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Interior Paint Ideas and Color Wheel Schemes

By Holly H.

Date Updated: September 7, 2020


Basic Color Terms

A white and beige living room with a fireplace, a framed poster and a wall seat with cushions.

When you're thinking about choosing interior paint colors, it's always a good idea to review a few basic color terms. Incorporating color wheel ideas can help you imagine your house color schemes more easily.

The Color Wheel

The color wheel identifies which color family interior paint colors belong to and how they relate to each other. Color wheels are important to help you coordinate the look of your home. Read more about using the color wheel in our guide on choosing paint colors.

Primary Colors

All colors, except white, come from the primary colors: blue, yellow and red.

Secondary Colors

Mix equal amounts of two primary colors to create secondary colors. The results are violet (red and blue), green (blue and yellow) and orange (red and yellow).

Tertiary Colors

Mix one primary color with larger amounts of another primary color to create tertiary colors. For example, mix one part blue with two parts red to make red-violet.

Other Color Terms

  • The hue of a color is the basic color. For example, blue is the hue for both light blue and dark blue.
  • Tone is changed by adding white and black (gray) to a color. Tone makes colors more pleasing to look at than pure pigment.
  • The value of color describes the amount of white or black in the color. The value ranges from light to dark on a grayscale.
  • The saturation of a color refers to its strength or weakness in different light. Think about it in terms of bright or dull.

The Effects of Color

Orchid-painted walls and a yellow chair next to a palm leaf in a clear vase on a window sill.

Different wall colors and paint color schemes affect our moods in different ways. Let’s say that you've decided emerald green will be the main focus in your living room. Before you buy gallons of emerald green paint, you should consider the effect it'll have on the appearance and mood of the room. Knowing more about what each color represents will help you choose the best paint option for every space.

Warm and Cozy Colors

Warm and cozy colors, located on the right side of the color wheel, convey a message of togetherness and strength:

  • Red represents energy, power and passion. It’s also been found to stimulate appetite so it’s a common choice for dining rooms.
  • Orange is less aggressive than red and creates warmth and a sense of joy. However, it’s very hard to tone down and is often used as an accent color only.
  • Yellow has different effects depending on how much you use. Generally, yellow is a happy and uplifting color, but when it’s overused, it can become distracting and overwhelming.

Cool and Soothing Colors

Cool and soothing colors, located on the left side of the color wheel, provide a sense of calm and feelings of trust:

  • Green conveys a sense of renewal and growth. It’s also one of nature's most prominent colors and blends easily into any room.
  • Blue is generally a peaceful color. Light blue can make a room appear bright and refreshing, while a deep blue creates a sense of regalness.
  • Violet combines the calm of blue and the energy of red. Violet is often used in bedrooms to communicate an air of serenity.

Pastel Colors

Pastel colors are the result of adding a large amount of white to a color. They create a comfortable, airy feeling in any room.

Neutral Colors

Neutral colors include shades of white, beige, taupe, gray and black. Neutral colors are the easiest colors to use for one simple reason: They blend with most surroundings. Neutral colors can also be stylish and dramatic. For instance, black and white are neutral colors that create a wonderful palette for additional colors.

If you choose neutral colors, use bold-colored accessories to accent the walls and add visual interest. And when you’re ready for a change, you can simply change out the accessories.

Embrace the Rainbow and Choose a Color Scheme

Bedroom in shades of white and beige.

A color scheme is any set of colors that work together to create a visually appealing layout. Here are some suggestions, but you can let your imagination run wild.

Complementary Colors

Complementary colors are located opposite one another on the color wheel. Each color brings out the richness in the other. When using complementary colors, one color should be subtle and the other color should be more dominant. For example, pair an intense violet bedroom wall with a light yellow indoor planter.

Split Complementary Colors

Split complementary colors offer a daring color palette. Select a main color. Next, find its complementary color, and then select colors from each side of the complementary color.

Related Colors

Related colors are located next to one another on the color wheel. These colors produce a less contrasted effect than complementary colors. For example, a dark blue-green combined with a light blue can give the feeling of floating in a blue ocean.

