Painting Colors

Susanne Clemenz | Improvement Center Columnist | December 14, 2011

You'll still find white paint colors in home decorating magazines these days. White feels clean and bounces light around a room. But often today's lightest walls lean towards color--maybe a soft tan, gold or green. And with a dominant lighter color, accent walls of a noticeably darker value in the same or a contrasting hue create mood and visual interest. With a bit of know-how and a smidgen of courage you can transform your own home.

Overcome doubts about painting colors

Choose a favorite color--a theme color--from a fabric, patterned rug, or major art piece in your room. That color sets a mood for the room--reds and oranges for warmth and excitement, yellow and golds for a happy atmosphere, purples and pinks for softness or sensuality, and greens, blues and browns for relaxation and calm. As a general guideline, for 60 percent of the room, the walls, use the major color; 30 percent, the furnishings, as a coordinating or contrasting color; and use 10 percent as an accent color.

  1. Monochromatic: A monochromatic color scheme uses hues that are darker and lighter than the chosen theme color. You can use that 60 percent as a light, dark or middle value, but it should contrast with your secondary color, which may be an accent wall. Accent walls are often the darkest value. Pick a third color for small, important accents (sofa pillows, a lamp shade, grouped art glass, e.g.) that contrast in value with the other two colors. Example: Pale warm green walls, a sofa pattern with a dominant olive hue, and lime green pillows.
  2. Analogous: A color wheel has rainbow colors with blends of adjacent colors mixed between them. Analogous colors are adjacent on the wheel. Your analogous painting colors can be in the gold-green-lime part of the wheel, the brown, blue, green section, or elsewhere. The values can be pale, intense, or a combination. Use the 60-30-10 percent guideline.
  3. Opposites: For drama, choose two colors that are directly opposite on the color wheel, or choose three colors equally spaced apart on the wheel. Let one color dominate in value, or keep them of equal intensity.

Budget about $70 for test-size cans of paint colors you narrowed down from swatches. Paint 3-by-3-foot areas of possible color choices side-by-side on a sunny and a shaded wall. Observe how they look day and night, and with other monochromatic, analogous, or opposite choices. The combination is right when you smile.