Color Schemes: Choosing the Right Colors

Color Wheel When redecorating a room, the appropriate use of color is fundamental to creating a look and feel that works.

Looking over the color wheel is a great way to start understanding the very basic elements of color theory that you'll need to do a better job. As you can see, this wheel is rainbowed out across the visible spectrum in a somewhat dazzling array. It is important, however, to understand that each section adheres to a very precise logic.

Primary Colorsprimary colors

Red, yellow and blue are the three primary colors which stand alone as the basic building blocks of color. While no colors mix together to create primaries, most colors are made up of some combination of these primaries.

Secondary Colors secondary colors

The secondary colors are green, orange and purple. Each of these is created by combining two of the primary colors. Green is made from blue and yellow, orange from yellow and red, and purple from red and blue.

Tertiary Colors tertiary colors

When a primary color is mixed with a secondary color, a tertiary color is then created. Mixing orange with yellow, for example, creates “yellow-orange” and so on.

Understanding complementary colors is essential to using them effectively when decorating a room. While there are many different approaches to color coordination, the ultimate goal is the same—to create a sense of harmony, balance and order.

One approach is to match up colors that are directly opposite each other on the color wheel. Red and green, for instance, are often seen together (think Christmas), while blue and orange can also prove to aesthetically combine the feelings of stimulation and stability.

Another very effective method for color coordination to line up so-called analogous colors—those that find themselves next to each other on the color wheel—and thereby attain a combination of tones that soothes yet engages those within the room.

Keep complimentary colors in mind when you are selecting the paint and themes for the rooms you are decorating. If you're not sure where to start, consider basing your color scheme around a central aspect of the room such as the wallpaper you’ve already chosen, the bedding or even a family heirloom such as a lamp or well-framed picture.

Finding complimentary colors, however, is only a small part of what it takes to decorate a room well. You’ll also need to understand how certain colors affect your mood and emotions, as well as the underlying symbolism behind each color.

Color Moods and Symbolism

Colors fall into three different categories, or moods, that are characterized as active, passive and neutral. Active colors include yellow, red, and orange. They enliven the senses and can even inspire creativity. Passive colors have a more calming, soothing effect. They include green, blue and purple. Neutral colors, like gray, brown and white, don’t do anything. Instead, they tend to subtly enhance or soften out the more commanding colors. The color teal is typically described as passive. Refreshing, healing and rejuvenating, this healthy color promotes general good feelings while signifying wealth, richness and safety.

Red, on the other hand, inspires strong emotion such as passion, anger and impulsiveness. It has actually been shown to raise blood pressure, respiration and heart rate while stimulating metabolism in humans. Its symbolism ranges between war, passion, lust and courage.

Pink carries a mood that is typically evocative of romance, tenderness and all things feminine. Its physical effect is both intriguing and rousing.

Blue, on the other hand, has been symbolically associated with boyhood in Western culture. Regardless of this somewhat arbitrary designation, however, blue is often referred to as the color of peace. Its effect is calming and soothing as it brings up images of the sky, sea and heaven itself.

Turning around 180 degrees we find that orange—a mixture of yellow and red—creates a sensation of cheerful happiness (derived from yellow, the color of brightness, creativity and cheer) which is combined with the avid determination of red.

Putting the pacific qualities of blue together with the impassioned nature of red, you get purple. The resultant feeling is simultaneously suave and engaged. Symbolically, purple connotes royalty, luxury, mystery, ambition and even homosexuality.

Brown, a deep derivation of red, is symbolic of stability, and is often seen as a masculine color. Depending on how it’s used, black can symbolize either evil or elegance while arousing feelings of either gloom or excitement. White, however, is often associated with purity and new beginnings. It inspires the feelings of neutrality, and provides a perfect complement to practically any other color.

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