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What Colours go best together?

What Colours go best together?

Choosing colors that go well together can transform the look and feel of any space. Whether you’re decorating your home, designing an outfit, or creating visual content for your business, a harmonious color palette creates a polished, cohesive aesthetic. But with thousands of hues to choose from, where do you start? Here’s a quick look at the basic principles for combining colors effectively.

Complementary Colors

Complementary colors sit opposite each other on the color wheel. Red and green, blue and orange, and yellow and purple are examples of complementary pairs. When placed side-by-side, these opposite colors create maximum contrast and visual tension. They make each other appear brighter, bolder, and more saturated.

Complementary color schemes lend themselves especially well to graphic design projects, warning signs, and other attention-grabbing visuals. However, used in excess in interior design, complementary colors can feel jarring and overwhelming. It’s best to use them sparingly as accent colors against a more neutral backdrop.

Analogous Colors

Analogous colors reside next to each other on the color wheel. They include red, red-orange, and orange or yellow, yellow-green, and green. Sharing common hues, analogous colors offer a sense of cohesion and harmony. Their close relationship creates a soothing, seamless look.

Interior designers often select analogous paint colors for rooms. Using differentiated hues with the same undertones allows you to add visual interest while maintaining a unified theme. Analogous color palettes are also frequently used in nature, with the gradient of colors in a sunrise or autumn leaves.

Triadic Colors

Triadic color palettes use three colors equally spaced around the color wheel. Examples include red, yellow, and blue or orange, green, and purple. With strong chromatic diversity, triadic color schemes tend to be bold and vibrant. At the same time, the balanced placement of the colors creates harmony.

Triadic colors work especially well when one hue dominates and the other two play supporting roles. You can also mute triadic palettes by selecting softer tones of each color. Pastels, for instance, give triadic combinations a gentler, ethereal feeling. Vibrant triadic harmonies lend themselves nicely to illustrations, abstraction, and pop art graphic styles.

Split Complementary Colors

The split complementary palette retains one base color, then pairs it with the two colors adjacent to its complement. For example, orange as the base color could be paired with blue-green and blue-violet which sit alongside orange’s complement blue.

This modified complementary scheme offers the vibrancy of opposite hues while limiting the contrast. The three colors have just enough differentiation to be interesting without clashing. Bold base colors balanced with split complements work well in everything from interior design to still life photography.

Tetradic (Double Complementary) Colors

Tetradic color schemes use four colors spaced evenly around the color wheel. This creates two sets of complementary pairs within the palette. One example would be yellow, red, blue, and green.

With such stark chromatic diversity, tetradic harmonies offer a complex, dynamic visual experience. They can appear especially vibrant and multi-dimensional. At the same time, retaining two complementary pairs creates balance. Tetradic palettes work best when you let one color dominate and use the others sparingly for accents.

Monochromatic Colors

As the name implies, monochromatic color schemes use varying shades, tones, and tints within a single base hue. For example, a monochromatic palette might include soft pink, carnation pink, and ruby pink.

Without strong value contrast, monochromatic palettes have a soothing, cohesive effect. They’re extremely easy on the eyes while offering subtle visual interest through delicate gradations of the same color. Use monochromatic colors as a backdrop to showcase bolder accents and textures.

Achromatic Colors

Achromatic color palettes consist entirely of neutral black, white, gray, and beige tones. Lacking any chromatic content, these schemes make ideal backdrops to feature other colors. They also create an elegant, minimalist aesthetic.

Achromatic palettes range from stark black and white to muted, earthy neutrals. While achromatic schemes lack color variety on their own, they offer infinite possibilities for creative pairings with vibrant hues as accents. Black and white photography, for example, often features pops of color for dramatic effect.

Color Values

Beyond basic hue combinations, color value significantly impacts harmony and contrast. Each hue has its own inherent lightness or darkness. But colors also gain value based on how bright or muted they appear alongside other hues.

Light colors like yellows and pastels evoke an airy, ethereal sensibility. Darker shades of blue, green, burgundy, and brown have a cozy, grounded feel. High value contrast between light and dark colors adds drama. Closely matched values result in a more stable, seamless look.

When building a palette, pay attention to the relative lightness and darkness of your hues. Balancing extremes can help colors sing together. Graduating color values can create attractive ombre effects.


Color temperature refers to the perceived warmth or coolness of a hue. Yellows, oranges, and reds feel warm and fiery. Blues, greens, and purples take on a cooler icy quality. Temperature affects more than just color mood and associations. Contrasting warm and cool tones also creates visual dynamism.

