Color Schemes

Color schemes are a tool, a way to decide how (and if) your paint colors will harmonize. But even though there are 'rules', making a color-scheme is a creative thing - much like cooking. Check out some color-schemes for the kitchen, the bedroom, or the bathroom.

How to create harmonious color schemes

Making color schemes can be done in several ways: from studying color laws and matching paint sample strips, to picking colors from an artwork or picture, to using painting software.

If you don't want to spend much time on choosing paint colors, consider using the Paint Color Cheat Sheets for making color schemes. It's a list of 90 safe paint colors (of all color groups), put together by a color consultant who spent years of making interior painting designs. In time, she saw that some colors are good, and others just aren't. Along with each color, she tells you what lighting situation and primer they need, what rooms they're good for, and what colors they can be combined with. These sheets can save you both time and money. Click here for a review.

Applying the color scheme

A good color-scheme is half of what you need: the final look-and-feel is much defined by the visual amounts of each color, your style of interior designing, and the sheen you use. Painting software, in which you can color your own home pictures with existing paint colors, is the best way to test the styling aspects of your color scheme. Or to create a new one, if you don't like it. Another option: use samples, and use them to paint a rough scetch of your room.

Picking colors for a color scheme

Making color schemes: picking colors from art or fabric

For picking colors, you need a good example: a rug, fabric or artwork that you really enjoy looking at. Picking colors is best done with the help of paint sample strips. Get as many of them as you can, and hold them to the picture or fabric of your choice. Picking colors can also be done digitally: open the picture in a graphic program, and pick colors from it. Open a second picture, and fill sections of it with the colors you picked. After that, you can mix and match untill you fine a harmonic bouquet - just like when you arrange flowers, or cook a good meal.

Every good design (let's say, a rug or an artwork) already contains a color scheme: all you have to do is pick the colors out. Check here for rugs: RugSale.com – Buy Two Get the third at 40% OFF.
Needless to say: when you painted a room based on the colors of a rug or artwork, this particular item will look great in that room - as if it was just made for it.

Shading, contrast and interval

In the world of color, there are three major laws or effects. Making a color scheme is best done by following your nose - taste, smell, and see if it looks good, but knowing the color laws helps you see and understand why it looks good. The more you practice with it (first create, then check) the more creative you'll become.

  • Shading: colors that are just a bit different from one another (like gold and yellow, or light and dark red). They give the eye some space to move around. Shading can be done by picking colors that are neighbours in the color wheel, or by picking lighter and darker colors in the same hue.
  • Contrast: colors that are opposite make each other look stronger when put together. But when mixed, they blend each other to grey.
  • Interval (a not yet scientifically explained phenomenon): two colors calling up a third - and not by mixing.

Click here for more about shading, contrast and interval.

Decision making

For making adequate decisions, it's best to keep a certain order: First, you decide on the major elements, like furniture, flooring and walls. What will stay, and what has to go? Then you buy new furniture and/or flooring, if you need to. After that come the fabrics (furniture coverings, curtains, window treatments etc) - and last, you make the color schemes and choose paint colors. Why? Because paint colors are easily adjusted to the furniture. The other way around it's more difficult...

Matching colors to wood or metal

Matching colors to existing wood can be dont by shading, or by contrast. Shading means: to find colors that are in the same color range. Old oak can be seen as a derivate of red, while lightwood is more of a yellow ochre. Paint sample strips are a great tool for that - first you try to find the exact shade of the wood or metal as a paint color, and then you can see what the parent color is.

Most blues and greens contrast to brown wood. That means: they make the warm brown wood look particularly warm and radiating. Warm brown furniture looks great before a blue or green wall.

color schemes

Different rooms, different colors?

Painting the whole house in one color scheme can look classy, but you don't have to. It depends on your styling, and your needs. If you're easily bored, it's nice to have different moods and atmospheres to walk into (click here for more on color and mood). You do that by creating different color schemes for each room or even room section. In this way, you can also adjust the colors to the function of the room.

Besides the mood-part, the function of the room can something to count with. Strong reds can be great in a living room or kitchen, but in the bathroom they will make your skin look bad. And in the bedroom, they might keep you awake. Check out these:

How to use a color scheme

Color schemes are a cool tool, but they're still pretty abstract. Some extra things to reckon with, when applying your color scheme:


For checking the effect of the paint sheen, it's best to order sample jars. For envisioning the effect of your paint colors, you might draw a painting design, make a moodboard or collage - or use the help of painting software. This is especially nice of you're the visual type, and also very good when you're a painting contractor. All in all: in making color schemes and choosing paint colors, it's best to take some time and not rush into a job. Most artworks weren't made overnight...

Fool-proof guide to making color schemes


Related pages:

Oil Painting Techniques

Acrylic Painting

Watercolor painting

Color Schemes

Interior Painting techniques

Interior Painting Ideas

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