There are a variety of formal relationships between and among colors. One of the lesser known groupings is triad colors. Triad colors are three colors that are evenly spaced around the traditional color wheel. This is also referred to as a triadic color scheme.
Because triad colors are evenly spaced (three color spacings apart) , there are four triad color combinations on the traditional color wheel. We’ll look at all four of them in this article.
Triad Color Scheme 1: Red, Yellow,&Blue
The most common triad from the color wheel is also the trio that comprises the primary colors: red, yellow, and blue. These colors are paired in a variety of ways and in a variety of spaces, from juvenile bedrooms to sophisticated sitting rooms.
While this photo shows the yellow to be more of a yellow-orange, you still get the impression of red-yellow-blue when looking at the seating. The effect is vibrant and energetic yet is beneficially tempered by a charcoal grey chair.
When using triad colors, it’s important to remember balance. Not only do you want to balance the use of the triad colors themselves (we’ll get into that a little later), but you also want to balance other neutrals with the color scheme so it doesn’t overwhelm. Neutrals such as white, grey, tan, and black all work well as companions to triad colors in interior design.
Triad Color Scheme 2: Red-Orange, Yellow-Green, & Blue-Violet
Due to their relationship on the color wheel, triad colors combine to become a vibrant palette. Even when muted, pale, and/or largely unsaturated versions of the colors are used, the combination stands out.
It’s recommended that you consider the inherent vibrancy of the trio before you begin your decorating. You won’t want your color palette to feel garish or overstimulating. Determine which neutrals will settle the triad colors and help them to shine without becoming overwhelming.
Triad Color Scheme 3: Orange, Green, & Violet
Artwork provides a perfect medium for incorporating triad colors into interior design. Plus, it will help to keep you from painting an entire room orange while dragging in a purple couch and green side chairs. Artwork can provide subtle gradation, which softens the obvious visual effect of triad colors while still facilitating their impact.
In fact, it’s important to remember that subtle introductions of color can complete the triadic color palette – a palette doesn’t necessarily exclude all hints of all other colors. In printed fabrics, for example, as color fades from dark to light or warm to cold, you’re likely to find one or more of your triad colors in the gradation. While less noticeable, when these colors combine with their triad partners, the visual impact is still powerful.
In this example, the triad colors (orange, green, and violet) are obvious for two of the colors, but the violet can be overlooked because it feels like part of the background. This is an effective and sophisticated way to implement triad colors and deepen their aesthetic.
Triad Color Scheme 4: Yellow-Orange, Blue-Green, & Red-Violet
Wood accents can mimic the look of yellow-orange in a triad color palette, although even the hint of yellow-orange in the foundation of the shadow box here is enough to bring the triad colors together. Color blocking with triad colors is particularly effective.
Another way to temper the high visual impact of triad colors is to incorporate neutral wood grain with the colors. This is particularly useful in a dining room with multi-colored dining chairs. Mixing the colors of chairs is inherently more visually stimulating than having chairs of one color and type; when you add triad colors to the mix, this is even more apparent. A natural wood table is an excellent balancing design choice.
The more saturated the triad colors are, the more energetic the space will feel overall. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s something to keep in mind. If you’re trying to create a restful or more sophisticated space, triad colors will still work but they should probably be more muted versions of the triadic hues.
Because all three colors of the triad color scheme are evenly distributed around the color wheel, there isn’t one color that is the clear dominant color. This makes it particularly important that you, as the decorator, use balance and proportion. Choose one of the triad colors to be the dominant color, with the other two in smaller doses.
By carefully balancing the triadic colors in your decorating, your space will be filled with energy and harmony…and color. As you let one color dominate and use the other two for accent, your use of triad colors will create a highly successful design.