When the first cave dweller discovered that they could make different colored paint pigments by mixing various berries, humans have used color to fully express their thoughts, ideas, and feelings. Colors are strongly tied to memory and emotion. Think of walking into a gray, dim medical waiting room versus one that's colorful, light, and calm. Anytime someone visits a medical waiting room there's bound to be stress and anxiety, but color can be used to help change the feel of a space. That's why interior designers work so hard to carefully choose color schemes that work with the light and space of the area they are decorating. Color also serves to invoke the mood their clients want for the space. People decorating their own spaces can also use color in this way. It just requires a little bit of knowledge about color theory.

Primary Colors

Most young children learn the primary colors very early in life. Primary colors can't be created from other colors. They form the backbone of color theory.

  • Color Basics: Red, yellow, and blue are the three primary colors.
  • Primary Colours: The three primary colors are the basis for almost all other colors.
  • What Are the Primary Colors?: Primary colors can't be created from other colors, but can be mixed together to create an almost endless array of other colors.

Secondary Colors

Green isn't a primary color. Instead, green is created by mixing two primary colors. In this case, blue and yellow are mixed to achieve the secondary color of green.

Tertiary Colors

Tertiary colors are made by mixing a secondary color with a primary color. Their purpose in color theory is to act as a bridge on the color wheel between primary and secondary colors.

Complementary Colors

Complementary colors are colors that lie opposite of each other on the color wheel. Because of this, they provide excellent contrast with each other. Blue and orange is an example of a set of complementary colors.

Analogous Colors

Analogous colors are those that lie next to each other on the color wheel. Designers like to use analogous color schemes in interior design.

The Color Wheel

Designers and artists use the color wheel as a way to understand and display the relationship between various colors. The wheel is arranged around the primary colors.

Color Relationships

There are a few different ways to express the relationships between various colors, hues, and shades. The color wheel is the best-known tool for this, but there are other options as well.

The Painter's Color Triangle

Painters mix the three primary colors (blue, red, and yellow) to create the other colors they use in their words. The painter's triangle expresses this method of color-making.

The Printer's Color Triangle

Printmaking, either by hand or using a printer, is a different process from painting. It even uses different colors as its primary colors. The printer's triangle is based on yellow, cyan, and magenta.

Nine-Part Harmonic Triangle of Goethe

Goethe organized his triangle by placing the primary colors (blue, red, and yellow) at the three corners of the triangle. Secondary and tertiary colors are organized within the body of the triangle. This is yet another way to express the relationship between colors in visual form.

More Information on Color and Design


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