Color contrasts allow you to create home decorating schemes where the colors don't blend or merge but stand out from one another.

(This is probably the most difficult part of color theory to understand. Don't worry if you don't quite 'get it'. But it's useful to know the basics, so stay with us!)

Primary Home Decorating Schemes

As it says, only primary colors used here. Because primary colors have the same intensity, these schemes can be quite 'hard' and 'in your face'.

You'll often find modern schemes set these colors against a white background. This allows the scheme to work, with the white providing balance.

Contrasts of Tone

(Remember tint, lighter tone, and shade, darker tone). As this method sets light against dark, the most obvious scheme is black and white which shows the extremes of the light to dark scale.

If you remember, the yellow hue has a natural lightness, so combining yellow and black give a very good contrast.

By the same token, blue or violet are the darkest natural hues, combining either of them with white will give you very good contrasts as well.


colors in bedroom

Contrasts of tone are illustrated in this bedroom photo. The tints and shades used are not extreme, and so give a sense of relationship. To appreciate this, imagine if the bedcover were solid black and the floor and walls pure white instead of cream.


Complementary contrast schemes

If you've looked at the color wheel page you'll have learnt that complementary colors lie opposite one another.

And the simplest way of working with a complementary scheme is to do just that - take two colors opposite one another!

One popular option is to use a 'cool' or 'receding' color for a large area of the room, and balance it with small quantities of a 'warm' or 'advancing' color.

To get a more refined contrast effect you can modify both colors in tone and intensity. This is a often seen when one color is used to cover a sofa or chair, and the complementary color is used for the piping on the cushions.

complimentary colors


Split complementary contrast schemes

The idea here is to use three colors from the color wheel.

So for example, take green; its complementary color is red/purple.

But instead of using the exact complementary color, take two colors on either side of it - these are now the colors you use with the green. You could even go as far as violet and orange, and you can also vary their intensity to add more interest.

contrasts split


All this may sound very theoretical, and not very much use when you come to designing your own color schemes.

Maybe that's true. But it will help you to understand why color schemes which use contrasts are able to achieve certain effects.


This is the last page of the section on theory of color for home decorating. Of course, there's far more to it than we've covered here. But if you've followed the explanations so far, you've progressed much further than most. This knowledge will enable you to understand why different interiors look the way they do.

The next few pages will show you a selection of color schemes and how to use them.

If this is the first page you've arrived at, you can take a look at the start of this section on color basics.


Go to the next section to learn about using Color Charts


You may have looked at pages such as this one to learn about colors, but you still aren't sure how to select the best ones for your wall paint. There's an easy way to make sure you won't be taking any risks. (Only suitable for residents of the USA and Canada.)

The Shortcut to Perfect Paint Colors - Paint Color Cheat Sheets


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