other will help you create successful color schemes and also set the type of mood you want in your room. For example, the colors in an analogous scheme all sit next to each other on the color wheel. This room uses blues and greens and the result is a harmonious room with plenty of visual variety. On the flip side, complimentary color schemes are made up of colors opposite to each other on the color wheel such as purple and yellow. Because these colors reflect like completely differently, they create a dynamic vibrant look when paired together. Adding white or black to a color also creates variety. Take blue for example. Adding white creates what's called a tint, and adding black creates a shade. While both of these are blue, they can be used to create a totally different decorating vibe. The value or brightness of a color is also an attribute to know. Higher value colors are more intense while lower value colors are more mellow. Knowing how different colors relate to each other and understanding a color's tone and intensity, we'll help you create the ideal color scheme for any space in your home. Start your scheme with a color you love and decide what type of mood you want your room to have. Then, use the color wheel to help choose the accent colors and tints that will make the room look great. Explore more color schemes at bhg.com/colorvideos.
The color wheel helps you mix colors to get palettes with varying degrees of contrast. Four common types of color schemes:
Monochromatic Scheme: These tone-on-tone combinations use several shades (adding black) and tints (adding white) of a single hue for a subtle palette. Think pale blue, sky blue, and navy.
Analogous Scheme: For a bit more contrast, an analogous palette includes colors found side by side on the wheel, such as orange, yellow, and green, for a colorful but relaxing feel.
Contrast: A triad creates an adventurous palette by using three hues evenly spaced on the wheel, such as blue-green, red-violet, and yellow-orange, for vivid contrast with balanced colors.
Complementary Scheme: This is the most dynamic -- yet simple -- color scheme. Using two hues opposite each other on the color wheel, such as blue and orange, is guaranteed to add energy to any room.
Color can also affect emotional responses and create a mood. Greens tend to soothe, for instance, while yellows are uplifting and energetic. Bold reds are passionate and daring, but soft pink (a tint of red) is considered sweet and delicate. Blues are perceived as calming and quiet; oranges are warm and cozy; and purple, a truly complex color, can be seen as sexy or spiritual. Colors are considered warm or cool because of association. In our minds we compare reds, oranges, and yellows with the warmth of the sun and fire. Blues, greens, and violets are cool because of their association with water, sky, and foliage. As you create a color palette, your scheme should never be all warm colors or all cool colors. Let one dominate and set the overall tone of the room, but be sure to include elements that offer contrast.
Analogous: Neighbors on the color wheel
Chroma: A color's brightness or dullness
Complementary: Opposites on the color wheel, which appear brighter when they are used together (examples: yellow and purple, red and green, blue and orange)
Neutral: Black, white, brown, and gray
Primary: Pure colors -- red, yellow, and blue -- that combine to create all other colors on the wheel
Secondary: A combination of equal parts of two primary colors (secondary colors are green, orange, purple)
Shade: Any color with black added; also refers to slight variations in a color
Split Complementary: The grouping of a color with the two hues analogous to its complementary color (yellow with red-violet and blue-violet, for example)
Triad: Any three colors equally spaced on the color wheel, one of which usually takes precedence in a color scheme (yellow-orange, blue-green, and red-violet, for example)
Tertiary: A combination of equal parts of a primary and a secondary color
Tint: Any color with white added
Tone: A color's intensity -- its degree of lightness or darkness