Choosing the right paint color: An Introduction to Color Theory for Interiors

Updated: Oct 18, 2018

You’ve done it. Purchased new furniture for your Living Room. Found the perfect rug for the space. All of the décor has been carefully selected and placed. Now for the final touch, the paint color. How do you bring it all together and show it off perfectly? The right color starts with a little research in the basics of color. Let’s talk about Color Theory for Interiors.

Buy yourself a color wheel. They’re commonly sold at art supply stores. It’s a round disc and typically has about 12 colors.


Color Wheel

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Here are the basics. There are three main colors, the Primary colors. Those are Blue, Red and Yellow.

The Secondary colors are what you get when you mix two primary colors. Those are Violet (Blue + Red), Orange (Red + Yellow) and Green (Blue + Yellow).

The Tertiary colors are what you get when you mix a primary and a secondary color. Those are the Blue-Violet, Yellow-Orange and so forth.

Now here’s the part when you need to look at the color wheel. There are certain color combinations that work well together. When you use them properly in a space, you can achieve visual balance easier than with other combinations. These combinations can also be called a Color Scheme or Color Harmony. It’s a foundation to base your color decisions on so that it will be pleasing to the eye. Here are a few.

Analogous. This Color Scheme uses a few colors that are adjacent to each other on the color wheel.




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This color scheme, as well as any color scheme, can be as bright or as soft as you wish. Using bright colors, again from a few colors that are adjacent on the color wheel, you can achieve a cheerful splash of color that shows off its accessories as well as keeping a lively feeling.



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You can also work with an analogous color scheme but use softer colors and neutrals to give a fresh feel that isn’t too overpowering.



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Complementary. This color scheme uses two colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel.


Complementary color scheme using violet and yellow

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In this room, they used soft colors of Violet and Yellow to achieve some pops of color with gray and white neutrals to keep the space from becoming too intense. Do you think this is an interesting use of a Complementary color scheme?

Triad. Using three colors that are equidistant on the color wheel can create such a playful space. You don’t have to select colors that are intense for all three, one can be the dominant feature while the other colors support it. This keeps it from becoming too severe.



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Even though this color is using three colors, it’s not forceful. Using the three colors: Red, Blue and Yellow, work well in the space because they aren’t used in equal capacity. The Red pops as it is the strongest hue and is used the least, in just pillows and the back of a built-in bookcase. The accents of a lighter Blue and a soft Yellow wall color complement the space. The use of the neutral white trim, bench and sofa blend well into the background and don’t fight with the colors.


Working with the pieces that you already have in your space and blending them together to form a color scheme can help to visually balance any space. Sometimes the wall needs the color, sometimes it’s the items in the room that you want to stand out. Whatever vision you have for your room, when selecting a paint color for the walls, study up on Color Theory for Interiors and develop that perfect color scheme. Good Luck!

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