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Want a quick refresher on colour matching? Read on...

Using the colour wheel to choose colours for your interior

Most of us have at some point in our lives heard of or been taught about the colour wheel and how to match colours, whether in a painting, a room or a shop display.

If for whatever reason you want a quick refresher on how to go about making colour choices for your home, please read on. One word of warning, though. We will unashamedly talk about using it to choose one of our beautiful wool throws or blankets…Do also bear in mind that while theory is great, there’s nothing like mucking around with colours to find a combination that works. Generally, if you like it, you’ll be able to trace the reasoning back to colour theory and the colour wheel.

Part one: What is the colour wheel?

The basic colour wheel was invented by Sir Isaac Newton in the 17th century. It is based around the three primary colours: red, blue and yellow. In theory, every colour or hue you see is a mix of these three colours.

Colour Wheel

Mix the primary colours and you get the secondary colours: green, orange and purple.

Blend a secondary colour with a primary and you get one of the tertiary colours: yellow / orange, red / orange, red / purple, blue-purple, blue / green or yellow / green.

Do any more mixing and you start to get messy brown mud colour. Think about what happened when you used to mix poster paints as a child, or perhaps more recently as a parent!?! There’s only so far you can go!

Colour harmony

In its simplest form, when you look at an arrangement of colours and you like the overall effect, this is normally down to sone kind of colour harmony. If you can then go on to unpick what’s going on, helped by the theory of colour and tools like the colour wheel, you’ll have nailed it and will be in a much better position to recreate a similar effect in your own home.

Colour harmony for choosing a wool throw

Analogous or harmonious colours

One of the easiest to understand. Pick colours that sit next to each other or very close on the colour wheel. For example, different hues of red: scarlet, burgundy and terracotta will generally work well together to create a nice balanced colour scheme.

Look for colours of similar tone, so one doesn’t overpower the other. Remember, if you pick a primary colour as one of the colours, the combination will be more striking. Red and pink or red and orange.

Terracotta herringbone wool blanket and the colour wheel

Our terracotta herringbone wool throw on a bright red sofa

Complementary colours

Essentially, complementary colours are the ones that sit opposite each other on the colour wheel. For whatever reason, they just go together. Think blue with orange; green with red; purple with yellow. Perhaps the reason these colours appear to go so well together is because many occur naturally together in nature: green and red in apples, blue and orange in sunsets and sunrises; lilac and green in lavender. The list of examples is almost endless.

When working with complementary colours, use the colour wheel to identify which combination you like. Then experiment. You’ll need to select one to be the dominant colour to avoid them being too overwhelming. This is where wool throws and blankets can really bring a room to life. Pick a throw in a complementary colour to add an accent to the room. Try not to have more than two colours in a complementary scheme or it can get too confusing.

Complementary red with sea green herringbone wool throw using the colour wheel

Our sea green herringbone wool throw on a bright red sofa

Balance the scheme by adding neutral colours like soft grey, cream or white. Our checked cream, lilac and green throw is a great example of complementary colours working well together in a throw. Or pick a bolder navy blue or terracotta throw to add a complementary accent to your existing scheme.

A great cinematic example of complementary colours that we saw recently was in Mama Mia 2. Whatever you think of the movie or the amazing music (we love it), the visual effect is overwhelming and pleasing to the eye. In most of the dance scenes, the most predominant colour is blue, while there is nearly always a lady dancing around in a bright orange skirt or a guy in an orange t-shirt.

Pairing one light tone together with one dark tone of each of your colours can work well.

A tonal scheme

This is where you use just one colour in a variety of tones or tints. The key here is to use textures and patterns to liven up the scheme because if you have just one colour and tone, there is a risk of it being completely unremarkable. For example, look at the colour wheel and choose three tints or shades of the same colour and use these throughout your scheme.

A great way to create an allusion of space is to use the deepest tones closer to the floor and the lightest nearer the ceiling. If you want to close a room down, swap it the other way around.

We hope you found this article useful. Please do enjoy browsing our range of throws, blankets and picnic blankets and stay in touch. We'll be bringing you more tips on how to use colour in your homes in future articles.

The Adobe colour wheel

With all, well some, of the theory dealt with, why not have a play with this ingenious free tool developed by Adobe which allows you to experiment with all manner of colours. It's perfect if you're trying to find a colour match for an existing or future interior scheme.

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