How to coordinate colors

Color is what we see through our eyes by the help of light. Light reflecting from various objects around us are processed through the sensors in our eyes and we perceive them as colors (unless someone is color blind). Depending on the color of the objects, the frequency of the reflected light changes and these various frequencies are what we perceive as different colors. Human beings can detect electromagnetic radiation in the range of approximately 390 nanometer (nm) to 750 nm. This range of wavelengths is known as “visible light”.

The colors of the visible light spectrum


wavelength interval

frequency interval


~ 700–635 nm

~ 430–480 THz


~ 635–590 nm

~ 480–510 THz


~ 590–560 nm

~ 510–540 THz


~ 560–490 nm

~ 540–610 THz


~ 490–450 nm

~ 610–670 THz


~ 450–400 nm

~ 670

In order to distinguish colors with acceptable accuracy, we use certain terms:

  1. We use hue as the name of the pure color
  2. The term Value is used to indicate the darkness or lightness of a color. Value is expressed as shades, tints, and tones.
  3. The third term that we use is Intensity, which means the degree of purity or strength of a color. In other words, how intense or muted the colors are. Two other terms related to express intensity is saturation or chroma.

Below is a color wheel.

There are three primary colors: Red, Yellow, and Blue. All other colors are made by mixing these three primary colors.

Secondary colors are made by mixing two primary colors: Mixing red and yellow produces orange (secondary), red and blue produces purple (secondary), etc. Mixing two secondary produces a tertiary color.

Colors opposite to each other in the color wheel are known as complementary colors, for example, red and green are complementary colors. Similarly, color near each other in the color wheel is known as analogous colors.

It is also important to understand some other aspects of color: hue, tone, tint, complement tint, and shades.

Hue is the pure color, as explained before. For example, red color.

Tone is hue mixed with small amount of gray or opposite color in the color wheel. So, tone will be darker than hue.

Tint is hue mixed with white (it will lighten the color)

Complement tint: Tint plus small amount of gray or opposite color in the color wheel.

Shade: Hue plus some black to darken the color.

How to coordinate colors of an ensemble

Core colors

Core colors are the dominant colors in a color scheme of your ensemble. It’s the color of the principal item in your ensemble, For example, the color of your suit.

Accent colors

Accent colors are the second and sometimes third color used in a color scheme. The accent colors in the color wheel may be complementary, triad, analogous or neutral.


The first or primary triad colors in the color wheel are red, blue and yellow. These are called pure colors because mixing them with each other and/or with white or black can make all other co-colors.

The second or secondary triad colors in the color wheel are orange, green and purple.  Made by mixing two primary colors together.  Mixing red and yellow make orange, yellow and blue make green, and combining red and blue produce purple.

Complementary Colors:

Are those colors directly opposite one other in the color wheel.  When placed next to each other, complementary colors intensify each other and make the colors seem brighter.

Analogous colors: (also known as adjacent colors, harmonious colors, and related colors),

are Colors, which lie next to each other on the color wheel (contiguous colors).  They harmonize since they each contain some of the same color.

Warm and Cool: 

Colors with low wavelength are known as cool colors (violet, blue, green), while colors with high wavelength are known as hot colors (yellow, orange, and red).

Families of analogous colors include warm colors (red, orange, yellow) and cool colors (green, blue, violet). Designers often build color schemes around two or three related colors.

Neutral: shades of white, black, gray or tan.

Black, White, Gray, Tan, and Brown are not separate colors on the color wheel, but are made up of different percentages of red, yellow and blue. To make neutral colors mix either all three primary colors, or mix a primary and secondary color (secondary colors are made from mixing two primaries).

Color Selection Table

Use the table below to coordinate your colors:







WHITE (neutral)

All colors

(Same for all colors)

White, black, gray,

BLACK (neutral)

All colors

GRAY (neutral)

Darker or lighter gray, red, blue, yellow and green

TAN (neutral)

Blue, purple, burgundy, cranberry, turquoise, brown, orange, green,


Blue, green, orange, yellow,


Orange, gold, rust

Yellow, red, brown, tan

Blue, green, purple



Blue, yellow

Purple, orange



Red, blue

Orange, green



Orange, green

Blue, red



Green, purple

Yellow, red, brown



Purple, orange

Blue, yellow


Use the following table to select your ensemble colors:

Jacket Color

Shirt (and/or pocket square)

Tie (and/or pocket square)

Trousers (for blazer of sports jacket)


Navy white, blue, yellow, pink blue, gold, yellow, burgundy, red, purple gray, tan black, brown, cordovan
Gray white, gray, yellow, pink, lavender, blue black, white, gray, green, blue-green, burgundy, navy, any primary or pastel colors gray, black, navy black, brown, or cordovan
Brown white, ecru, blue, yellow tan, black, brown, rust, orange, red, gold, yellow, green, burgundy tan, gray, a different shade of brown brown or cordovan
Tan blue, ecru, white tan, brown, rust, orange, navy, black, navy, gray, brown, darker tan brown, black or cordovan
Olive white, ecru, gray, pale yellow, pale blue burgundy, rust, green, tan, yellow gray, tan, navy, brown brown or cordovan
Black white, light gray, yellow, blue black, white, grey, blue, olive, burgundy, any primary or pastel colors gray, tan black

And finally: Search the Internet with the keyword “color wheel”. From the results (in image mode) select a color wheel you like and take a color printout. Stick this printout on your wardrobe. Each time you are selecting a suit/shirt/tie combination, use the color wheel to determine your colors. I do it every day.

May your life be colorful.

5 thoughts on “How to coordinate colors

    1. thank you for your comment. I will try to answer your question as best as I can. Light color and loose fitting clothes are best for (hot) sunny days. White is a good color to wear. You should also take account of the season. Try to coordinate with the seasonal colors. For me, however, I know that certain colors agree with me and some colors do not. Therefore, I tend to wear only those agreeable colors. Thanks again, Shahzaman

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