understanding color theory and the color wheel when decorating your home

Most people have heard of the color wheel, but the power behind using it for winning color combinations is often overlooked. For those pursuing artistic careers on the other hand, there are entire college courses that teach color theory and understanding complementary colors through the color wheel. Graphic designers, interior designers, and artists all have a grasp on the meaning of various colors, what colors pair nicely together, and what mood is evoked through colors. In this article, we will give you a crash course on the key things you need to know about color when you are planning and selecting artwork for your home.

Blue Room

Real world examples of strategic color choice

Colors have a powerful effect on your brain, and often times those effects are intentional. Have you ever wondered why Tiger Woods always wears a red shirt on the last day of a big golfing tournament? Red can be a powerful color, symbolic of strength and war. Green is often associated with earthy and natural elements, which is why health food brands like Subway and Whole Foods feature the color predominantly in their marketing. As you plan your home decor and wall art selections, take a minute or two to consider color theory. A certain color theme may work better in a bedroom or home office as opposed to a kitchen.


Quick lesson on color meanings & pairings

Color impacts moods and behaviors. Here’s a quick list of standard colors and the feelings they can evoke:

Next, let’s take a look at some traditional kinds of pairings:

Complementary Colors: To find colors that pair nicely with each other, look to combine colors that are directly opposite of each other on the color wheel. These colors have a high level of contrast between them and equally share the spotlight when paired.

Analogous Colors: Refers to three colors that are found side-by-side on the color wheel. Because these three colors share similar tints or tones, it can be common to use one of the three colors as the focal color, while using the others as supporting elements in a painting or home decor.

Triadic Colors: Create some color harmony by partnering three colors that are equally spaced between each other on the color wheel. By drawing an imaginary equilateral triangle on top of the wheel, you will be able to determine these triadic color combinations which can work perfectly in your home styling when deciding on accent pillows, curtains, wall art, or throw rugs.

Monochromatic Colors: Stick with one color selection on the wheel and add shades or tints to the hue via elements of black, white, or grey to create slightly darker or lighter versions of the same color.

Other Color Combinations: There are even more interesting combinations based on color theory, such as split-complementary, double-complementary, and tetradic, in case you wanted to take your pairing strategy to the next level!


Let’s take a trip around the color wheel

Red (Primary)

Red evokes feelings of heat, passion, and love and has a range of symbolic meanings. It symbolizes super-human heroism to the Greeks. In China, India, and other Asian countries it is seen as symbolizing happiness and good fortune and is often worn at weddings. The primary color red pairs well with yellow, white, green, blue, and black. Red is a great color to use when decorating the kitchen (it is known to increase one’s appetite and raise blood pressure) or a living room (for warmth).

Moon, Sun and Midnight Grownup Open Edition Non-Custom Art Print
Grownup Open Edition Non-Custom Art Print

byDeborah Velasquez

Pleasant Valley, CT

Sunset Wall Grownup Open Edition Non-Custom Art Print
Grownup Open Edition Non-Custom Art Print

byMinimalType

Bridgeman Downs,

organic stack Art Print
Art Print

byCarrie Moradi

Fort Collins, CO

Chevron Flow Art Print
Art Print

byAngel Walker

Minneapolis, MN

Shop Red Art Prints


Orange (Secondary)

Orange calls to mind energy, enthusiasm, positivity, and excitement. It is symbolic of autumn, is seen as a color of safety (life rafts, hazard cones, high visibility police vests), and is the only color that’s named after a fruit. Orange pairs well with its complementary color blue, and also goes well with purple and green. There are many hues of orange, making it a great color in different rooms, depending on the variance. Burnt orange is beautiful in the bedroom or a room with rustic decor. A brighter orange may make a creative office come to life.

Step Up / Step Out I Wall Art Print
Wall Art Print

byJess Franks

Hartford, CT

Step Up / Step Out II Wall Art Print
Wall Art Print

byJess Franks

Hartford, CT

Emberley Art Print
Art Print

byParima Studio

Chino, CA

Desert Super Moon Grownup Open Edition Non-Custom Art Print
Grownup Open Edition Non-Custom Art Print

byKate Baird

,

Shop Orange Art Prints


Yellow (Primary)

Yellow is commonly thought to bring happiness, hope, and spontaneity. Symbolically, yellow brings to mind sunny yellow cheerful hues like those of warmth and spring daffodils. It is also said to symbolize intellect (think: the lightbulb), can result in boosting memory, and encourage communication. Any teacher looking for decoration ideas for their classroom should consider incorporating this color palette. Another great quality of yellow is that it goes great with nearly every color — white, orange, green, blue, brown, etc. Yellow could serve as a great color in a breakfast nook or bathroom.

From Where I Stand Art Print
Art Print

byField and Sky

Knoxville, TN

Seafall Art Print
Art Print

byEric Clegg

Pleasant Grove, UT

Urban garden I Wall Art Print
Wall Art Print

byCreo Study

Mumbai, MH

Urban garden II Wall Art Print
Wall Art Print

byCreo Study

Mumbai, MH

Shop Yellow Art Prints


Green (Secondary)

Green tends to bring on feelings of optimism, refreshed living, and a sense of balance. Who doesn’t love that? Green symbolizes growth, the color of spring, and renewal or rebirth. In Iran and Saudi Arabia, green is included in the national flag, symbolizing respect and high honor. In Asia, green usually symbolizes eternity, wealth, and fertility. Green pairs well with a wide variety of colors including neutrals like brown and grey, as well as vibrant shades of yellow, blue, or pink. Since green is a color of harmony and renewal, it is a great color for living rooms or bedrooms.

