How to Create a Paint Colour Palette
If you’ve ever tried to decorate a room you’ll know how challenging it can be to pick a wall colour AND accent colours that you love.
The key here is that I don’t just want to TELL you how to create a paint colour palette – I want to TEACH you how to do it, therefor, the instructions below are a wee bit more detailed than the standard ‘how-to’.
Keywords to Note
- Obvious Neutral / Neutral
Pay attention to the ‘constants’ in your room.
What are constants? Constants are things that could change, but are unlikely to change based upon cost, effort and stubborn spouses. Here are a few examples…
- Fireplace bricks / stonework
- Linoleum, vinyl, tile flooring, coloured or multi-coloured carpet
- Tilework (flooring or backsplashes)
- Expensive window coverings
- Main furniture pieces
More so than your own tastes, these above things will greatly dictate the ‘colour direction’ that your room goes in. If you ignore these items and end up ‘fighting them’, even the most beautiful colour palette could be ruined.
Find the most obvious neutral and use it as your main colour
Is the same neutral showing up in 2 or more of your constants? (I sure as heck hope so…) Look for tans, creams, off-whites, gray’s, charcoals, browns – that kind of thing. The more obvious the better. Dark? Light? Doesn’t matter, you can always tweak it (darken or lighten) to be a tone that you love.
If the best neutral shows up in only 1 constant and it’s obvious and awesome, that will work too.
In this photo, there are quite a few neutrals for me to choose from – cream, beige, gray, so I’m going to pick my FAVOURITE one for my main walls, based on my exposure and personal tastes.
I choose the lightest one, the cream, in the form of Sherwin Williams Creamy SW 7012.
Pick some accent colours
From there, I’m going to say, ‘okay, I’d like approx. 3 accent colours to play around with, where do I get those?’.
Well, looking at the constant, which is the fireplace stone I would come up with a range of colours. Because my constant is essentially made up of neutrals with a variety of undertones, I want to make sure my accents have a subtle neutral base as well, so that there is a visual link between the accents and the fireplace. If I go too ‘colourful’ there will be no way to relate it back to my fireplace.
And because the fireplace is neutrals (and therefor SUPER flexible) I can have a lot of fun with my accents AS LONG AS they all have a neutral (gray or beige) base.
- The top row is my chosen wall colour: Sherwin Williams Creamy
- The 2nd row are my options for accent colours that are essentially darker versions of the colours in the stonework
- The 3rd row are my options if I want to add a little colour to my life! They work because while they aren’t necessarily IN the stone, they have the same slightly gray/neutral base and aren’t too ‘colourful’
And that is how we get this…
Which if you keep going to the right, leads to this – ALL of which leads back to the colours in the fireplace!
But I don’t have a neutral!
If you don’t have an ‘obvious neutral’ (meaning you don’t have ANY neutrals in your constants)
Would like an actual ‘colour’ on your walls
If you don’t have a neutral in any of your constants (countertop/tile/stone/etc…) or would like to have an actual ‘colour’ on your walls, try finding a colour that a) is repeated in 1 or more of your constants b) is a ‘liveable colour’ for you.
If the colour in your constant is good ‘as is’ then you can match it perfectly or lighten it or darken it to suit your space. However, if the colour you find is a bit bright and intense for painting the walls, then you may want to find a soft and slightly gray or tan version of it – this will help to neutralize things. Doing this will make it so that your room isn’t ‘overwhelmed by colour’. I say this because if you truly do not have any neutral elements in your room then you probably have a daaaaamn colourful room already!
Finding ‘grayish or brownish’ versions of your fave colour will help to visually ground your space and keep things from being colour crazy.
A few great examples of colours that have neutral (gray or beige) foundations
(undertone based colours – click on colour names to view)
- Green – Camouflage 2143-40, Herbes de Provence CC 634
- Blue – Smoke 2122-40, Silver Mist 1619
- Purple- Wet Concrete 2214-40, Abalone
- Yellow – Windham Cream, Navajo White
- Burgundy – Garrison Red
A few notes on accent colours
When dealing with accent colours 1 is good for a small or simple space, 2 is great, 3 can be awesome if done well.
Think about accent colours in terms of ratio’s (out of 100%)
2 Accent Colours
- Main Accent Colour – 70%
- Secondary Accent Colour – 30%
3 Accent Colours
- Main – 60%
- Secondary Accent colours – 20/20 or 30/10
While there are many ways of using accents, colours often play off of each other best when they are opposites. Opposites attract, opposites bounce off of each other and can make each other look more powerful and punchy (that’s why my Tim and I are so great together…like peas in a pod we are not…)
So that being said, accent colours often look great when they are a) the opposite of your wall colour or b) the opposite of an existing ‘strong’ colour in 1 or more of your constants. Does that make sense?
Examples of some great opposites….
- Purple / Green (but yellow and orange also look fab)
- Rust/Red/Orange / Green, lime green, forest green (you’d choose the one that best suited your Colour Family).
- Blue / Yellow, Orange
- Crazy (me) – Sane (you)
- Teal (Aquamarine) / Rust, Yellow
- Burgundy / Yellow, Green
- Yellow / Blue, Purple, Teal
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Here's some other ideas for you!