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Colour Wheel Theory

This article examines the use of the colour wheel theory in
relation to web design. It explores the basic six colour schemes that are
possible as well as touching on the history and origin of the theory, its
advantages and disadvantages.

The colour wheel theory is used for analyzing hues in
design, a very important factor to consider is that it generally only targets
hues and does not incorporate saturation or brightness levels. While this seems
quite severe you must remember there are almost infinite amounts of shades and
a more limited amount of colours that can be analyzed.

Its origins lie with Sir Isaac Newton and his experiment to
split light into various colours. His original colour wheel features red,
orange, yellow, green, cyan and blue and was joined at the ends by Newton to display the
natural hue progression. Over a century later Johann Wolfgang Goethe studied
the psychological effects of colours and modified the colour wheel to split the
colours into two sides, the plus and minus colours. Plus colours were ones that
had a positive effect on psychology and generally included the warm colours
such as red and orange. The minus colours generally invoked unsettled feelings
in participants and tended to lean to the blue and green.

The next major revolution was by a Swiss art theorist named
Johann Itten. He modified the wheel to the form we see today based on the
primary triad and the twelve basic hues.

In web design it is highly recommended to stick to one of
the following colour schemes for your web design. To venture outside them
causes colour “clash” and will spoil the overall impression of your page. Do
remember however blacks and whites are neutral and (if used correctly)
complement any of these schemes well.



The monochromatic colour scheme is exactly what is sounds
likeFind Article, a simple theme that use differences in saturation and light/darkness in a
single colour to give a design that’s “easy on the eye”. It can be very
soothing to use and looks good in blue or green. Monochromatic is fantastic for
simple web pages such as blogs as it prevents design elements drawing attention
away from information.


Analogous Colour Scheme

This colour scheme centres around one main colour being
gently supported by the two colours adjacent to it on the colour wheel. Like
monochromatic it is a gentle colour scheme that is best applied to achieve
calming effect. Blogs and certain online shops would be best to use this


Complementary Colour Scheme

The complementary colour scheme is made up of two colours
that are opposite each other on the colour wheel. This should always be
achieved by picking your main colour then tracing a 180 degree line across the
wheel to find its exact opposite. Some complementary sets do not suit web design
as they are so high in contrast. While a complementary colour scheme can
achieve great effects in highlighting areas for websites such as online shops I
do not recommend it is sued heavily as it strains reader’s eyes after a while.


Split Complementary Colour Scheme

The split complementary scheme is used a little more often
than its standard complementary brother in web design. It uses a combination of
three colours which means you can create softer contrasts. It is done by
picking one colour on the colour wheel and find the two colours that are
adjacent to its complementary.


Triadic Colour Scheme

The triadic colour scheme is my personal favourite for web
design. It uses a combination of 3 three colours that are equally spaced around
the wheel. Its major advantage is that is strikes a great balance between
harmony and contract. It looks especially good on online shops as it give you
the ability to define several sections with different colours without creating
a offensive contrast.

Tetradic Colour Scheme

The tetradic colour scheme is the most complex and varied
stand colour wheel scheme. It is sometimes referred to as the double
complementary as it uses two sets of complementary colours. Although there is
no standard for defining which it is a good idea to ensure they are evenly
spaced. While this scheme can be successfully applies to make a website look
varied and colourful it is especially hard to balance.

I hope this article has been at least a small help to you in
your search for additional information about web design and the use of colour.
While I have written this article with web design in mind the colour wheel
theory can be applied to almost any form of graphic design or art.

Source: Free Articles from

Frank Woodford conducts extensive research when writing new
articles for friends and businesses partners and aims to produce quality
content that address the purpose of the article currently. He is currently
helping to write content for Soula Graphic Design Nottingham.

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This entry was posted to Pro Blog Tips on Saturday, November 24th, 2007 at 2:00 pm and is filed under... General Interest. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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