Whether working in a residential or commercial setting, most interior designers rely on the 60-30-10 rule. It may sound complicated, but it’s the simplest way to create a space that looks both balanced and visually appealing. This post walks you through the 60-30-10 rule and which color schemes work best.

What Is the 60-30-10 Rule?

The 60-30-10 rule describes the percentage of space used by each color in a room. The chosen palette includes three colors, with the dominant color accounting for 60 percent of the room. Typically, this is the main wall color. Your secondary color accounts for 30 percent of the space and may be the color of the upholstery. The final 10 percent is your accent color, often used in decorative pieces.

Many palettes using the 60-30-10 rule rely on a neutral color for their main color. Our post How to Use Neutral Paint Colors offers tips and tricks for choosing neutral colors.

How Do You Choose Your Color Palette?

Since the 60-30-10 rule requires three colors, you need to choose a color scheme that uses three colors. Many clients rely on a neutral tone for their dominant color, but some people prefer more variety. This is where the color wheel helps you choose the perfect palette.

Our post on understanding the color wheel walks you through each option. For this post, though, we look at the four color schemes that use three colors: analogous, monochromatic, split-complementary, and triadic.

60-30-10 rule


The analogous paint scheme uses three colors that lie next to each other on the color wheel. When you apply the 60-30-10 rule here, you usually use the most vibrant shade for your accent color. For example, if you chose red, orange, and yellow, red would likely be your accent color, orange your secondary shade, and yellow the dominant hue.


If you choose a monochromatic color scheme for the 60-30-10 method, you’d use three shades of the same color. Typically, the main color is a tint (lightening the color with white). Your secondary color would be a tone (dulling the color with gray) and the accent color is the shade (darkening it with black). It may also be the pure hue.


To understand split-complementary, you must first understand the complementary color scheme, which uses two colors that lie opposite each other on the color wheel. In split-complementary, you choose your base color and the two shades that lie on either side of its complement.

Most designers choose the base color as the dominant shade, using a tint or tone to keep it from feeling too overwhelming.


The triadic color scheme uses three evenly-spaced colors. This is one of the more bold, high-energy color schemes. In the home, it is often chosen for a child’s bedroom or playroom. In the workplace, you typically see it in an area where you want employees to be productive.

Putting 60-30-10 to Work

As we said, the dominant color is typically the main color on your walls. It may also be the color of your flooring and probably the largest piece of furniture in the room. This is why most palettes, if they don’t rely on a neutral for their dominant shade, choose the least vibrant color to dominate the room.

60-30-10 rule

Monochromatic color scheme in purple

You add contrast with your secondary color. Window coverings, area rugs, accent walls, and furniture are all great places for your secondary color.

Designers typically choose the most vibrant color as their accent. Some, however, opt for a dramatic shade like black or a metallic such as gold or chrome. You want an accent color that both contrasts and complements your other two hues. Common uses include lampshades, trim, vases, artwork, throw pillows, and smaller rugs or pieces of furniture.

Other Uses for the 60-30-10 Rule

In addition to interior design, you can use the 60-30-10 rule when painting the outside of your home. For example, use the dominant color on the walls of your home, the secondary color on the trim and shutters, and your accent color on the doors.

The Flexibility of the 60-30-10 Rule

One of the reasons this rule is so popular is that it allows a lot of flexibility. Shades, tints, and tones help keep it interesting while still adhering to the basics of 60-30-10. You also have innumerable options for how to apply your palette to that equation. In other words, you don’t have to paint every wall in your dominant color. You also don’t have to take a tape measure to the room to ensure you follow those guidelines exactly. Just choose your dominant color and give your secondary color about half as much real estate. Then add splashes of your accent shade.

Work with a Pro

Understanding color theory can be confusing. We can help you choose the perfect palette for your paint project. To receive your free estimate, call us today at (480) 664-8965 or complete our contact form and we’ll respond as quickly as possible.