Design Basics: The Color Wheel

September 11, 2018

Design Basics: The Color Wheel

Visual aesthetic is comprised of many different elements; the dimensions of the space, the spacing between objects, the number of objects and their dimensions, the use of negative space; the list goes on. Aesthetics change how we feel when we enter the room, giving the room it’s own emotional qualities, its own nature. One of the most important qualities to consider when developing a room’s aesthetic are the colors used, and a good thing to keep in mind when designing a color palette is the color wheel.


The color wheel is quite simply a way of arranging colors so it’s easy for users to pick out which ones work well together. Most color wheels have 12 colors, but in theory you could have an almost infinite number of different colors on a wheel, varying in hue, brightness and saturation. The basic 12 colors of the color wheel consist of the 3 primary colors (red, yellow and blue), the 3 secondary colors which can be made from the primary colors (orange, purple and green) and 6 tertiary colors that can be made by mixing primary and secondary colors (blue-green, etc).


The most basic color scheme you can pull off using the color wheel is called complementary. This scheme uses one color on the wheel as the primary, then the color opposite of it on the wheel as an accent. This is commonly used to create bold contrast and make objects stand out; consider the use of blue and orange in Hollywood films to make everything pop. A complementary color scheme can be a great base to design a room around.


Complementary schemes can feel a bit much, though; one way of softening this is by using a split complementary color scheme. Choose a base color, then use the two colors adjacent to its opposite color on the wheel. This creates a sense of balance in the room, and gets rid of some of the excessive energy you might feel in a two color scheme.


Triad colors are another great scheme for a mix of balance and boldness. This scheme uses 3 colors that are evenly space apart on the wheel; on a 12 color wheel, pick a color, then the colors 4 spaces away from it in either direction. For this scheme, it’s best for new designers to use primary or secondary colors; tertiary colors are already a mix of 3 different colors, so using them can be a bit too much.


The color scheme you choose for your room is going to have a huge impact on how people feel in it; for kitchens and bathrooms, it’s worth remembering that your countertops will take up a significant amount of the aesthetic space in the room, so choose to have them in a color that works well to accent the scheme; premium Cambria quartz countertops come in a plethora of different colors and patterns, so they work well to add life and feeling to any room!