Primary, secondary and tertiary colours
No matter which sort of colour wheel you use, all of them share the essential outer layer. This is where you find the 12 core colours, each of which belong to one of three categories. As you probably already know, red, yellow and blue are there forming the primary colours whose appearance cannot be created by blending any other colour. Mix equal amounts of the primary colours together though, and you create orange (red and yellow), purple (red and blue) and green (yellow and blue) – your secondary colours. All of the colours that remain are referred to as tertiary colours. You’ll notice that their naming convention fuses two colours together e.g. yellow-green, red-orange. This is, quite simply, because they’re produced by combining any two primary and secondary shades in a 2:1 ratio.
Cool versus warm
Most of us know that every colour has either a warm or cool character. When choosing a palette, it’s one of the most important colour decisions you have to make early on as it will bear huge influence on your home’s ambiance.
In search of a cool colour (or receding colours, as they’re sometimes called)? Keep to the side of the wheel with greens, blues and violets. Wanting a bit of warmth? Then head to the land of reds, oranges and yellows (fireside tones also referred to as aggressive colours).
It’s also worth knowing that you can absolutely mix warm and cool colours together in one palette. It’s just that the dominant colour, be it warm or cool, will set the overall tone for the room.
Hues, tints, tones and shades
So often do you hear these terms used interchangeably as a synonym for the word ‘colour’ (which is fine as, colloquially, they’ve come to mean much the same thing). But in colour theory, it’s only ‘hue’ that qualifies as an alternative. The rest have very different meanings.
A tint is when you take any of the twelve colours and add white to lighten it. A shade, on the other hand, is what you create when dabbing in some black. Add grey however, and what you’ve done there is produce a tone.