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How to use the colour wheel to help you decorate

How to use the colour wheel to help you decorate

We know that choosing a colour scheme can be a daunting part of decorating, and it’s very easy to slip into safe colour-free neutral tones. So what if we told you we have made it simple so that you can feel like an interior designer in your own home and make your space a creative expression of yourself?

By using the colour wheel, we are hoping to give you a little more confidence in choosing colours that accentuate your home and complement your lifestyle. So, before you reach for the brilliant white paint and plain frames, first a little outline on what the colour wheel is and how it is used - bear with us.

The Colour Wheel

The colour wheel itself is divided into 12 colours and three categories: primary, secondary and tertiary. All colours on the colour wheel are created from the primary colours, red, yellow and blue. Secondary colours are then created by mixing each primary colour to create orange, green and violet. And finally, tertiary colours are created when mixing a primary colour with a neighbouring secondary colour which gives us yellow-orange, red-orange, red-violet, blue-violet, blue-green and yellow-green.

The colour wheel is an incredibly useful tool when it comes to choosing a colour scheme and there are a few different methods you can use to find a combination of colours that harmonise well together.


If you’re looking for a pop of colour, but don't want to feel too overwhelmed with a multicoloured space, then you may want to try a Monochromatic scheme. With maximum impact and minimum effort, monochromatic schemes use shades and tints of just one colour, making it one of the safest and easiest schemes to work with in any sized space. As you’re only using shades of the same colour, this colour scheme is easy on the eyes and gives off a soothing and balanced air. It works well for most bold colours and is great when searching for art as you only need to search for the overall colour, as you’re not matching the shade. This is often used in decor magazines for home inspiration as it creates a clean and sophisticated look.

Although it works in any space, something to bear in mind when using a monochromatic scheme is that focal points in a room become more difficult to highlight due to the lack of colour contrasts available.

So why not pick your favourite colour? Everything is fair game, from the walls to upholstery, and of course, art.


If you’re drawn to the simplicity of a monochromatic scheme but can’t settle on just one colour, then an Analogous scheme may be for you. This is another straightforward scheme that pairs neighbouring colours together on the colour wheel. The beauty of using Analogous colours is that they always look good together as they have similar origins - it's practically foolproof.

Both Analogous and monochromatic colour schemes have a lot in common, as both are easy to work with and provide a good balance. However, Analogous offers a bit more contrast and is, therefore, dare we say, a bit more interesting.

The best way to create a cohesive look with an analogous scheme is to follow the 60-30-10 rule — 60% dominant colour, 30% secondary colour and 10% accent colour.

A tip is also to avoid mixing warm and cool colours, so if you’re looking to create a more relaxing vibe in a space, such as a bedroom, choose muted hues or cool tones. For a more energetic feel, go for more saturated hues or warm tones.


As they say, opposites attract - or rather, complement. If you’re feeling adventurous, you might take your decor a step further with the complementary scheme. This works with any two colours which are opposite each other on the colour wheel, such as purple with yellow, blue with orange or red with green. You know, the two contrasting colours that definitely shouldn’t work? Them. The high contrast between two complementary colours produces a bold, vibrant effect that draws maximum attention to itself.

As implied, complementary colours enhance each other and almost always look great together which is why it's so often used with great effect.

Although complementary colour schemes can be fun, you ultimately want to achieve a pleasing balance. It’s helpful to remember that when strong colours are used, it is often best to offset them with neutrals, i.e. weaker colours that draw less attention to themselves, such as shades of white, black and grey. This scheme also works best at jazzing up smaller spaces, but you can avoid overdoing it by selecting one dominant colour and using subtle accents of the other colour.

Split Complementary

If you enjoy contrasting colours but are worried about overwhelming a space, the split complementary scheme is for you. Here, you choose a base colour and the two neighbouring colours of its complementary colour. We know, it sounds complicated, but it’s not! For instance, red, blue-green and yellow-green.

This scheme is derived from the complementary colour concept, and to do so, you take a base colour and the two neighbouring colours of its complementary colour. Although more difficult to balance than a monochromatic or Analogous scheme, a split complementary scheme offers the contrast of complementary colours without the bold intensity. It's certainly a mouthful, but it works.

So, what’s next?

In order to choose the most suitable colour scheme and make the colour wheel work for you, it’s important to know how you want your home or a certain room to feel. You may be looking to decorate your bedroom with passive cool tones, to elevate a feeling of relaxation and rest. Or, maybe you’re decorating a dark kitchen that needs warm tones to bring warmth and brighten up the space.

A great tip is to use colours you love and ones that you already have around your home. We also recommend considering where you get the most light in your space and how that might affect your chosen colours at different times of the day.

Once you’ve got your schemes and themes down, it’s time to get creative with it.

You can use colours in artworks to blend in with your colour scheme or the frames themselves. Perhaps you want to create a feature wall full of art, or purposely place frames equally around the room. Whatever you choose, remember that this is by no means a prescription for good design in your own home, these are just theories you can take and experiment with to gain some practical knowledge on colour and design.

And finally, there really are no rules! There's no right or wrong way of decorating your home and you should always choose the art and decor that speaks to you.

Words by Megan Keane

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