Sometimes even the biggest interior design fans need a refresher on the fundamentals. That’s why we decided to take a step back and look at the basic color schemes. We’ve broken them down for you below, including what they are and how to make them work in the rooms of your home. Armed with these tips, you should be able to make any of these color schemes work and use them to build aesthetically pleasing color combos of your own.
Complementary color scheme
In terms of color schemes, the complementary color scheme is often thought of as one of the simplest. It involves using two colors that sit directly opposite each other on the color wheel. With color combos like red and green, blue and orange and yellow and purple, these color schemes will bring an infusion of energy and vibrancy to any room. Consider using them in high-energy spaces like a kitchen or a child’s bedroom.
Since these colors are so vibrant, the key to using them correctly is in creating a sense of balance. Mix these colors with plenty of neutrals in order to give viewers’ eyes a space to rest. Then, choose one of your colors to be the dominant shade that makes up most of your design while the other one plays more of a supporting role and is expressed through accents.
Analogous color scheme
An analogous color scheme refers to the use of three colors that are directly in a row on the color wheel. Typically, two of the colors will be primary colors while the third shade will be a secondary color and, ultimately, a mix of the first two. For example, you could choose a combination like red-orange-yellow, red-purple-blue or blue-green-yellow.
Again, proportion is crucial when using an analogous color scheme in your interior design. Except, this time, instead of choosing a dominant and secondary shade, you’re going to want to follow the 10-30-60 rule. With this rule, you choose one shade to cover approximately 60 percent of the room, a secondary shade that accounts for around 30 percent of the space and the final shade — your boldest one — that will be expressed through accents.
Triadic color scheme
Triadic color schemes, sometimes simply referred to as a triad, use three colors with equal space between them on the color wheel. As you can see from the picture above, the three primary colors (red, blue and yellow) are a perfect example of this type of color scheme. The same goes for the three secondary colors.
This type of color arrangement is often extremely bold. Since the colors are in such high contrast and pure hues are often used, you’ll most often see this scheme in children’s bedrooms or playroom areas. Regardless of where you use it, you’re going to need to incorporate plenty of neutrals to help balance out all of the brightness that is brought by these colors.
Split-complementary color scheme
If a complementary color scheme seems like it might be too bold for your tastes, the split-complementary color scheme gives you the same effect in a slightly muted form. In this case, you choose one color to be your base color. Then, instead of choosing its complementary color, you use the two shades adjacent to that complementary color. Doing this still gives you the impact of using a bold color, but is subtler in its presentation.
A split-complementary scheme works best when you use your base color as the dominant shade in the room. Instead of choosing a heavily-saturated shade, try to focus on using one that is a little softer in appearance. Then, go bold with your other two shades in the room’s accent pieces.
Rectangle (tetradic) color scheme
The tetradic color scheme is where things start to get a little more complicated. Here, we’re moving on to balancing four colors in the space. However, before we move on to how to make the look work, it’s important to note that the tetradic scheme is also sometimes referred to as a rectangle scheme because of the shape it makes on the color wheel. It utilizes two distinct pairs of complementary colors.
In this scheme, color temperature plays a very important role. Try to make sure that you choose two warm colors and two cool colors to fill the space rather than an odd number of one or the other. Using an even amount of both will help bring balance to the space. That said, in this case, there’s also such a thing as too much symmetry. Be sure to vary how you see the colors by using plenty of different shades and patterns.
Square color scheme
The square color scheme is very similar to rectangular in both number and name. It uses four shades, but instead of focusing on opposing pairs, the colors are evenly spaced throughout the color wheel. No matter which colors you choose, this scheme will be comprised of one primary, one secondary and two tertiary colors. Vary the intensity of the four colors by making two shades more neutral and two a little bolder.
Again, similar to the tetradic scheme, you’ll want to pay attention to achieving an equal number of warm and cool colors. But rather than giving equal attention to both color pairs, you should pick one shade to dominate the space and use the other three as accents.