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Understanding Colour

The Properties and Harmonies of Colour

featuring Red & Pink as guest stars

Pink Poetry Colour Palette
Inspirational Pink Colour Palette

This scheme is subtle and serene. It is feminine, but not so much that a metro man will not be able to endure it. Above all, colour application in terms of amount and arrangement is what will make or break it.


The properties of colour are hue, value and intensity.

Hue is another term for a clean or pure colour. It means that the colour, such as red, hasn’t been mixed with white or black (or grey, for that matter).

Value refers to the amount of light or dark or amount of light a colour reflects. This is frequently graded from one to ten. The closer to 1, the darker and closer to black. The closer to 10, the lighter and closer to white. In other words, black has a Reflective Value of 0% as it absorbs all light. White has an RV of 10 or 100% because it reflects all light. You may already be familiar with this from your colouring experience at your hair stylist.

Intensity, also Saturation or Chroma, shows the purity or concentration of a hue. To clarify, it refers to the dullness or brilliance of a colour. The way a hue appears in the light spectrum (or a rainbow) or on the colour wheel is at its maximum intensity, strength or purity. A tone of a hue indicates dulled or reduced strength.

The value and intensity of a hue will change when adding white, black or grey. A colour scheme with a lovely relationship of hue, intensity and value will always be harmonious. To create a tint, one can add white to any hue on the colour wheel. Consequently, this will lighten and desaturate the colour, making it less intense.

Tinted colours can also be called pastels. Many people feel they are softer, quieter and more soothing. They are, along with tonal variations, sometimes easier to live with. Hence the saying tone it down a notch (I know it refers to sound as well, but you get the point).

The result of adding white, grey and black to Red:

By adding white to a pure hue, a tint is formed. The result is lighter, and it also has a greater RV than the original colour. Through lightening a hue’s essential value, one can create a tint of that hue.

Red toward Pink

Red + White = Pink

By adding black to a colour a shade of that colour is created. The shade is then darker with a lower Reflective Value than the original colour.

Dark Red

Red + Black = Russet

By adding grey to a colour, a softer variation or tone is created. The new colour is muted and less intense.

Toned red ombre heptagons

Red + Grey = Rose

Red symbolises contentment, pleasure and happiness. It also implicates passion, excitement and emotion. Reddish tones produce a sense of heat and tend to visually advance towards you. Red can also encourage your appetite. Therefore, many eateries and fast food outlets use red in their stores, signage and advertisements.

12-part Colour Wheel
12-part Colour Wheel

As red softens towards pink, it appears to be more friendly, tranquil and feminine.


Experiment with colour harmonies using Pink


Monochromatic Red

One can form a monochromatic scheme with tints and shades of one colour and tonal variations of the hue. It is usually a calm and peaceful scheme, so, it does need that bit of extra pattern and texture. Moreover, it needs emphasis to help rule out monotony and therefore spruce things up.

Monochromatic ombre red to pink to white
Shaded red, red & tinted red (pink) scheme


Complementary color scheme

When using colours opposite from each other on a colour wheel, one can create a complementary scheme. Such a scheme is exciting, energetic and theatrical. It works best when one of the complementary colours dominates and the other is the contrasting accent. Pure complementary colours (blue vs. orange, yellow vs. violet, red vs. green) are very intense in a scheme. Muted, subdued tones of these colours are a better choice. You may notice a complementary scheme in a majestic interior enhancing architectural features.

Complementary pink and green colour scheme
Light green & light red (pink) colour scheme



This is a variant of the complementary colour scheme and has a calmer, more subtle effect. It is formed by using the main colour and the two adjacent colours of the complementing colour. You can use pure hues or their matching shades/tints to attain this scheme. The contrasting colour is often used as an accent with the closer/similar hues being dominant in the scheme. A livelier choice is to apply the contrast colour as the main colour. Subsequently, you will use the two similar colours as accents.

Split Complementary color scheme - pink (red), yellow-green, blue-green
Blue-green, yellow-green & pink (red) scheme


Analagous color scheme

Any three neighbouring colours on a 12-part colour wheel, are analogous. You can design the scheme so one colour is dominant with the other two being supplementary. Varying saturation and tone will help to create contrast and interest among these closely related colours.

Analagos color scheme - red, red-violet, red-orange
Violet-red, red / pink & red-orange scheme


Triadic colour scheme

Three colours located the same distance from each other on a colour wheel will create this scheme. One can use pure hues, tints or shades to obtain this scheme. It is based on three primary colours, three secondary colours or three intermediate/tertiary colours. Primary = red, yellow, blue. Secondary = orange, green, violet. (See “Tertiary” below). You can use either more vibrant or more subtle tints, shades or tones. It might at times be difficult to apply more than two colours in a scheme and that’s when this scheme can be very helpful. You can limit the third colour to an accent in artwork, a few cushions or other small decorative items.

Triadic colour scheme
Blue, yellow, pink (red) colour scheme



You can create tertiary colours by mixing equal amounts of a primary and secondary colour. These are red-violet, blue-violet, blue-green, yellow-green, yellow-orange and red-orange. We see these colours around us in nature and manufactured products. They are usually popular choices for interior spaces. Tertiary colours mirror a snub of the superfluous and appreciation of the natural environment. You can use one or both the secondary and primary colours as an accented supplement to a dominant tertiary colour in a scheme. For instance, violet-red with violet and red accents.

Tertiary color scheme - red-violet, red-orange
Violet-red & red-orange with red and violet scheme


Tetradic color scheme

A rectangular scheme involves using four colours.  On the colour wheel, you will draw a rectangle when connecting the colours. It consists of two pairs of complementary colours. This is a rich, busy and fun scheme therefore, it has the potential of playing around with a lot of variation. It works best when one colour is dominant though and there should be a balance between the cool and warm colours.

Tetradic color scheme - pink / red, yellow, green, violet
Green, yellow, pink/red & violet scheme
I truly hope this inspired you

Which is your favourite colour harmony scheme? Comment & vote below!


One Comment

  1. […] Read this post about the properties and harmonies of colour. […]

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