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Colour Theory.

Colour Theory & The Colour Wheel

Colour is one of the most dynamic elements in your home’s decor.

“Colour’s power to shape the way we feel about a room is almost magical. Consciously or unconsciously, very often it’s the first thing we notice. The wrong colour can almost literally repel us, whereas the right colour will immediately draw us in. Colour has the power to add character to a dull space, soften a harsh one, make a room feel warm or cold, intimate or expansive.” - Paint Style, Lesley Riva

Colour not only sets the tone and feel of a room, but also ties together the furnishings and accessories.

Benjamin Moore can take you from inspiration to results, flawlessly capturing your unique vision of home. We offer a variety of colour tools to help you explore, experiment and select colours easily. And when it comes to finding that perfect colour, you can be sure that Benjamin Moore has exactly what you’re looking for.

The Colour Wheel

The standard colour wheel includes high-intensity, pure colours. While you may not use these vibrant colours in your home as they appear on the wheel, the principles associated with this handy tool can help you create your desired effect.

There are 12 colours in a standard colour wheel that are divided into three designations:

Primary Colours – Pure red, blue, and yellow

Secondary Colours – Combinations of two primary colours. These include orange (red + yellow), green (yellow + blue) and violet (blue + red).

Tertiary Colours – These colours are a combination of a primary and a secondary colour, such as red-orange, yellow-orange, yellow-green, blue-green, blue-violet, and red-violet.

Within the colour wheel there are also two classes of colours:

Warm Colours:

Reds, oranges and yellows advance and condense a room.

Think: Intimate & Cozy

Cool Colours:

Greens, blues and violets recede or expand a room.

Think: Calming & Open

In the colour wheel below, the top half of the colour wheel below are warm colours and cool colours.

colour wheel

There are 12 colours in the standard wheel that are divided into three designations:

Primary Colours

Red, Yellow & Blue

Primary Colours

Primary colours are the three colours in the spectrum that cannot be man made. Red, Yellow and Blue were discovered already made and man has mixed these three colours in different variations to make all others.


Secondary Colours

Secondary Colours

These colours are created by the mixing of any two primary colours.


Tertiary Colours

Tertiary Colours

These 6 colours are created by mixing one primary colour with one secondary colour.

Yellow + Green = Yellow-Green, Yellow + Orange = Yellow-Orange, 

Red + Orange = Red-Orange, Red + Violet = Red-Violet, Blue + Violet = Blue-Violet, Blue + Green = Blue-Green

 Colour Speak:

Colour intensity describes the brightness or dullness of a colour, while colour value refers to a colour’s lightness or darkness. Add white to a colour to create a tint. Add black to a colour to create a shade.

How Does This Help me Decorate?

Think about what type of mood you want to have in the room that you are redecorating. You can use the wheel to choose colours based on what you would like to feel in your home or an enclosed space.

Colour Schemes:

Based on the principles of the colour wheel, colour schemes are helpful guidelines you can use to create the look you desire for your home. Colour schemes are combinations or pairings that create an aesthetic and feel for a space.

Monochromatic Colour Scheme:


A colour scheme that uses tints and shades of the same colour. The effect of a monochromatic colour scheme can be subtle and subdued when using a soft colour, or dramatic and daring when opting for a rich hue.

Below is an example of three rooms that have used a monochromatic colour scheme. It creates a soft and subtle layering of colours. Some customers choose to use this for their whole home, layering different shades of taupes throughout the whole home.

Monochromatic images

Complementary Colour Scheme:


A colour scheme that includes two colours that are opposite each other on the colour wheel. Opposites attract, so it’s no surprise that complementary colours are pleasing to the eye.

Opposite colours are pleasing to the eye but they can be difficult to pair together because they magnify each other. If you are pairing a blue with an orange, all of a sudden the blue will be bluer and the orange will be more orange. This does not effect you too much unless it is in the undertones.

For example:

Have you ever tried to pick a grey and found that time and time again it is too blue or green? Take a look at the colours you were trying to pair this grey with: maybe a beige, tan or taupe. If the undertones of the taupe were pink or red then that’s why the green was magnified. If the undertones were yellow or orange, you probably saw too much blue in your grey. It’s all in the undertones. If you are having a hard time with this, bring in a sample of what is on your walls and some photos of your home and we can help you in store!

In the images below there are three examples of using complementary colours in a subtle way. The first image uses blue and yellow-orange (this is the most common), the centre image used green coupled with a complementary red (pink) and the final image on the right uses a complementary colour scheme that is more subtle. There is a grey on the walls that has an undertone of green (Sea Haze) and the ceiling has a brick tone that shows a lot of red. It adds depth and interest to the room.

Complementary images


Analogous Colour Scheme:


A colour scheme that uses adjacent colours on the colour wheel. Create a pleasing palette by using one colour more prominently than the other two colours.

What you will be seeing a lot of in 2014 & 2015 is shown in the image below. Mixing similar shades or tones of colours that are sitting beside each other on the colour wheel. The colours are used so similar that in the images you must look closer to differentiate which ones belong to the blue or green family. This is one of the most subtle of the colour schemes available.

Analogous images

Triad Colour Scheme:

Triad Colour Scheme

A colour scheme that includes any three colours equally spaced on the colour wheel. Use colours in varied proportions – one dominant colour, a secondary hue, then an accent colour for pop.





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