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Reading the Color Wheel: Three Ways that To Make Colors Work Together

I remember being introduced to the color wheel when I was seven years old.  At the time it was a simple lesson of how to mix paints when all you had were the three primary colors (yellow, blue, and red). My art teacher told me that the color wheel was something that all art teachers lived by, so much so that they'd be buried with it. 

I didn’t believe her, but when I got older and took classes in high school where they went beyond mixing three simple colors, I learned that the color wheel did give me a lot of understanding. When it comes to color there are three palettes that can generate the most interest.

color wheel


This basic color wheel contains primary, secondary, and tertiary colors with tints towards the center. Tints are what happen when white is added to a color, shades when black is added to a color.


One of the most basic palettes is known as the complimentary palette. The color directly across from the first color on the wheel is its compliment.  Suppose you've got an orange couch in one room and you want to bring attention to it, without the colors clashing. You can use a blue tone to gently offset it or one that more closely matches that saturation to balance it out.  Similarly, purple and yellow and red and green are also compliments of each other.

Benjamin Moore Williamsburg Collection


This room features paint from the Benjmain Moore® Williamsburg Collection.The deep black patterned curtains play off of the gold toned walls creating contrast and interest.


Analogous color palettes are another simple cohesive palette. Colors next to each other on the color wheel are analogous to one another.  Colors like orange, red-orange, and red for example. Analogous palettes don’t provide a lot of contrast but can add some subtle variety if you want to paint the walls one color and baseboards another color.

Sherwin-Williams Living Room


This Sherwin-Williams® living room uses green and purple to create a cool palette. A warm toned neutral can also tie this together nicely in a split-compliment palette.


Split complimentary palettes are yet another way to create an interesting variety of shades. If you pick a color on the color wheel and look to the two colors next to its compliment you have a split compliment palette. For example, take the color green. Red is green’s compliment and if you want to vary the shades of red you can use red-purple and red orange for some variety.


Benjamin Moore’s® Affinity Paint Collection is composed of 144 harmonious shades that allow you to create beautiful color palettes with ease.


Of course when talking about color palettes there are factors such as hue, shade, and saturation to bring into account too. It can get overwhelming, but if you have paint chips and samples of your flooring or furniture fabric, viewing it in natural light will help you see if the colors work together. Remember, there are infinitely more colors available at the paint store than there are on a color wheel.  Use your judgment and don’t be afraid of picking colors that are a little outside of your comfort zone.  

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9/30/2014 • 3846275 • 0