Color is often the most difficult part of a room for interior design fans to get right. That’s because colors are fickle. There are so many shades to choose from and they need to be put together in the right proportions. Otherwise, they won’t work together in harmony. Luckily, there are a few color rules that you can use to make sure your colors look balanced every time. We’ve listed them below. Read them over to master color in interior design once and for all.

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color rules

The 60-30-10 rule helps rooms feel balanced and visually interesting. Image: Photographee.eu/Shutterstock

The 60-30-10 rule

The 60-30-10 rule is any interior design fan’s best friend. No matter what your personal aesthetic may be or what you want your room to look like, you can use this rule to help make sure that your color palette stays balanced. In this setup, you’ll use three colors. 60, 30 and 10 refer to the percentages of your design that each will make up.

Here’s how it works: first, you’ll choose one shade to be your dominant shade and take up approximately 60 percent of the room. Usually, this will be a neutral or some type of subdued hue that can take up a lot of space without feeling overwhelming. Next will be your secondary color, which is typically a bit bolder and takes up about 30 percent of the space. Finally, your accent color is your boldest shade and should make up the remaining 10 percent.

Take the photo above, for example. In this case, greige is the dominant color. You can see it on the walls and the sofa. Then, black is the secondary color. It’s on the bookshelf, side table, pillows and dining chair and in the rug. Finally, coral is the accent shade. That can be seen in the throw pillows and potted plants.

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warm color rule

Using warm or cool colors will set the tone for your space. Image: Marina_D/Shutterstock

Warm vs. cool colors

The phrase “warm vs. cool colors” refers to where specific shades fall on the color wheel. Traditionally, shades like red, orange and yellow are thought of as warm colors because they are more vibrant. However, neutrals like brown and tan are also included in the mix. On the other side of the spectrum are the cool colors, or blue, green and purple, as well as gray.

The choice of warm or cool colors will affect the energy of the space. Since warm colors tend to bring an upbeat and welcoming feel to a room, they’re best in entertaining spaces. Think about using these shades in your dining room or kitchen. Cool colors, on the other hand, are more subdued. They work best in bedrooms and office spaces, where a calming energy is appreciated.

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complementary color rule

Complementary colors are across from each other on the color wheel. Image: Africa Studio/Shutterstock

The complementary color scheme

Of all the color rules that interior designers use, the complementary color scheme is often thought of as the simplest. That’s because this color scheme only involves two shades. In particular, it uses two shades that are sitting directly opposite each other on the color wheel, meaning you get combinations like blue and orange, yellow and purple or red and green.

As you can see from the photo above, these color pairings are extremely high contrast, which means that — while they undoubtedly bring a strong energy into the space — they’re ultimately best used in small doses. You should think of them as your accent colors and use plenty of neutrals to balance them out and provide a place for the eye to rest.

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analogous color rule

Analogous colors are next to each other on the color wheel. Image: Photographee.eu/Shutterstock

The analogous color scheme

If you have trouble navigating the color wheel, an analogous color scheme might be for you. For this one, all you have to do is pick a central color, then also use the colors on either side of it. Here, two colors will be primary colors and the third will be a mix of the two. For example, red, orange and yellow or red, purple and blue.

Since you’re using three colors in this one, proportion will come in handy to make sure the space feels balanced. You may want to incorporate the 60-30-10 rule again to keep your proportions in check. And remember, you can always use different shades of the same color as another way to create visual variety.

Interestingly, if you’re not a big fan of vibrant hues, you can also do an analogous color scheme using neutrals. Typically, this is referred to as a monochromatic color scheme. Here, all you need to do is mix black, white and gray together to create a sleek, modern look.