Complementary colors that are opposite one another on the color wheel, such as yellow and violet, create well-balanced color schemes. Monochromatic colors also work well together when different shades, tints and tones of the same hue are combined. For bolder contrast, use a triad color scheme, such as red, yellow and blue, by pairing three colors that are evenly spaced on the color wheel.
Sir Isaac Newton's observations regarding the light spectrum inspired modern-day color theory, which is based on a 12-color wheel. The first category includes the primary colors red, yellow and blue, which cannot be created from other colors. The secondary colors orange, green and violet are a combination of two primary colors, and the tertiary colors, such as red-orange and blue-green, are created by mixing a primary color with an adjacent secondary color.
Direct complements and triads are the easiest colors to match. For example, the familiar Christmas color scheme of red and green works well because these colors are direct opposites. A split complementary scheme matches a color with the two colors next to its complement, such as orange, blue-violet and blue-green. For less contrast and a gradual shift in color intensity, pair analogous colors that are adjacent on the wheel, such as red, red-violet, violet and blue-violet.
Mixing hues with black creates shades, adding white creates tints, and adding gray creates tones. For a monochromatic scheme, choose a basic hue, such as blue, and pair it with other blues of different intensity.