Choosing a Basic Color Palette

Paint swatches

When it's time to do some redecorating in your home, the easiest way to make a big change is with the color of your walls. However, sometimes it can seem a little overwhelming to narrow your color choices down and coordinate them well with your existing décor. Knowing a few different things about color will help you create a palette that works for your home and that you will enjoy.

Where to Start

First, consider the room you are painting, and the furniture and décor inside. Look at the existing colors and the patterns. It may be easiest to pick the largest pattern or item your eye is drawn to when entering the room. For instance, if you have a large painting on your wall or if you have a common pattern on the furniture, this may be your focal point. Pick certain colors you like from this focal point to give you a starting point. If you are starting with an empty room and your walls will guide the rest of your space, then you have a blank canvas to start with colors you just find appealing. You can get color samples from your local paint or hardware store to use when making your decision.

Understanding Colors

A great tool often used to help you choose your colors is a color wheel. Depending on your specific color wheel, you will have many colors that all start from the primary colors: red, blue, and yellow. These colors are used to create every other color that exists except for white and black. Brown shades come from mixing all three colors together. Secondary colors are made by combining two primary colors together; you’ll get purple, green, and orange. Then of course you have a great number of hues of every color, to go from very light, subtle shades to very dark, vibrant shades.

Colors that are across from each other on a color wheel are considered complimentary, such as red and green. Such colors compliment one another. However, usually the combinations work best when one of the colors is a lighter shade and the other is bright and bold. These are contrasting combinations and they make a strong statement. Related colors are two colors right next to each other on the color wheel. Combinations using related colors are more relaxing and will bring a less contrasting effect. Monochromatic colors are lighter and darker hues of the same color. This is often what you will find on a color sample from the paint store. Using monochromatic colors will give you a pleasing look with a coordinating style.

What’s Your Style?

So now that you understand colors and how they work together, what are you trying to accomplish in your room? Are you going for bright and vibrant, cool and relaxing, or warm and inviting? The mood you are trying to create in the room can be done with the right colors. Pick one color you enjoy or want as your basic color, then pick up to three other colors to go on your own color pallet, using either complimentary, related, or monochromatic color schemes. If you are painting the walls all the same color, you may want one of your other colors to be painted on the trim. Or can do two-tone walls with a chair rail a third of the way up to divide the colors.

Additional Ideas and Tips for Color

  • If you feel uncertain about how to combine colors, a good rule of thumb is to design your room with darker colors towards the floor, going lighter towards the ceiling. This naturally draws the eye up and emulates nature, making you at ease when you're in the space.
  • If you're unsure of where to start with color, choose shades that you are naturally drawn to for your clothing. Don’t paint your rooms in a color that you would never wear, because chances are you will feel uncomfortable surrounded by it when in the room.
  • Place something black in the space, like a small vase or statue, to help balance the colors range.
  • Warm colors tend to make a room cozy and inviting. Cool colors have a calming effect.
  • Above everything else, have fun exploring with color in your home!