The Colour Wheel


                                             (Image Courtesy of

- The first principle of design.  

Colour is such an important factor to get right in any design whether that be interior, exterior and even in landscaping.

What is colour and what are the principles to rely upon?

Firstly, Hue vs Colour! They are identical.  Hue is just another word for colour saturation.

They are words to separate the differences between (tints and tones) and actual colour in its true form before it is mixed with anything other than the twelve colours on the colour wheel.

(Image Front Cover - ColourBoard by Gatti Design)

The colour wheel consists of;

Three Primary Colours

  • red
  • yellow
  • blue

Three Secondary Colours

  • Orange
  • Violet 
  • Green

Six Tertiary Colours

  • Red-Orange
  • Yellow-Orange
  • Yellow-Green
  • Blue-Green
  • Blue-Violet
  • Red-Violet

When you use a primary colour it is true to its original hue.  There are no other colours involved to make that true colour, it is PURE.  These colours in their pure form are not mixed with any other colour.  This is very important to remember when using colour.  Colour is a reflection/absorption of light.  Colour changes when it is near another colour or different angles of light and shading.

For example; you may have a light colour tile and if it is near a colourful painting or feature wall it will reflect the colour.  A red wall would reflect pink onto the tiles.  A yellow timber floor will reflect yellow onto a light/white wall.

Also, you might have a tile that looks light on the floor per say, but if you hold it up against a wall it will be several shades darker.  This is important to know when running tile skirts around a bathroom to match the floor tile.

COLOUR and LIGHTING play tricks, so assess carefully.
                                              (Colour and Materials selection by GATTI DESIGN)

Secondary colours are performed when you combine two primary colours together.  A mixture of the colours makes a more subdued lighter colour; such as Orange.  Orange is much softer then Red or Yellow.

Tertiary Colours are created when a primary and a secondary colour are mixed together.  The primary must be next to its secondary colour
Problems arise when different companies do not provide a PURE primary colour.  The colour you seek must be based on the original hues purist form. 

Tints and Tones ARE NOT colours, namely Black and White.  They are used to adjust a colours saturation level, make it darker or lighter.  I will do a separate blog on Tints and Tones. When using the twelve colours on the colour wheel and combining Tints and Tones the options with colour are limitless, you can mix any "shade".

White is a light that takes on ALL colours.  Black absorbs ALL colours when light is directed at it. An interesting read and fun colour tool to play with in relation to colour absorption you can find HERE

Therefore when you are selecting a wall colour, furniture tiles etc, think of the colour reflection you might get if the two (or more) are combined.  Colour "reflection" can damage an interior design space if not thought out correctly.
Always remember the basic principles of colour and how light and reflection have a very powerful role to play.

For example, I once painted a wall a neutral colour carefully selected.  I purchased a sample pot. After two coats I stood back and took note of the wall and to my distaste the colour looked salmon.  I asked the paint supplier for a list of all colours within the paint "its make-up" and surprisingly there was zero red, so why the salmon/pink? Aha! it was the colour of the timber floors a rich red-orange. I had the paint specialist adjust the ingredients of the paint to darken certain pigments. This eliminated the reflection due to the tonal changes in the paint.  It’s all about understanding colour, light and how it works.

                               (Colour through the beautiful selections of Tiles from Old World Tiles)

Further to this, somthing we as designers are always aware of is the condition of total or partial colour blindness.  It effects men and women, but mostly men (effecting 8% of the population) they have difficulty or cannot distinguish the colours Red-Green or Blue-Yellow, they appear faded / washed out or grey. Extremely important to be aware of. 

The image below is courtesy of the writer! wow my very first colour wheel all those years ago. It brings back lots of sentimental meaning this was created in my very first Interior Design class many moons ago.  Wow and I still remember to this day the importance of colour and little did I know then the fabulous journey I was to embark on in the world of design. But it also made me realise when digging through the boxes of "stuff" filed away, the journey I must take my readers on. How I crawled before I walked, "Principles of Design are Key".

I Hope you had a nice Monday :)

Lena x

Lena Gatti
T +61 404 649 773

PO Box 101
Coorparoo Qld 4151

Design Studio located at Manly by appointment only