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Home Color Guide for Beginners

Read how to create your own color scheme for decorating.

Introduction to Color Theory

Choosing a color palette is one of the first steps to decorating a space. When picking a color scheme, start with pure hues of color: blue, red, and yellow. From there, build your palette with tints (for lighter values) and tones, also known as shades (for darker values). A color wheel can help you visualize which hues coordinate to create a well-balanced and unified space. Once you've learned the qualities of these color combinations, you will be able to create a color palette that will set the perfect mood throughout your home.

Primary Colors

Red, yellow, and blueThese three colors cannot be created by mixing colors. They are their own colors.

Secondary Colors

Green, orange, and violetThese three colors are made by mixing together two primary colors.

Tertiary Colors

Yellow-green, yellow-orange, red-violet, red-orange, blue-green, and blue-violetThese are color combinations of a secondary color and a neighboring primary color.

Now that you understand the basic principles of the color wheel, read on for some examples of how to curate your own personalized palette to suit your unique space.

Monochromatic Colors

A subtle palette made of several shades of one color, this color scheme varies from light tints to dark tones, all while staying within the same hue.

Example of a Monochromatic Palette: Blue Hues

This bedroom's use of many shades of one color creates an intensity that isn't overwhelming. It's a success because it provides an eye-catching balance between neutrals and bright blues. For example, the blue-grey sectional serves as the perfect base for vibrant cerulean throw pillows, while wall art (ranging from powder blue to turquoise) delicately accents the crisp white walls.

Complementary Colors

Made up of two colors, this dynamic, yet simple palette is created by combining colors that sit opposite of each other on the color wheel. Here are a few complementary color examples: red and green, yellow and purple, and blue and orange.

Example of a Complementary Palette: Orange and Blue

A popular color palette, this blend of bright orange and stately blue create a unique yet refined space. Even though the majority of the room features turquoise, the hints of tangerine in throw pillows and accent seating create an energetic feel. A complementary color scheme such as this provides a clear separation of colors and is often used in more formal spaces, such as dining rooms and living rooms.

Analogous Colors

Considered a contrast palette made up of two to six colors, these color schemes sit next to each other on the color wheel. They're some of the easiest schemes to create. Simply choose one of your favorite colors, and then pick one to four of the colors sitting next to it.

Example of an Analogous Palette: Blue, Violet, and Cream

Blue, violet, and cream create a calming and restful living room. This analogous color scheme is an ideal combination for a tranquil space, such as a bedroom or family room; the colors flow naturally and mingle seamlessly in any order, creating a space that's easy on the eyes.

Triad Colors

These color schemes are made up of any three colors that form a triangle in the center of the color wheel. For example: red, yellow, and blue. If mixed correctly, the combination of these colors will make a bold, yet balanced statement.

Example of a Triad Palette: Orange, Magenta, and Green

This triad color palette of lime green, vivid magenta, and orange hues, creates an energetic and bright living area. Though the three colors make a bold statement, the room is tamed with neutrals, such as crisp white walls, sheets, and side tables.

60-30-10 Rule

For a cohesive look when decorating your space, try the 60-30-10 rule.

60% of the room should be dominated by one color. In the room below, the walls are painted a soft beige, and the sectional mirrors this neutral. 30% of the room is the secondary color, commonly used for window treatments, rugs, or accents. Here, hints of navy serve as the secondary color in the drapes and other accent pieces.10% of the room is an accent color. Here is an opportunity to be a little risky. The faded coral, used sparingly in throw pillows and candles, completes the room.

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