Use warm colors to evoke feelings of comfort and energy. Cooler schemes promote tranquility and sophistication. Skillfully blending warm and cool tones offers the best of both worlds. Just take care not to overmix colors from opposite ends of the spectrum. Doing so can make your palette appear muddy.


A color scheme’s ultimate success depends heavily on the context of its use. Certain palettes perfectly suit some environments and projects but not others. Consider the mood you want to create, how colors will overlap, and what each hue will be paired with.

Vibrant primary colors might enhance a children’s space but overwhelm more neutral furnishings. Complementary accent walls make bold statements but shouldn’t fight with existing finishes. Make color choices with both aesthetic appeal and practical use in mind.

Foolproof Color Pairs

Some tried-and-true color combinations remain perennial classics. These harmonious pairings offer foolproof ways to infuse any design with color.

Color 1 Color 2
Navy blue Camel
Pink Green
Yellow Gray
Red Turquoise
Purple Gold
Tan Light blue
Black White

These classic color duos feature pleasing contrast between warm and cool, light and dark, and chromatic intensity. The combinations are easy on the eyes while offering plenty of room for creativity. Use them as springboards to develop more unique palettes.

Color Theory in Art and Design

Throughout history, color theory principles have guided visual artists and designers. Understanding color relationships allows them to use hue, value, and temperature intentionally to evoke emotions and achieve aesthetic goals.

Complementary colors lend vibrancy to impressionist paintings. Decorators balance cool grays with warm wood tones to create inviting interiors. Food photographers amplify appetizing dishes with vibrant garnishes. Digital artists conceptualize fantastical characters and scenery in wildly creative color palettes.

In any medium, color choice directs the viewer’s feelings and visual path. Master color harmonies, and you master emotional communication through design.

Psychology of Color Perception

The human brain perceives color partly through contrast and association. We notice a hue most when it stands against its opposite. Red gains attention alongside green more than when surrounded by other warm tones.

Color associations also stem from biological wiring and cultural learning. Red means “stop” because we associate it with danger. Cool blues and greens conjure natural images of sky and grass. Familiar pairings like yellow and gray or lavender and cream feel comforting and timeless.

Make color palettes psychological tools by intentionally triggering visual and emotional pathways. Use contrast to grab attention. Build on color meanings and associations to design experiences.

History of Color Theory

Isaac Newton’s color wheel in 1666 laid early foundations for understanding color relationships based on the physics of optics. Goethe, Runge, and other 18th century artists expanded on color theory with an emphasis on human visual perception.

New pigments and technologies in the 19th and 20th centuries allowed further exploration of the intersections between art, psychology, and color. The Bauhaus school propelled modern color theory with a focus on reality over emotion.

Digital design has opened new frontiers for creating and manipulating color harmonies. But at its core, the essential knowledge remains grounded in age-old principles of hue, value, and chromatic context.

Cultural Color Symbolism

While some color meanings are nearly universal, cultural heritage also shapes color symbolism and preferences. Red, for example, represents good fortune in China and mourning in South Africa. White indicates purity in Western cultures but death in Eastern contexts.

Rich saturated colors dominate festive Indian motifs. Traditional Japanese design favors muted neutrals and natural tones. In including diverse perspectives, contemporary color theory has become more nuanced and inclusive. But it’s still wise to research cultural color associations for your target audience.

Color Trends

Current lifestyle and social trends continually influence popular colors. Millennial pink, Gen Z yellow, and cottagecore sage green reflect generational tastes. Technology innovations such as automobile lacquers, aniline dyes, and digital displays shape new color opportunities.

Avocado green appliances were trendy in the 1970s, while the 1990s embraced neon hues. The 2010s ushered in the return of earthy mid-century colors. Stay attuned to color trends, but also recognize that bold originality often sparks the next big craze.

Color Forecasting

Experts across industries engage in color forecasting to predict upcoming trends. Textile designers look at vintage prints and emerging lifestyle movements. Automotive colorists consider economic indicators and regional preferences. Interior stylists track architectural shifts and nature-inspired hues.

Color forecasters synthesize cultural dialogue, technological advances, and zeitgeist moods into aesthetic trend predictions. Their insights help manufacturers develop products and visual content to resonate with target consumers in the coming year.

Digital Color Tools

From photography filters to virtual swatch apps, digital tools provide endless opportunities to experiment with color. Upload a photo to overlay complementary or triadic harmonies. Glide a cursor through 360 degrees of hues to build a custom palette. Visualize paint colors in a digital mock up of your room.

