A color wheel, also known as a color circle, is a sampling of colors arranged in a progressive blending of primary colors plus black or white. It is possible to make your own color wheel. They are also available in various retail stores where paints, finishes, etc. are sold. Samples can be picked at these stores, but I would highly recommend studying the paint and samples in your space with your lighting. I prefer the detailed color wheel because it has more options. If you chose to create your own, you should start by placing the primary hues in an equalateral triangle. Follow that by adding the secondary and tertiary colors appropriately. There are places online that will guide you with their samples.


Primary Colors: They are basic unmixed Colors. They are Red, Yellow and Blue.
Secondary Colors: Colors formed by mixing two primary colors.
Tertiary Colors: Colors formed when one mixes a primary color with one or more secondary colors.

Complementary Colors: Those are the colors just opposite each other on a color wheel. These are great building blocks for color schemes.
Analogous Colors: Those are the colors located close to each other on a color wheel. Examples of this would be light blue, green and turquoise.

Accent Color Usage

Accent colors are colors that are used for emphasis in a color scheme. These colors can be bold or more subtle to create the style the user desires.  They are usually used sparingly, to emphasize, contrast or create visual rhythm. It controls the eye and mind of the viewer.

Using warm colors like red, yellow or orange or a combination of these on a large piece of furniture or wall can be overwhelming if not done properly. Accents can tone down the color or pull it out to be more bold.  When someone walks into a room, that first impression is what they will remember.  Strong colors unaccented can make a space seem lopsided, dreary or even circus like.  The midway of the fair comes to mind.  However if composed properly, it can creats the feeling of a balanced space. Not everyone can balance a bold color.  The size, pattern and location heavily affect the color also.  With time and practice you can make it work. Results of improperly used color can cause loss of sleep, destroy food appeal, create depression, and deplete your energy.

Boldness of color and texture can create the feeling the user wants to project. Even adventurous color users can vitalize even the drabbest living space by using accent paint, throw pillows, towels, plants, area rugs, furnishings and art to to perk up a boring space.

On the other hand, if the user had a very brightly colored space and is needing to tone it down, this can be done without replacing everything.  Strategically placing some cordinated  “toned down” accents can cause the eye to concentrate on that area and slightly soften the “bright color” effect.  An example would be a bright red sofa.  With very light accessories and walls, the red is accented, intensified and it dominates.  If you use brown tones with it (those to the red side of brown are more successful) the red is toned down and rhythm of the space is more pleasing.

Solid colors, patterns and finishes for home furnishings trending now. It is not automatic each year though.  When in doubt, it is a good idea to use bold colors as an accent as color popularity change.  The past 2 years have been mostly warm tones. The forecasters are predicting various mixes of green for 2017.  Colors are edging toward the blues for 2018 while hanging on to the bolds of 2016 and 2017. Color trends flow to the more intense side when during a deflated economy and slide to the more subtle shades when the economy is doing well.  Bolder hues provide a sense of security. Warm colors boost while cool colors soothe  people and some animal’s moods.

Experts now say that color trends will have extended lifespans. Consumers have finally succeeded in letting the industry know that they don’t want to discard their color choices from last year.

There are many reasons for holding on to your color choice. It takes a while to adjust to a color change, and see its many influences. As you get the hang of it, the color becomes outdated. It is difficult to stay in tuned to changing color trends, because the forecasters predict certain colors are in or out in home fashion or clothing. Home design professionals are using color differently now, instead of changing annually as they did a few years ago.. Understanding creative color combinations to make colors move and influence a space can be done by practicing.  When I try something new, I stand back and take in the whole picture to insure I have good balance and color flow.

A color scheme starts with neutrals. The old standby neutrals have been beige, sand, tan, taupe, cream and white. Interior Designers have rely heavily on these neutrals as backgrounds for their interior color palettes for many years. These neutrals will always be remain a part of design schemes.  They can be flexible, attractive, calming and sensational. The new neutral colors project a more sophisticated  and usually formal personality of a space.  Today’s neutrals are expanding to add jet-blacks, various hues of grays, subtle blues and some metallics.