Monochromatic Colors

Monochromatic colors share a hue but have different tones, values and saturation. Picture a paint swatch card: It has different values of one color. Using two or more monochromatic colors, like a black wall paired with white home accents, creates a stylish and modern look.


Tip

Need color ideas? Take a look at trending interior paint colors from Valspar? and HGTV HOME ? by Sherwin-Williams.

Planning Your Color Scheme

White bathroom with dark gray moulding.

When planning your house color scheme and interior, it's also good to plan how you can incorporate patterns, accent shades and create a focal point in your design.

  • Consider how adjacent rooms will work together. Think about how much of each space is visible from the next room and plan your color scheme accordingly.
  • Pick the colors you like best — four core colors and two patterns should be the maximum. Use as many accent colors as you like and select a dominant color from the core colors to start. Then choose a color scheme: monochromatic, related or complementary.
  • If you decide to start with a favorite pattern, match your colors to the pattern. Colors that are dramatically different in the pattern can be accented with light or dark tones of the same color. You can also use one main color with several tones to create an energetic color scheme.
  • The wall color is usually the most dominant focal point in the room, so make sure you know what your wall will look like when it's finished. Paint a 2-foot-by-2-foot color test and allow it to dry. Paint usually dries one to two shades darker. Now, imagine that 2-foot-by-2-foot section extends throughout the entire room and make sure you like it. A light peach, for example, can make a room very pink in a particular light.
  • Decide where you're going to use the colors in the room. The general rule when decorating is to use three different values: light, medium and dark. Walls and floors are usually done in light colors, depending on the effect you're trying to create. Walls should be a little darker than floors to keep them from looking like they're floating. Window coverings and large pieces of furniture are often done in a medium value to pull the light walls and floors together. The darkest of the colors should be used as an accent color scattered throughout the room.

Using Color to Create an Illusion

Dark blue living room with light oak floors.

Use colors to create an illusion of a bigger or smaller room by contrasting different values — light and dark, warm and cool:

  • You can visually lower a ceiling by painting it darker than the walls.
  • Make the ceiling seem higher by painting it a lighter color than the walls.
  • Use dark neutrals or warm colors on walls and floors to visually scale down a large room.
  • Make a small room look larger by using light colors on the walls, floors and ceilings.

Using Accent Colors to Pull a Room Together

Dark blue accent wall in a living room.

Use accent colors, whether bold or subtle, to pull a room together:

  • Use one wall in a room as a focal point. Paint it a complementary color or a darker shade of the main color in the room.
  • Add white to a room to make patterns and colors appear lighter. If you add a dark color, such as black, the darkness of the pattern comes out.
  • Paint your walls in two bold colors to tie in with a pattern on a rug or chair.

Color Chips and Swatches

Woman looking at paint chips.

Chips and swatches are helpful in the color selection process. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • When choosing color chips, branch out and consider similar shades in all directions. Keep in mind any furniture or artwork that will go in the room. After you gather all the colors you like, narrow the selection down to three or four hues for your specific project. View the colors in the same type of light as your home. You can compare them by holding them next to a sheet of white paper.
  • Paint a 1-foot square poster board for each color scheme.
  • Live with the various colors for a week. Look at them during different times of the day and in different lighting. Move the poster board swatches around the room — high, low, in corners and near windows — and see how they change.
  • Still don’t think you’ve found the right interior paint ideas? Look out for color cues in items you already own, like a favorite piece of art or furniture. Pull colors and color combinations from what you know and love. Bring a pillow, piece of fabric or even a favorite pair of shoes to Lowe's, and an associate can custom blend a paint shade to match.

Tip

Remember: To the human eye, most colors on paint chips look a shade darker when applied to real rooms. If you're worried that a color is too bold, consider one shade lighter.

How to Read a Paint Color Chip Display

Paint color chip displays can look like an overwhelming rainbow of choices at first glance. But the displays are organized to help you come up with color schemes for your interior.

  • Most brands are organized by temperature first with warm and cool colors grouped together.
  • Secondly, they're arranged by saturation, with the brighter colors traditionally on the outer sides of the display.
  • A good rule of thumb is to stay within the same saturation level to ensure consistency.
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