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.
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.
Image Source: Reinaldo Irizarry (@reyalfashion)
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!
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.