Broken Clouds Wall Art Print
Wall Art Print

byStephanie Goos Johnson

Washington, CT

Hard & Soft Art Print
Art Print

byKristine Sarley

Chicago, IL

Marble Forest Art Print
Art Print

bySvitlana Martynjuk

Lansing, MI

rainforest leaf Art Print
Art Print

byAlicia Abla

Overland Park, KS

Shop Green Art Prints


Blue (Primary)

The color blue tends to make people relaxed, calm, and spiritual. It is also the most popular color in the world (meaning most people claim it is their favorite color). Blue symbolizes wisdom from a higher level of intelligence and is the color of devotion and religious study. If you’re looking to fall on the cool side of the color wheel, pair blue with other cool tones like greens, greys, and purples. For a higher contrast and a bolder look, play with warm colors like oranges and reds. This color is truly versatile and depending on the hue can work anywhere in the home or office. A lighter baby blue can seem peaceful and playful, while a dark navy blue can give off a formal and luxe vibe.

the pacific Art Print
Art Print

byKaitlin Rebesco

Austin, TX

Domino Effect Art Print
Art Print

byLorent and Leif

Holland, MI

Luminous Smoke No. 2 Art Print
Art Print

byJulia Contacessi

Easton, CT

Collide I Art Print
Art Print

byKelly Johnston

Bainbridge Island, WA

Shop Blue Art Prints


Purple/Violet (Secondary)

When speaking of the color purple or violet, it typically brings up feelings and notions of romance, luxury, and wealth. In Western cultures, purple represents royalty, wealth, and fame. In Eastern/Asian cultures, purple represents nobility. The color’s association with royalty can be traced back many centuries when kings and queens wanted to show off their wealth by wearing clothes dyed in “Tyrian purple”. This hue was only achievable by harvesting a particular sea snail found in one small region of the world. Purple dye was equal in value, if not more valuable, than its weight in gold. Violet pairs best with yellow, green, and orange. You will often find purple in bedrooms, living rooms, and lounge rooms, bringing a decadent and relaxing feel.

Hidden and Revealed I Art Print
Art Print

byAngela Simeone

Nashville, TN

Hidden and Revealed II Wall Art Print
Wall Art Print

byAngela Simeone

Nashville, TN

Boho Screenprint I Wall Art Print
Wall Art Print

byJenna Skead

Cape Town,

Boho Screenprint II Wall Art Print
Wall Art Print

byJenna Skead

Cape Town,

Shop Purple Art Prints


Don’t forget neutral colors

Black

The color black evokes power, elegance, and simplicity. In color psychology, black is often seen as sophistication (“the little black dress” or the “black-tie event”) and is associated with seduction. Black is also symbolically the end, and the end also implies a new beginning. Black symbolizes certainty and authority. In Western cultures black is the color of finality, death, formality, and mourning. It is also considered powerful, strong, and can imply a power force. It is best paired with yellow, orange, navy, green, pink, red, and purple. You can use black in any room that needs an element of elegance and sophistication.

negative-positive Art Print
Art Print

byJacob Loafman

Camdenton, MO

Morning Fog Art Print
Art Print

byJennifer Morrow

Bellingham, WA

tonality IIII Wall Art Print
Wall Art Print

bySara Hicks Malone

Nashville, TN

The Fast Bridge Art Print
Art Print

byChristian Fernandez

Bacarra, IN

Shop Black Art Prints


White

The color white evokes thoughts of simplicity, purity, innocence. It is thought of as the color of light and symbolizes truth, sacred elements, and divine intervention. For instance, in some Western religions leaders wear white robes, and in Eastern religions, people dress in white to visit temples. When it comes to pairing white with another color, we have great news. You can pair it with virtually any color! And when used as an accent in any room, it will provide a feeling of extra space. Create a minimalist look to your home decor by relying heavily on white walls, furniture, and other decoration elements.

Melody in White Art Print
Art Print

byTeodora Guererra

New Canaan, CT

Vanilla Palm Art Print
Art Print

byOwl and Toad

Long Beach, CA

Cayucos Soft Waves Art Print
Art Print

byLisa Sundin

Los Angeles, CA

The Island Art Print
Art Print

byS.L. Bird

Boston, MA

Shop White Art Prints


Brown

When thinking of the color brown, words like simple, practical, and dependable come to mind. Symbolically, it’s a natural color that evokes reliability and strength. It resembles the earth, not going anywhere, but subtly beautiful. In the Middle East, brown is harmonious with earth and comfort. In Chinese horoscopes, it is used to represent the earth. When decorating, you can pair brown with a wide range of colors including white, blue, Fuschia, yellow, mint, turquoise, gold, and orange to name a few. A warm brown will pair beautifully in a library or study or in artwork as an accent in the hallway or bedroom.

Boundary No. 1 Wall Art Print
Wall Art Print

byMelissa Selmin

Cardiff, WA

Boundary No. 2 Art Print
Art Print

byMelissa Selmin

Cardiff, WA

Ghent Art Print
Art Print

byHeather Deffense

Camarillo, CA

A Winter's Walk Art Print
Art Print

byAlison Jerry Designs

Dallas, TX

Shop Brown Art Prints


Grey

And finally, we visit grey, which is often seen as serious, reserved, and sophisticated. It is an unemotional color and from a color theory perspective, it’s a color of compromise, neutrality, and balance. Being neither black nor white, it’s the transition between two neutral colors. Because grey is such an unthreatening color, it pairs with virtually any color depending on the hue and can be used to enhance any room.

Carnegie Gigantic Grownup Open Edition Non-Custom Art Print
Grownup Open Edition Non-Custom Art Print

byDenise Crew

Los Angeles, CA

Moon Tides I Art Print
Art Print