Color and Understanding Color Schemes
In our last Lessons From the Lake: Decorating Academy lesson we began to explore the color wheel and the definitions of hue, value, tint and tone. Then we played with paint to see how adding black, white or grey changes a hue. (If you missed that lesson you can find it here)
This week we are working more with color in understanding color schemes. Color schemes are how you combine colors so that they work in harmony.
The Color Schemes:
For our purposes we will deal with 3 color schemes; monochromatic, analogous and the triad. There are others but we will only deal with these today.
Monochromatic Color Scheme:
A monochromatic scheme uses different values, tones and tints of the same color (mono= one) While this would seem to be an easy scheme to employ, it is actually pretty tricky. Again we look to our paint strip as an example. Take a hue and then add black, white or grey to it.
Using the paint strip as an example, you could choose the hue of red as your color but use any of the above shades or tints in your room for a monochromatic color scheme.
The picture below uses a tint of purple on the wall and a darker shade as the accent color in the dust ruffle, trim around the curtains and accessories.
Analogous Color Scheme:
The analogous (sometimes also called the harmonious) color scheme uses 2-6 colors that sit adjacent to each other on the color wheel. The trick to making this scheme work is to use the same tones of the colors. Here are the color wheels again for reference:
The room pictured below uses yellow and orange as the main colors of the room. (See the middle color wheel above- yellow and orange are beside each other on the wheel.) In this room orange is the dominant color and yellow takes more of a back seat. The gold-yellow of the sofa and the honey toned flooring balance the orange of the curtains and throw instead of competing with it.
To choose an analogous color scheme from paint strips like the one below, you would choose colors from the same row of the chips. I have marked 2 different examples below:
Obviously you wouldn’t use all 8 colors in the row, but using 2 or 3 would work nicely in a room. If you start mixing up tones and shades you can end up with one hot mess! Until you get some practice “seeing” color, using paint strips are a great way to make sure your analogous scheme will work.
Paint companies have done all the work for you! If you go to a paint or home improvement store you will see that the paint strips are laid out side by side as they are on the color wheel. Then you would just choose the same “row” on each strip.
Complementary Color Schemes
The last scheme we will discuss is complementary. This color scheme results in very dramatic rooms but can also be tricky to use. The complementary scheme can either be a 2 (double) color or 3 color (triad). Actually there are several more complementary schemes, but we are not going that deeply into color today!!
The 2 color complementary scheme employs colors directly across from each. Using the secondary colors (the middle wheel) red and green or yellow and purple are examples of this. Here are our color wheels again to help us see this:
**** Be careful not to use colors with the same intensity or tone. If you use the same red and green tones, your room would look like a Christmas tree.
But in this example, see how the couch is a lighter value of red and the green on the walls is also a lighter value?
You will notice in this example how the browns of the floor, tables and rugs help “calm” down the color scheme. Also, the browns used in the room are the same value as the red and green. If black had been used instead of brown the room would not be as restful as it appears here. Black would add more of a “punch” to this room and make it appear more dramatic.
The 3 color or triad scheme, uses 3 colors that are equi-distance (for instance, every 4th color) from each other on the wheel. Using primary colors, a triad scheme would be red, blue and yellow. The room below uses the secondary colors of green, orange and violet.
Notice that violet is used only as an accent color in a pillow, the orchid bloom and the spine of a coffee table book. Any more of this color would have resulted in a room that looked more like a circus than the restful room it is.
Here is a great tip for using complementary colors when choosing paint: If you want to “tone down” a color, try adding a little of the complementary color to it. For example, is your red too “bright”? Add a little green to it and see if it is more to your liking.
If you want to learn more about those other complementary color schemes I mentioned here are a couple of places you can check out:
And if you want to play around with color schemes, here is a digital way to do that (way cheaper than buying paint!!):
The next step:
There is no worksheet for this lesson but you still have work to do! You didn’t think I would let you off that easily did you?
Locate the 10 rooms that used for “Finding My Style” in Lesson 1 and try to identify the color scheme used in each of them. Not the color- the color schemes as we discussed in this lesson. Write each of them down on your worksheet (just in the margin beside each one will be fine).
Are you seeing a pattern? Did you choose mostly monochromatic? Was it an equal mix between all of them? Was there one that dominated kitchens and something different for family rooms or master?
What else have you learned about your decorating style in terms of color?
In the next lesson we will leave color behind for a while and move on to furniture styles and room layout. It is like playing house when you were little!
Hope to see you back at the lake again soon!