It can be so intimidating to commit to a paint color for your entire space. So much can go wrong! With endless possibilities and so many options for your home, finding the right color for you can be difficult. Color picking can get complicated quickly, so it truly helps to know and understand basic color principles. They are the foundation of a professional designer’s arsenal. This guide is the designer’s secrets to getting the job done all while having fun!

Paint Color Basics


The Color Wheel is a visual representation of the colors and all their hues. It can also be a helpful tool when trying to create a color theme for you home. I know you may be asking yourself, does this look familiar? Didn’t we learn this in elementary school art class? Well, yes. Consider this a bit of a refresher.

Paint Color Basics

How does it work?

  1.  Primary colors – red, blue and yellow, though a combination all other colors are derived.
  2.  Secondary colors – orange, green or violet/purple, which are created by mixing 2 primary colors
  3. Tertiary colors – Yellow-orange, red-orange, red-purple, blue-purple, blue-green & yellow-green. Mixing one primary color and a secondary color creates these colors.



  • Monochromatic – a color scheme using one color in different hues. This creates contrast and depth by using the single color in various shades, hues, and intensity.
  • Complimentary – colors that are directly across from one another on the color wheel. A perfect example of the how opposites due indeed attract. This combination creates a very vibrant look. If done incorrectly it can be jarring and tacky.
  • Analogous – colors that are next to each other on the color wheel. These are the colors that are most often found together in nature and are pleasing to the eye. When using this scheme, try to choose one color that is more dominant the other to as accents.
  • Triad – this combination uses colors that are evenly spaced along the color wheel. This look is vibrant yet balanced. Make sure one color is a bit more dominant and the others should be used as an accent.
  • White + One – Using white with a color creates contrast and brightens
  • Neutrals – Grays, browns, black, and creams often create the most soothing of palettes


Light has a major impact on color. Natural daylight is much different from artificial light. The type of light bulbs you use affects the space.

What type of light do you have in your home?

  1. My favs are Compact fluorescent and LEDs they are both energy efficient and provide light that is brighter and whiter than traditional incandescent (which makes things the odd yellow color)
  2. If you are not sure what to buy, check out your local home improvement store. If you go the area that sells light bulbs, there is usually a display showing you how each bulb works and casts light.



Color has a direct impact on our mood and energy. Each color has its own personality and influence. When selecting colors for your home, remember to look at the colors that you are drawn to the most. For example: You like warm fiery Reds and Oranges, but you cannot see painting a room bright RiRi red, so instead use it as an accent color in a more neutral space. Color doesn’t have to be in large quantities to make an impact.



Stop by you favorite paint store and pull a few swatches. If you like a specific color, grab the swatch and the next color up and below. Remember the lighting in the paint store is not always the best. Narrow your choices to two or three colors, don’t take the entire rack of color cards.



Once you narrow your choices down, get a few of your favorites in sample size containers (or quarts if that’s all they have). The only way to be certain of a color is to have it in the intended space. Paint an enlarged swatch of your sample on a medium sized poster board. This allows you to move the swatch around the room to view the color entirely. Keep in mind the color will darken as the paint dries.


What you need to get started:

  • Medium poster boards (22”x 18”)
  • Small rollers and tray
  • Paint
  • A small screwdriver to open the paint cans



After your paint samples are completely dry. Hang them on the wall near furniture and artwork. How do the color swatch look during the day and the evening? Keep the sample up for about 7 days. Live with it for a minute. Observe how you emotionally connect to it and how it works with your home.  After that, you should be able to select the color you like best.

Choosing paint colors doesn’t have to be complicated. Just try these simple rules when you start your next paint project.