Colour theory- a little help!

I am working on a sign for outside the store- pictures will follow soon.

I thought it might be interesting to talk about colour.  I am by no means an expert on colour.  I have studied it in school and I did teach a colour course for home staging- so I am comfortable talking about it and giving advice.  But, colour is such a vast and amazing topic- even a science, and I would never claim to be an expert.

That said… is a bit about colour for those that are new to painting furniture and styling there homes.

All colours in the world (except black and white- which are not considered colours) are made from three primary colours: red, yellow and blue.  They are primary colours because they cannot be mixed from other colours.  red is just red, etc.


If we mix two primary colours together we get what are known as secondary colours.  Yellow and red make orange, red and blue make purple and blue and yellow make green.


So then, if we mix a primary and a secondary colour together we are left with tertiary colours.  Blue mixed with green becomes blue-green.  Blue mixed with purple becomes blue- purple.  Yellow with orange becomes yellow- orange.  Red with Orange becomes red-orange etc etc.


And then by adding white (tint), black (shade) or grey (tone) you can get millions of colours.

Still following me?

Well, what does it mean when painting furniture??

It means that some colours work together and some don’t.  Colours have been organized into a colour wheel which visually represents how colours relate to each other.  From this wheel -colours have then been organized into schemes.

For example, the complimentary colour scheme are two colours that are directly opposite each other on the colour wheel.  Blue and orange, red and green, yellow and purple, etc.


Using complimentary colours at full strength, how they look on the colour wheel (no black, white or grey added) are too strong.  The best way to use complimentary colours together is to have one colour light and one colour stronger.  The lighter colour should be the majority while the darker is used less.

For example:

In the below photo we have blue and orange complimentary colours on one piece of furniture.  The majority of the piece is light blue and the interior is bright orange.  It is successful because of the light and dark- had these colours been orange and blue like on the colour wheel- it would be a disaster.  Similarly if the colours were reversed and the blue was dark and the orange was very light it would also be successful.


Another colour scheme is monochromatic- this is various shades and tones of one colour.  Light and dark colours working together to create a beautiful effect.


Another colour scheme which works really well when painting furniture is the analogous colour scheme.  It is three to five colours side by side on the wheel.


The table below has red, orange and yellow- these colours are next to each other and are a have a gradual change of colour which is pleasing to the eye.


It is not necessary to follow the colour wheel and its schemes when painting furniture- but it is necessary to understand what works well together.

In the beginning as you get better and better- I would keep things simple.  Try the 80/20 rule.  80% of one colour and 20% of another- and have a light colour and a stronger colour.

This could mean the outside of a piece one colour and the inside another.  It could mean the body of the furniture is one colour while the doors are another.  It could also mean an all over colour and then a stencil of a different colour.

Hopefully this helps.  But, what looks nice to one person may be gaudy to another- and different cultures have different ideas about colour.  Keep it simple until you build up your confidence when choosing a colour to paint with—and just remember, it is only paint!  It can always be painted again!





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