Color combination: rules, table

to me for some reason, it always seemed that a beautiful combination of color palettes is the result of the artist’s brilliant memory and the unrealistic talent of an interior designer.

But having plunged into the world of design, it became clear that competently placing color accents is within the power of a person who has such a gift as a sense of proportion.

But the color combinations themselves are only the result of knowledge of the color table. I propose to consider it further.

The methods described below apply not only to interiors, the rules of color work in clothes and in the garden.


All colors are divided into:

  • basic (these are blue, red, yellow),
  • additional — green, purple, orange, they are obtained by mixing the main ones, blue + yellow, blue + red, yellow + red.
  • intermediate — mixed shades located between the primary and secondary colors, each of them depends on the degree of intensity of one of the primary colors, blue + yellow \u003d light green, blue + yellow \u003d blue-green, and so on.

As you know from the school bench there is two polar colors — it is white (fully reflecting light) and black (fully absorbing light). Intermediate between them grey. All three have many shades and therefore for interior design they are of great interest and a lot of opportunities.

By degree of saturation colors are divided into:

  • blurry — they contain a share of white, the more it is, the paler the shade, the second name for such tones is pastel,
  • pure — the basic tones of each color without any impurities,
  • saturated — tones with an admixture of black, giving them depth and «drama»,
  • muted, they are also neutral, shades contain a share of gray and have a lot of advantages for interior design, but read about this later in the article.


This table is a circular spectrum and is extremely easy to use.

The colors in it are presented quite schematically, but they clearly demonstrate the principle of compatibility with each other.

In the interior, unlike clothing, it is permissible to use a greater number of shades. After all, the formed plane is disproportionately larger.

Let’s start getting acquainted with the rules for using the table with monochrome combinations. In this case, the interior contains different shades of the same color. To select, it is enough to take tones from one sector. But even here there may be some nuances.

If you open any graphic editor (the simplest example: pictures in Word or Paint Brush), there, in the color change, you can see a tonal stretch, which invariably starts with white, contains a pure color in the center, and ends with black.

So, the correct monochrome combination will turn out if you choose the shades located:

  • from white to pure basic (not including the latter),
  • from pure color to black (excluding the first).

That is, you will never make a mistake if you exclude its central part from the tone stretch (see the figure above and the photo above it)

Harmonious combination of two colors it will turn out if you choose shades from any two adjacent sectors.

At the same time, both colors “lose” their original characteristics, acquiring “neighboring” ones.

The second way to achieve the right combination is to choose contrasting colors located in opposite sectors of the table.

Such colors are called complementary and their use establishes color balance in the interior.

Proportion Rule

When using more than two colors, it is very important to maintain a quantitative balance. Usually, one background shade is chosen for this, and the rest as color spots (accents).

There is also such a technique — the darker the color, the less it should be in the room. However, this is not an axiom, but an established tradition that can be safely violated if you are confident in your ability to choose the right proportions of color.

Three ways to combine three colors

The first way is soft color harmony. It is achieved by connecting colors from three adjacent sectors of the table (orange line in the figure).

The interior will be cozy and visually spacious. Recommend for small spaces.

The second method is a three-color composition of the background color and two complementary ones, all three are located at the vertices of an equilateral triangle (black triangle in the figure).

The third way is soft contrast, when one color chosen as the background is opposed to two colors adjacent to its “antipode” (green triangle in the figure). For example, for a blue-green color, the neighbors of purple — purple and red (see color scheme) will make a soft contrast.
Four colors in the interior

There are also three combination options here. Option one — four colors located on the tops of the square (black in the diagram). Of course, one color is dominant, the rest are complementary.

Option two — choose two colors separated by one sector, as a soft contrast to them, choose their opposites. If we connect these shades in series, we will get an elongated rectangle (green line in the diagram).

The third option: select the background color, look for its opposite and two more through the sector from it (red line). In the presented diagram, for the background red, blue was chosen as a contrast and two additional ones — blue and green.

six colors combining is extremely simple: in the table, these are colors located one sector apart from each other and lie on the vertices of the hexagon.

