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Use a Color Wheel to Create Color Schemes and Combinations

Updated on August 19, 2014

When planning your home decor, flower garden, wardrobe or website you want to select color combinations that are pleasing to the eye. The set of colors you choose is your color scheme, and it should reflect the purpose, intent and use of the room, garden, outfit or website.

Colors are divided into two broad categories: warm and cool. Warm colors include reds, oranges and yellows. Cool colors include blues and greens. Successful color combinations include a mix of both warm and cool colors or a selection of two or three colors of either warm or cool. A helpful tool when selecting color combinations is a color wheel.

Color Wheel
Color Wheel | Source

Working with a Color Wheel

1. Look at a color wheel. Note how the colors change in tint and shade as they follow each other around the wheel. At the top is yellow, followed by orange-yellow to the right. This is followed by orange, followed by red-orange and so on. With yellow at the top, purple is opposite it at the bottom. The purple leads to the blues, which leads to greens and ends back at yellow.

2. Pick two colors opposite each other on the color wheel for a complementary combination. Examples of complementary color schemes are yellow and purple, red and green, or orange and blue. The warm and cool color mix creates contrast, a visually stimulating combination.

3. Create an analogous color scheme using three colors adjacent to one another on the color wheel. Choose one color and then add the colors that are to the left and to the right of it. For example, select the color red. To the left of red is red-orange and to the right is violet-red. More simply put, this color combination could be a shade of orange and a shade of purple used with the primary color of red. The use of all warm colors is vibrant without jarring the senses. For a more soothing combination, select an analogous scheme using all cool colors.

Hues, Tints and Shades

Every color on the color wheel has a wide range of shades and tints. The color on the wheel is the hue or "pure" color. Add white to lighten and it becomes a tint. Add black to deepen, and it becomes a shade. Create your color scheme using combinations of hues, tints and shades.

4. Select three colors that are on opposite points on the color wheel to create a triadic color scheme. Imagine a triangle in the center of the color wheel. Each point of the triangle points to a color. Those three colors are of equal distance apart on the wheel and make up a triadic combination. An example of this may be yellow, blue and red. Triadic color schemes create high contrast in design, and the mix of cool and warm brings harmony to the combination. 

5. Use varying shades of the same color to create a monochromatic scheme. An example of this may be the use of various shades of green, ranging from pastel to forest green. Unlike the analogous scheme, a monochromatic scheme stays in the same color family, depending on one hue for the entire combination. Choose a contrasting color for one or two accessories or other minor elements to complement the single color used in the design.


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    • Vector design profile image

      Saim 4 years ago from California

      Nice tips about the use of colors. Thanks Shelly for this useful hub. vote up for useful.

    • Shelly McRae profile image

      Shelly McRae 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Hello henry1robertson... You can develop color schemes for any project, such as building a website, decorating a room, planning a flower garden. The scheme, then, is a guide for paint, fabrics, types of flowers or accessories. It's all about color:)

    • henry1robertson profile image

      henry1robertson 6 years ago from Los Angeles, CA 90013

      Oh that's beautiful. what are the exactly uses of this color combination and scheme..