Online tutorials, color picker wheels, 3D design suites, and Pantone libraries offer color inspiration and guidance. Digital capabilities make it easier than ever to match colors across platforms and understand how schemes translate across materials.

Color Accessibility

Color choices also impact accessibility for those with visual impairments or color vision deficiencies. Contrast ratios between text and background colors should meet WCAG standards. Avoid using red and green in combination for readable text. Choose colors distinct enough for colorblind users.

Testing palettes with online contrast checkers and color blindness simulators can ensure colors work for diverse visitors. Expand beyond primary hues to more universally discernible shades of blue, yellow, orange, rose, and aqua. Neutrals also provide fail-proof accessibility.

Resources for Color Selection

Many free and low-cost resources exist to guide your color selection process:

– Color wheel: Visualizes hue relationships and complementary colors

– Adobe Color: Generates color palettes and explores combinations

– Pantone Color Match Cards: Provides precise spot color matching

– Behr Color Tool: Allows you to build, visualize and save color schemes

– COLOURlovers: Browse thousands of user-created color palettes

– Canva Color Palette Generator: Creates color schemes for any design needs

Experiment with these digital tools and traditional color references to learn how colors interact and fuel creativity.

Choosing Color Palettes for Interiors

When designing home interiors, color can set the mood, increase functionality, and pull the aesthetic together. Follow these tips for choosing Dynamic, harmonious color palettes:

– Decide on an overall style – modern, bohemian, minimalist, etc. Select colors that enhance that look.

– Consider the room’s purpose. Energizing colors for work spaces, tranquil hues for bedrooms.

– Use 60-30-10 ratio: 60% neutral, 30% main color, 10% accent colors. Creates balance.

– Layer analogous tones and textures. Unified colors with added interest.

– Color the ceiling. Extends palette up and makes rooms feel more enveloped.

– Limit bright colors to functional spaces. Dining rooms vs. relaxing living rooms.

– Add pops of complementary hues. Sparks of contrast invigorate.

– Repeat colors in multiple rooms. Creates cohesive flow.

Choosing Color Palettes for Fashion

Clothing, accessories, and makeup offer blank canvases for creative color play. Follow these principles for building stunning style color palettes:

– Determine overall tone – muted, vivid, warm, cool, neutral, etc. Guide other choices.

– Consider skin, hair and eye coloring. Flattering, harmonious hues.

– Complement natural features with opposite colors on color wheel.

– Create color flow with smooth gradients. Monochromatic layers in related tones.

– Anchor brights with neutrals. Pops of color framed by earth tones.

– Limit palette to 2-4 hues max. Avoid overwhelming.

– Transition colors seasonally. Warm brights in summer, deeper tones in winter.

– Use lighter values near face, darker shades on bottom half. Flattering balance.

Choosing Brand Color Palettes

A strategic brand color palette promotes visibility, recognition, and meaningful associations. Here are tips for choosing brand colors:

– Represent brand personality – serious, fun, elegant, earthy, etc.

– Consider product or industry. Nature for organic foods, reliable hues for security.

– Complimentary colors offer bold contrast, analogous palettes are more low-key.

– Use primary colors sparingly. Can look unoriginal or childish.

– Avoid overly trendy hues. Risks dated look.

– Color meanings matter. Do associations match brand values?

– Test colors at small and large scales. Digital vs print.

– Ensure accessibility for color blindness. Avoid only red/green.

– Register brand colors as Pantone formulas for consistency across materials.

Final Takeaways

The psychology, theory, and culture shaping color preferences offer infinite possibilities to create unique harmonies. Master the basics through color wheels and models. Then, trust your intuition. Refine schemes by being mindful of proportions, values, and use cases.

Remember, creativity often means breaking “rules” to forge new visual languages. Use tried-and-true combinations as springboards rather than constraints. Let purpose and place guide your color storytelling.

The most compelling palettes reflect the meaningful merger of science and art. So embrace both systematic knowledge and your inner vision as you play with energizing, soothing, whimsical and brand-new color combinations.


Color relationships provide an endlessly nuanced design language. Mastering basic complementary, analogous, and triadic schemes builds a solid starting point. Beyond hue combinations, considering value, temperature, and context creates color unity. Cultural meaning, psychology, and accessibility factors also influencepalette perception. With an artist’s sensibility and a scientist’s eye, develop color harmonies that speak to your vision. Let this guide illuminate your path to color coordination.