So that the interior does not turn out to be too colorful, one or two colors are chosen as background colors (in different proportions), the rest are only as small color spots.

You can create a softer and more harmonious design by choosing colors that lie in one half of the color wheel. Here, only one background shade is chosen, the rest complement it, but in small proportions.


An interesting solution would be interior design in one of the above-mentioned tones. The fact is that each of them acts on other colors in a special way. Let’s take a closer look at these features.

Black + color shades

It is best to combine black with pure colors. It tends to enhance the «neighbor» and therefore any pure color next to black looks brighter.

In the photo: black with other colors as the background.

In the photo: black with other colors as a color accent.

White + color shades
White is also recommended for use with pure colors. But his role here is different — he is able to muffle even the most «flashy» color.

Therefore, if you want to make your interior “overly cheerful”, but are afraid that the brightness of the color will tire you over time (which will really happen sooner or later), generously spice up the atmosphere with large white “spots”: furniture, carpets, curtains.

Better yet, use white as the background and bright colors as accents.

Gray + color shades

The two previous options are a solution for people striving for originality and contrasts. But gray is an ideal option for people looking for harmony within themselves. And for this it is not at all necessary to immerse the entire interior in dull dullness.

Look at the photo, gray next to bright colors looks incredibly noble and makes the room discreet and, at the same time, spectacular.


If you want to bet on a bright environment in interior design, it is most reasonable to create the perfect wall background for it by choosing a combination of neutral shades.

Neutral shades are not pure colors. They are lighter shades, muted gray.

As a result, “smoky” nuances of each color are obtained: beige, pistachio, ash-pink, gray-blue, olive, khaki, cocoa, lilac, etc.

By choosing neutral shades, you are guaranteed to get a harmonious, balanced interior in which it is pleasant to relax after a busy day.

Another advantage of a neutral interior is that you can always modify it by adding details in more saturated colors.

In the photo above: a combination of three adjacent colors (blue-green, cyan, blue) is supplemented with white (to slightly blur the brightness). And the neutral color of ivory in the lower plane of the interior made it «airy».

This interior is made using blue as the base color, interspersed with large patches of yellow and small accents of red. There is quite a traditional combination of three contrasting colors. Well, so that such a bright interior does not tire the eyes, the largest and brightest plane of the window is draped with a white cloth, blurring the brightness of the interior.

Pale lilac is a cold shade, it is customary to apply it to rooms with windows facing south. Here you can see a combination of four shades: lilac, red and blue lying one sector from it, plus its opposite yellow (its muted shades from opposite edges of the sector are chosen — milky white, beige and brown).

This interior is made in neutral colors. However, so that it does not look dull, juicy shades of blue are interspersed with it. by the way, you can choose a warmer yellow or a hotter red or orange instead. And each time the room would look different.

The photo above shows the interior of the bedroom, made in monochrome colors with the dominance of neutral tones.

A beautiful combination of amber shades against a neutral grey-lilac background. Here is an interior made according to the principle of contrast of opposites.

Calm purple, pastel purple as background and pure blue formed the basis of this interior. Here is a harmonious combination of shades from three adjacent sectors. The brighter the color, the less it is. Since all of the above shades belong to the category of cold tones, therefore, small spots of hot orange were added to the interior.

Turquoise plus brown is a favorite combination of baroque designers. But even outside its framework, these two contrasting shades look noble, respectable and, at the same time, bright. Add drama to this interior Roman curtains deep blue.

The interior is in a misty haze of muted shades: brown, pink, blue and fretted. The correct combination of four colors (option two).

Here is a contrast of opposites: derivatives of blue (smoky gray-blue) and orange (brown tone).

And again, a monochrome interior in beige and brown tones. This color scheme gained its popularity due to the psychological impact — the ability to activate mental activity and, at the same time, muffle emotions. Plus, brown has always been associated with stability and respectability.

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