Color Wheel 101

If it’s not obvious, we’re into color here at HomeWorkshop. And so that we all make genius decisions when choosing color for our homes (or in reality so that we don’t have to repaint so often), we’ll be learning (or reviewing) color theory. To start here are the basics to build on—your “Color Wheel 101.”


Our Simple Color Wheel includes twelve hues, or colors that you can name like red, green and violet. The colors are arranged in circle that helps us see the relationships between colors. The cool hues range from violet to green; the warm hues from the yellows through the reds.

The three Primary Colors are red yellow and blue, colors that can’t be made by mixing the other hues together.


Make an equal mix of two Primary Colors and you’ll get the three Secondary Colors: orange, green and violet. Mix yellow with blue and you get green, and so on.


Last are the six Tertiary Colors, made when you mix a primary with a secondary color. The result is a hue like red-violet, or yellow-green. Mmmmm, pretty colors.


Ours is a simple twelve-color wheel; you can make many more hues by mixing colors in different proportions.

Once you find hue you like, add white or black to that hue to create different values or tones that are lighter (a tint) or darker (a shade). And you can choose colors where the hue is more or less intense; this is called the saturation or chroma. More saturated colors are more pure hues and less saturated colors are more gray versions.

Picture all these variations and you’ll see why interior designers’ color wheels can have many options.

More in the next Color Wheel post about the relationships between colors, and various color schemes you can build around those relationships. Keep in mind that color is subjective; it’s good to know the theory about why some colors work well together, but it’s just as important to choose colors that “feel right” to you. After all, you’ll be the one living in the space.

How much thought do you put into your color choices for a room? Describe your favorite color and why. Have you ever regretted or had to “fix” a color choice?

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