The Color Wheel: Why It Matters at Christmas and All Year Long

Unfortunately, I think many people are afraid to use color–hence our gravitation toward neutrals and earth tones. I’ve actually always had a problem with the word “earth tone” because planet earth abounds in vibrant color combinations–not just tan and brown. And if mother nature is not afraid to pair hot pink and green beneath a bright blue sky, we shouldn’t be afraid to mix colors either. Colors have such a powerful impact on our mood and relationships that we shouldn’t cheat ourselves out of experiencing them in our homes.

People in all branches of art and design rely on color relationships. You’ve likely heard the term “color wheel” and have probably seen a few–maybe at your local home improvement store or in an art class in high school. Whether you are decorating a cake, redesigning your bedroom, or creating a painting, it helps to refer to one.

A color wheel organizes colors by their specific relationships to one another. I’ll explore more about this in future posts, but for now we’ll focus on complementary colors and analogous colors. If you look at the example of the color wheel, any three colors that are directly beside each other are called analogous. Pairing analogous colors creates a harmonious, soothing combination. Colors that are directly across from one another are called complementary. These colors “pop,” appearing more vibrant and lively when paired. Classic complementary relationships include blue and orange, yellow and purple, and red and green–which brings us, strangely enough, to Christmas.

Pairing complementary colors, like hot pink and mint green, or aqua and gold makes for a visually appealing presentation. If you are going for pops of color, with a fun, vibrant feel, choosing these combinations in pure, saturated hues is the way to achieve your goal. If you would like a soothing, calm holiday atmosphere, choose from a spectrum of analogous colors, like different shades of blue, or reds, pinks, and whites, and then throw in a small amount of complimentary colors for visual interest. You can use this approach when decorating all year long. For a great article on analogous and complementary colors, check out the Color Matters website here.

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