When to Use
the Paint Color Wheel

The paint color wheel is the standard way to explain how colors are created and how they relate to one another when used together in a home color design.

basic paint color wheel

A basic paint color circle consists of 12 pure colors. All other colors, from safe to audacious, come from variations and combinations on the basic color wheel.

Pure color wheel paint colors are very intense and hard on the eyes. That's why in home painting and decorating, they are almost always altered and combined in ways that soften their impact.

complex paint color wheel


A more complex paint color wheel displays not only the 12 pure colors, but also their tints and shades.

This is helpful, because it gives you more ideas for harmonizing and coordinating paint colors.

Mixing Paint Colors

color wheel helps mix paint colors

Even if you are not an artist, there may come a time when you need to mix your own custom paint colors. For example, you bought some Oops designer paint colors, or found a can of good paint in your garage, but the color is just wrong.

If you understand the color circle and the basics of mixing paint colors, you'll be able to easily shift and adjust any paint color to your liking.

Plus, if you are into decorative faux painting, color wheel knowledge will come in handy when working with glazes and color layering.

The easiest way to understand color and learn how it is created is to make your own basic color wheel. See the paint color mixing chart for instructions.

Coordinating Paint Colors

creating room color schemes with a color wheel

You can also use a paint color circle for mapping out your room color schemes. Although the color wheel can't dictate formula schemes, it can help you imagine what will happen when colors are put together. If you have a definite color in mind, the color wheel will expand your choices by allowing you to work out different schemes.

For example, let's say you have a green couch and you want to know what colors will look good with it. The paint color wheel will give you several options. It will show you that red is a natural complement to green. Or that green can also be combined with orange and violet. In all, it will teach you 5 different ways of coordinating colors in your decor.

If you are a beginner when it comes to choosing paint colors, think of the paint color wheel as training wheels on a bike. This tool will help you out when you are stuck, and give you more confidence in your ability to color for yourself.

Sometimes it will confirm your paint color choices. Sometimes it will give you color ideas and suggestions that you would never come up with on your own. In other words, you will learn the basic color tricks and rules, as well as how to think creatively. And, as Martha Stewart would say, that's a good thing!

And when you are ready to take off the training wheels, feel free to break all the rules and enjoy the free ride!




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