Successful use of colour is not a hit-and miss business. By following some basic rules you can become more confident creating colour schemes and knowing the reasons for your colour choices. It is equally important to consider the inherent characteristic of each colour (that is, is the colour cool or warm?), when choosing which colours to use together. But first, to know which colour will best suit your scheme, you must understand colour definitions.


Primary Colours:
Yellow, Blue and Red - cannot be made from any other colours.

Secondary Colours:
Green, Violet and Orange - result from two primary colours mixed together.

Tertiary Colours:
Result from mixing one primary and one secondary colour together.

Tints are colours mixed with white, resulting in fresh, clean colours. These are the colours used most often in interiors. These colours can range from very light, fresh pastels (white with a hint of colour) to the more saturated versions (colour with a hint of white).

Shades are colours mixed with black, resulting in deep, rich colours.

Tones are colours mixed with grey, resulting in gentle, flexible colours.


While any combination of the colour families can work together, there are certain rules to creating a colour scheme.

Neutral Schemes:
Neutral Schemes are based on greys, whites and blacks that do not include an identifiable colour. These schemes create a subtle yet a sympathetic environment.

Monochromatic Schemes:
Monochromatic schemes use any tint, shade or tone of one colour. These schemes are not as easy to pull-off as it may seem and although they are usually a safe bet if you are not used to using colour, they can sometimes become monotonous.

Harmonious/Analogous Schemes:
Harmonious/Analogous schemes are based on two or three colour families adjacent to each other on the colour wheel. These schemes might be from either the warm or cool side of the colour wheel.

Contrasting/Complimentary Schemes:
Contrasting/Complimentary schemes are based on colours that are directly opposite each other on the colour wheel (fundamentally, yellow/violet, green/red, blue/orange).

Diad/Asymmetric Schemes:
A Diad/Asymmetric scheme uses at least two colours apart on the colour wheel such as orange and red. Diad/Asymmetric colour schemes can achieve an exciting look for any room but you do need to use caution as it can become overpowering.

Triad Schemes:
Triad schemes utilises three colours equally spaced from each other on the colour wheel such as yellow, blue and red. Again, this can be an exciting scheme but one which needs careful consideration.

Tetrad Schemes:
A Tetrad colour scheme uses two pairs of contrasting/complimentary colours equally spaced on the colour wheel. This choice of colour scheme creates a bold and dynamic effect.

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