Stuck on a quilt and not sure where to go next? Sometimes a little knowledge about color schemes and great color combos can be all it takes to get the creative juices flowing.


Jessee Maloney’s “Rainbow-Go-Round” uses analagous color schemes in each lovely circle to create a harmonious whole. An analagous color scheme is where colors are next to each other on the color wheel. On Jessee’s quilt, each circle is composed of colors that are neighbors, as you can see on this color wheel:


What are some other useful color schemes to recognize?

Complementary color schemes are colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel. Simply draw a line from one color straight across to the other to find its mate. This is a pretty straightforward combination, and is usually very bold and striking. “Al Fresco” by  Vovian Peritts (and also in the current issue) is a great example of this.

Orange and green are opposite each other on the color wheel, and so their shades work well together.

Triadic color schemes are three colors that are evenly spaced on the color wheel. Using the color wheel above, an example would be vermilion, violet, and chartreuse.

Split Complementary make some beautiful combinations. To find the colors that make up this combination, first pick a color that you wish to use. In this case, the choice is teal. Next, go directly across the color wheel and note the color, vermilion. Next look to either side of the second color vermilion, and those colors will be part of your color scheme.  The final split complementary color scheme would then be teal, orange and red using the simplest wheel above.

A note of caution, though: while these are great ways to think about color options, don’t forget that your own sense of beauty and style are just as important as these “typical” color schemes. Unexpected color pairings can still work well together and be amazing. Have fun!

One Response to Simple Color Schemes

  1. Hi, there. I see one error in the caption for the photo above. Orange and blue–not green–are opposite each other on the color wheel.

    Orange and green combined with purple, however, would make a triadic combination.

    The combination in the “orange and green” quilt is actually analogous rather than complementary, because it uses colors other than just oranges and blues ranging from orange to teal running along one side of the color wheel (orange, amber, yellow, chartreuse, green, teal–which are actually orange, yellow-orange, yellow, yellow-green, green and blue-green in traditional color theory).

    (I’m a bit of a stickler for color theory.)

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