The Colour Wheel - useless appendage or helpful friend?

I was recently offered the opportunity to attend a course on giving seminars and training adult learners. My husband looked at me with exasperation when I told him about it, "What do you need to do that course for?" he said.


Obviously he was concerned that the limited time I had at my disposal was going to be further limited (more realistically he was wondering how this was going to impact on HIS life)! Me being me signed up anyway. I was informed that I would be examined at the end of the course. The means by which we would be examined would be primarily through a Skills Demonstration. For this I would have to prepare a 30 minute demonstration to present to my peers and the examiner.

For weeks I toyed with various ideas on what to talk about. It seems easy at the start as there are plenty of things that I could chat about - talking has never been a problem for me as some of you may have gathered but when you have to narrow it down and try to pick something that will interest a very diverse group of adults it's quite tricky. Members of my group ranged from a family therapist to an offshore electrician that works on oil rigs etc! Not to mention the electricians, carpenters and computer specialists. Anyway I eventually decided on 'Colour Psychology & the Colour Wheel'.

"How original Ciarda" you might say rolling your eyes. Yes I know but it was a case of any port in a storm! So I hauled out the painting gear and with the help of my 4 year old and the hindrance of my 8 month old I set to work on creating a life size colour wheel.

It was during my preparation for the demonstration that I started thinking about all the uses of a colour wheel. I remember coming across one when I was studying and thinking, "Well here's a bit of useless appendage!" - What an ignoramus I was! This simple little contraption must be a designers' best friend when it comes to colour!

I still refer to 'the wheel' when I am stuck for ideas on what colours to use or how best to use a combination of colours in a client's home. Take for example a complimentary scheme like purple and gold. This scheme works exceptionally well in living rooms when you want a break from the more traditional red and gold. The other complimentary scheme that shows its' face in just about every fabric colour way or wallpaper design is the red and green combination - simply put, every floral design in which red blooms are a feature, the green of the leaves completes the duo.

The analogous scheme is one of my favourites. Take for example the subtle colour and tonal differences between greens and blues which melt into a harmonious colour pot that can create a cool, calm atmosphere in even the most turbulent of arenas. This would also include a broad spectrum of colour combinations such as blues through to purple and including a bit of red. To best use this colour combination you would have your 'key colour as purple for example and then introduce elements of blue and red in areas such as accessories or art work depending on the design. The combinations are endless and the possibilities mind blowing.

Finally the triadic colour scheme is somewhat risqué! This very dramatic colour scheme requires a dominant colour such as red with accent colours from the blue and yellow spectrum. I have always found this very bright and cheerful scheme to be energizing and especially suitable in children's areas such as playrooms and crèche facilities. Burger King was so enamoured with the psychological benefits of this scheme that they opted to use it as their logo!

The moral of the article is to refresh one's mind of the benefits of the colour wheel and to be reminded of its usefulness. Don't wait as I did to stumble across it by accident when clearing out the attic!

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Written by: Ciarda Barrett

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