A color wheel can be very helpful for home, office and in your closet. They can be found in many paint sections of hardware stores and in the art section of hobby stores.


Sandy Adling, Registered Interior Designer


Making Colors

The varying degrees of a color create a vibration of energy between hues. A common example of this is the Christmas red and green. A color scheme no longer accepts only “Matching colors”, but by using a collection of blended shades that compliment each other. They can range from soft neutrals to deep rich saturated hues. Just a few years ago, we were expected to use light colors and white in the summer, autumn shades in the fall, dark colors in the winter and spring flower colors in the spring to be in style. Now the seasonal colors are blended to provide an interesting contrast. We are encouraged to “think out of the box” when creating color schemes. When using saturated colors as anchors, we can spice them up with rich dark hues, mute them with mild muted neutral, or boost them with extreme contrasting colors. Successful schemes come from experimenting with color combinations to create different moods. Some of the most successful color schemes still come from nature. The final selection must be guided by your own personality, and not from some Fashion Magazine or Designer. If you were not comfortable with a color in the past, no amount of scheming can make you feel totally comfortable. However, slight shade variations can help you to feel more tolerable of that hue. Remember that you need to consider others members of your household, when working on an interior space. When consulting any type of professional, never let them convince you that you should use colors “they like” or what is the latest fashion. They should be able to guide to more comfortable colors for you. I once designed a residence which used colors I could never use in my own spaces. When we finished, they loved it and said that it “looked just like me”. I created that space for them and around their lifestyle.

Primary Colors plus ……Secondary & Tertiary In-Betweens

There are three primary colors. Red, Blue and Yellow. These true colors are the only hues that can’t be created by mixing any other colors. They are the foundation for every imaginable color. When blending these, you create new colors called Secondary Colors. When you mix a Primary and its nearest Secondary color, you create Tertiary colors.

Secondary Colors
Secondary colors are what can be made from mixing two of the three primary colors . The three Secondary colors can be made from the following:

Red and Blue to make Violet

Red and Yellow to make Orange

Yellow and Blue to make Green

Tertiary Colors
When you mix the Primary Colors with their Secondary Color “children” you get 6 new colors.

Yellow and Orange to make YELLOW-ORANGE
Red and Orange to make RED-ORANGE
Red and Violet to make RED-VIOLET
Blue and Violet to make BLUE-VIOLET
Blue and Green to make BLUE-GREEN
Yellow and Green to make YELLOW-GREEN

Most artists don’t actually mix every color themselves from scratch. It’s easier to work with a comfortable palette of at least twelve familiar tubes.

If you’re just learning about how colors interact, start with three Primary Colors and mix your own Basic Color Wheel. Try and duplicate it yourself. Don’t worry if it doesn’t look the same because the different Red, Yellow and Blue pigments on the market will give you slightly different results.

The experience of actually using the Primaries to mix the Secondary and Tertiaries yourself from scratch will help you understand subtleties of color much more profoundly.

  1. Download the first and second Free Printable Color Wheels to practice on.
  2. Print out several of the second free template on standard white 8 1/2″ x 11″ paper.
  3. Get Red, Yellow and Blue paints out. Keep it simple like watercolor, poster paints or acrylic.
  4. Paint in the Primaries.
  5. Mix your Secondaries and try to get as close as possible to the Color Wheel reference.
  6. Then mix your Tertiary Colors from your Primaries plus mixed Secondaries.
  7. Be sure to keep them for reference. Yes, even the ones you think are mistakes.

There are no mistakes – only experience !!!

What next ? How do you tone down these mixtures ?

Now that you’ve mixed these 12 basic bold Hues, you can begin to refine them. Here’s how to turn these Primary, Secondary and Tertiary colors into Tints, Tones and Shades.

Color Wheel

There are many free Color Wheels online. When researching primary and secondary colors, you may easily find yourself looking at one of the most famous color wheels. The Itten color wheel. Johannes Itten (11 November 1888 – 27 May 1967) was a Swiss expressionist painter.

