Thinking of painting your home? Did you know the colours you select, can have a direct correlation on your mood? Wondering why you’ve been a bit crabby of late? Not getting a good night’s sleep? There could be a simple explanation: you’ve stuffed your paint colours up!

Colour can have a profound & direct effect on your moods. It’s a critical thing to get right in your home renovation, with paint one of the most powerful & cost-effective ways to transform your space.

But … for the average person, choosing the right paint colours is hard & confusing. It’s an artform that some people do effortlessly, while others get it horribly wrong.  So, with that in mind, I thought I’d give you some high-level basics of colour theory so you get your colour schemes right!


The concept of how & why some colour combinations work & others don’t, is a science based upon the relationship of colours on a nifty little device called the colour wheel.

colour wheel

To understand the colour wheel, think of the last rainbow you saw. We all learn as kids that the colours of the rainbow, run next to each other in an order. This order is created by nature where each colour mixes with the next to create a new colour. Therefore, think of the colour wheel as nothing more than a simplified rainbow that helps us unlock all the colour combinations we have in our world.



The world of colour is quite complex but let me have a crack at trying to explain it to you in the easiest way possible …

All colours stem from 3 primary groups: (1) primary colours, (2) secondary colours & (3) tertiary colours, as highlighted below:

3 primary colours group

Colours are created by simply mixing colours with other colours to create new colours!

simple color mix

Pretty simple, huh?

To create lighter & darker variations of a colour (for example BLUE becoming LIGHT BLUE or DARK BLUE, (plus all the slight variations in between), we add differing amounts of BLACKWHITE & GREY.

You make colour lighter by adding WHITE (known as Tints), darker by adding BLACK (known as Shade), & moody “or dirty” by adding GREY (known as Tone) to create different depths of all colours.

tint, shade, tone


Now you know the basics of how the colour wheel works, choosing your colour schemes strategically is simply a process of learning which colour combo’s naturally work together.

Using the colour wheel as your guide, there are many different versions of colour combinations that work best together but the 6 main ones are:

6 main colour combinations
Let me explain each …


Analogous colour schemes normally use a combination of 3 (maximum 4) colours that sit right next to each other on any side of the colour wheel. For this type of colour scheme, it’s about selecting 1 single predominant colour on the colour wheel then moving one segment to the left or right of the colour wheel to form a group of 3 colours.

analogous colors

Analogous Colour Scheme – using Blue/Green, Green, Yellow Green

Analogous Colour Scheme – Blue, Blue / Green, Violet

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This type of colour scheme is created using 1 base colour, but combining its various forms, tones, tints & shades to create a cohesive space. It’s usually combined with white, black or some neutrals to add contrast, but the colour is repeated throughout the interiors to create a harmonious look.

Monochromatic Colour Scheme – in this example, different variations of green have been used throughout this room.

Monochromatic Colour Scheme – using grey as the base colour with light & dark pops of black & white for contrast.


Complementary colours sit completely opposite each other on the colour wheel providing high contrast. These combinations can be quite striking when the colour is used at full saturation however these types of schemes work better when toned down a little. An example of this could be to use a deep green (being a shade of green) on your walls, teamed with a soft pink sofa (which is a lighter tint of red).

Complimentary / Contrasting Colour Scheme – Coral (red based) with teal (green based) which are opposite colours on the colour wheel.

Complimentary / Contrasting Colour Scheme – using lighter shades of blue & yellow for contrast.


Split complementary colours are based on the complementary scheme, however instead of using the colour directly opposite, you look to the colours either side of it. This variation offers more options for interior styling, providing rooms with more contrast.

Split Complimentary Colour Scheme – teal as the primary colour, red as the secondary colour & yellow / gold as the accent colour.
Image Source:

Split Complimentary Colour Scheme – blue, orange & a pop of yellow.
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The triadic is another 3-colour combo in the shape of a triangle where the points of the triangle come together to form the triadic combination. The key with this colour scheme is to find 1 colour you really want to use, then locate the other two colours adjacent to the split complementary colours.

Triadic colour scheme using yellow, red & blue. 

Image Source:


Taking it up a level in complexity, is the tetradic colour combination involving colours that are equidistant apart, using 4 colours instead of 3. You can find a tetradic combination by placing a square on the colour wheel and choosing the colours at each corner, or by choosing two opposing sets of complementary colours.

Tetradic colour scheme using shades of purple, orange, yellow & green

Image Source:

So…. when it comes to strategically choosing your paint colours, it’s fair to say – it’s basically a game of spin the wheel!


Now, we’re not done yet. Besides knowing which colour combo’s naturally work together, you’ll also need to know that colours are generally categorized into 2 categories – “warm” or “cool” colours. Warm colours sit on 1 side of the colour wheel with cool colours on the other side.

Warm colours tend to make spaces “advance inwards” whilst cool colours “recede outwards”, affecting the perception of depth in a room.

A warm paint colour on your ceilings can make them look lower whilst cool tones can make them appear higher & lighter.

Warmer colours such as reds, oranges & yellows tend to trigger emotions of happiness, reminding us of the heat & sunshine. So, they’re good colour choices for social rooms such as your lounge room or kitchen, where you want to stimulate conversation & a sense of activity.

On the other hand, red or orange is not a great colour for bedrooms, where the opposite effect is required. Here you might want to choose a colour from the other side of the wheel, the cool colours that sit on the blue / green range. These create a sense of serenity (which is what you want in your bedroom), reminding us of calming natural elements like water & the sky. They’re good options for bedrooms, bathrooms & your home office. Just be careful – stay away from yellows & greens in the parts of your bathroom where you plan to put on makeup. These colours can make your skin take on a green or yellow tint in the mirror.

Before you paint any rooms in your home, it’s important you consider your:

  1. Rooms size;
  2. Ceiling height;
  3. The feeling you want to create in the room.

then decide if a “warm” or “cool” colour palette will work best. It’s also possible to mix warm & cool paint tones in one room to create certain effects. One way to effectively do this is to choose one wall for a warm colour & leave the rest of the room in a cool or neutral colour to balance it all out. This adds a touch of warmth without overdoing it.

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