Colour Theory 101

What is colour? Colour is shattered light, white light that comes from the sun and contains all the seven colours of the rainbow (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet) and everything around us, including ourselves either reflect or absorb the individual rays of white light in different degrees.

Without light, there can be no colour or the human eye can’t perceive it. For example, at night everything looks like shades of grey and dull. This is because the sun strips the intensity of colour from the objects around us. People are happier on sunny days because the sunlight intensifies all the colour around us and creates a vibrant feeling.

“Think of colour as three-dimensional from the start. Colour should provide clues as to what you are going to encounter in that environment. Colour is the first thing you notice and the last thing you leave with.”

Agnes Bourne, Interior Designer


As interior designers, we use the colour wheel as a reference tool in a professional context.

First, there are three basic elements required for an appreciation of colour: Hue, value and Chroma.

Hue: The term used in art to describe what most people call colour (also called chroma)

Value: The relative lightness or darkness of a colour or hue.

Chroma: The purity of a colour.

Second, the colour wheel consists of primary colours (pure colours) (Red, Yellow and blue), secondary colours (colours are created by mixing two primary colours) (Orange, Green and violet) and tertiary colours (the colour between the primaries and the secondary’s).

Third, we can use the colour wheel as a guide to identify the feeling of the space or series of the interior design spaces that we want to create. For example for harmony restful feeling we can choose analogous hues or for contrast feeling, we can choose complimentary hues, for the warm feeling we can use red, orange and yellow or for the cool feeling we can use the cool hues (blue, green and violet). Also the colour selection depends on the texture, material and light in that space.

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