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How to think about colour like an interior designer

Did you know that design professionals use the colour wheel when deciding how to decorate a space? Here are some colour theory basics to help you think like a designer when adding colour to your home.

The colour wheel

The standard colour wheel contains 12 colours: three primary colours, three secondary colours and six tertiary colours. Primary colours (red, yellow and blue) combine to form secondary colours (orange, violet and green). Tertiary colours are derived from combinations of primary and secondary colours.

Variations on these base colours are created by using different shades, tints and tones. Tinting means adding white to make a colour lighter while shading involves adding black to make it darker. Tone refers to mixing a colour with a combination of white and black.

How designers use the colour wheel when decorating

Designers use these principles to figure out different ways to use colour in a space.

Here are three common colour schemes.

  1. Monochromatic: based on one colour in various shades, tones and tints.
  2. Complementary: complementary colours (orange and blue, red and green, yellow and purple) are directly across from each other on the colour wheel. In a complementary scheme, one colour serves as the dominant hue and the other as an accent.
  3. Analogous: based on three colours found next to each other on the colour wheel. It’s more subtle than using complementary colours but more colourful than a monochromatic interior.

Designers also consider colour temperature. In general, warm colours, which contain more red and yellow, are thought of as more vibrant and cosy while cool colours, which have more blue and violet in them, are seen as calm and relaxing.

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