How to use the colour wheel to find the perfect colour combination


Colour makes designs come alive. It can help catch people's attention, influence their choices and emotions, and direct them to the important bits of information.


It's hard enough choosing your primary colour, but real trouble comes when you're trying to match it to a second or even a third one! It's not always easy to find colours that work well together and that have enough contrast.


This is where the colour wheel comes in handy! The colour wheel is an invaluable tool for any graphic designer (or anybody who needs to work on a design) as it clearly shows the relationship between colours. So if you know the principles behind the wheel, you can use it as a reference for how colour combinations work.


The primary colours are red, blue and yellow. Between the primary colours you will find the secondary colours, made from an equal mixture of the two primary ones: orange (red and yellow), green (yellow and blue), purple (blue and red). Tertiary colours are all the possible mixtures in between.


There are many techniques for combining colours - here are some examples.

Have you ever wondered why we all like this colour combination so much? Pink and green are directly opposite each other in the colour wheel, so they are COMPLEMENTARY. Complementary colours are usually one warm colour and one cool colour to form a well-balanced color harmony. They work well together as they make each other POP.

ANALOGOUS color schemes use colours that are next to each other on the color wheel. As we can see in this great shot of citrus fruit, analogous colour schemes are often found in nature and are harmonious and pleasing to the eye. They usually match well and create serene and comfortable designs. Make sure you have enough contrast. Choose one color to dominate a second to support. Then you can add a third color as an accent.

A MONOCHROMATIC color palette uses one base color plus any number of variations of that base. The variations can be: Shades: base color darkened with black. Tones: base color desaturated with gray. Tints: base color lightened with white. A monochromatic colour palette is great for many reasons: it's versatile, it creates a harmonious look, and you won't have to stress trying to find a good colour to match!

A TRIADIC colour scheme uses three colours that are evenly spaced on the color wheel. This provides a high contrast color scheme that creates bold, vibrant color palettes. Finding the right balance is a bit tricky when using a triadic colour scheme - the best way to handle this is to balance the three colours carefully - let one color dominate and use the two others for accent.

I hope this article has inspired you to start using the colour wheel to create some stunning colour combinations for your designs!


Get in touch if you want to find out more about how to match colours.

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© 2016-2020 Lorenza Minghetti | Graphic Design