He created his wheel which shows the us the primary and secondary colors and their influence, on each other. When looking at the red and blue primary colors in the center for instance, we can see how they blend to make violet. On the outer ring of the wheel the violet goes from light to dark. It’s more towards red/pinks on the right, with the more red added, making it lighter. It’s more towards blue on the left, with the more blue added, making it deeper violet. And this is shown with all of the primary and secondary colors.

Many colors have all three primary colors. I like to dissect the colors as a premix formula. Example:

Mixing red and blue makes violet. Lighten the color with a PURE white. Then ad a touch of yellow and you have a taupe color.   

Color Vision

Color Vision

Humans, apes and many monkeys, ground squirrels, and many species of fish, birds, and insects have well-developed color vision. However, 7 or 8 percent of human males are completely lacking in the ability to recognize color.
Animals with poor color vision are unable to distinguished between shades of reds and greens. Their world consist of blends of blues, yellows, and grays. These animals with limited color vision or none at all include rabbits, cats, dogs, mice and rats. Nocturnal animals like the owls, foxes, skunks, and raccoons, who have vision which is developed for seeing in dim light, rarely have good color vision. By comparison, the human eye does not distinguish color well in dim light.To the normal human eyes, they perceive a wide range of color, from the a bright yellow of a daisy to the soft blue of a stately patterns of the blue jays feathers. Most people can reproduce any color by mixing pigments (paints or dyes).  These are reproduced by different intensities of wavelengths of light.
Human vision is called trichromacy because the retina is composed of layers of nerve cells which captures the light waves and transmits descriptions to the brain uses only three types of light-absorbing pigments for color vision. One theory is that the eye can mix red, blue and yellow dots as with computer and television monitors to project the perception of full spectrum color.
Many other primates have trichromacy vision. Nonprimate mammals usually have dichromat vision, which is color vision with the ability to see two kinds of visual pigments. Some nocturnal mammals have only one pigment. Many birds, fish and reptiles have the ability to see four visual pigments. These animals can detect ultraviolet light which is invisible to our eyes.
When I was a young child my dad would take me to the local hardware store with him. While he was looking at tools, I would gather a set of paper laminate samples.  I would play with them for days and compose color combinations.  I did not know what I was doing, but I did enjoy seeing the results of the change of adjacent colors.  You can do this with laminate or paint samples.
When you have some quiet time try these exercises.
1. Select a color. Look around for that color where you are sitting. You will become sensitive to that color for now.
2. Select a second color. Abandon color number one, focusing on color number two. you will start to notice many places where color number two is.
3. Continue with other primary or secondary colors.
You will be amazed at your improved color sensitivity.
Next time we will begin working on dissecting colors.  That will help with color identification and with the selection of complimentary colors.

Color in Design

The subject of Color is a complex one.  It covers several
scientific approaches. One difficulty of getting a better
understanding of color is the different perspectives these
disciplines take to approach their object of research. You
can research and find information about colors but the
different interpretations can confuse one instead of
educating them, The following is a list of disciplines which
cover color theory to prevent some possible confusion

1. The ability of one’s eye to absorb light. Some
diseases may diminish this.  Others are born lacking this
ability (color blind).

2. The ability of the brain to process these incitements.

3. The ability of the brain to distinguish color hues and
shades (example is a person who sees purple and sees it
as gray).


1. Combination of values and hues (mixture of hues and
intensity for the desired value).

2. Formula developed for producing a color in a
particular medium.

3. Presentation of color, including associated
complimentary colors (example is the choice of frame and
mat for art).

Color Science

1. Developing colors through formulas.  All colors have
formulas, whether paint, ink, blend of yarns, or
presentation through lighting.

Color Psychology

1. The emotions generated by colors.

2. The ability to control through the use of color.

3. The ability to create a mood with the use of color.

4. The way color follows the economy.


1. Techniques used for presentation with color.

2. Skills associated with different mediums (example
watercolor, acrylic, fashion designer, interior designer) to
use the hues and lighting to get the effect they envision.

There will be new articles added to explain and
guide you with color in your life.  You are welcomed
to send questions and contribute to the site.

Thank you

Sandy Adling, Registered Interior Designer