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Main paint troubleshooting guide | Selecting the best paint colors
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Selecting the best paint colors

Picture a world without color -- a very drab and depressing place. Now, imagine that world as it really is -- with beautiful colors everywhere. Much better, right?

Color is the least expensive way to dramatize, stylize or personalize your home. It can hide a structural flaw or completely alter an appearance. Homes that aren't blessed with interesting architectural features can be transformed into decorative showplaces with the imaginative use of color.

Because of its versatility, paint is ideal for introducing color into your home -- it's economical and available in practically limitless shades. You can paint frequently to update the appearance of a room, create a mood, suit a season or express a personality. If you're tired of your color scheme, change it -- quickly and easily with paint!

Selecting a color scheme for your home with coordinating paint colors is not difficult if you equip yourself with some basic information about color and its effects.

Create a mood with color

Blue Monday, green with envy, in the pink -- colors are often associated with moods and emotions. Colors do affect us psychologically -- a fact that should be considered when decorating.

How you respond to certain colors can be a good guide for deciding how to set a particular mood in your home. With the help of the color wheel and these basic color tips your choice may be easier:

  • Yellows, oranges and reds are warm colors. The hues opposite them on the color wheel -- greens, blues and purples -- are cool colors. Consider the temperature of a color if you want to warm up a room on the shady side of the house or cool off a room with a southern exposure.
  • Light colors such as white and yellow are airy, expansive and cheerful. Use them in small, dark areas that you want to appear larger and brighter. Dark colors such as navy blue or brown can create a cozy, sophisticated feeling in oversized rooms.

Stylize a room with paint

Aside from being a mood-setting device, color can be used to stylize any setting. With the right painting techniques you can accentuate good architectural features and camouflage unattractive ones, on both the interior and exterior of your home.

These color styling tricks may help you with your particular decorating demands:

  • Contrasting colors emphasize a handsome piece of furniture or a beautiful art object can be accentuated by placing it against a wall painted a contrasting color. Attractive architectural features such as molding can be emphasized by painting them a darker or lighter color than the walls.
  • Color can establish a focal point or create interest where there is none. For instance, a perfectly square room can be made more interesting by painting one wall in an accent color.
  • Using the same color or a slightly different shade of the same color will have a unifying effect. For instance, the exterior of a home made with different materials (brick and wood) can look pulled together if one color paint is used on the entire house.
  • Color can create the appearance of heightening or lowering -- using information when dealing with a too- high ceiling or exaggerated roof. A dark color paint on a high ceiling will make it seem lower. An exaggerated roof will be minimized with a dark color.
  • Color can alter the proportions of a room. A long, narrow room can be made to appear wider by painting both shorter walls a darker color than the longer walls.

Color Scheme Selection

The process of selecting a color scheme for your home is a personal matter. There are no strict rules governing the selection of a color scheme, but there are some harmonious combinations.

  • The monochromatic color scheme is a popular one today because, by using various intensities of one color, it lends continuity and spaciousness to small or crowded spaces. It is one of the simplest schemes to use, yet it can produce very sophisticated results. Simply select a color you would love to surround yourself with and use it in different shades to decorate the room.
  • A complementary color scheme combines colors opposite each other on the color wheel, such as green and red, or blue and orange. At its best, the complementary color scheme produces a lively, gay effect. But color shades should be chosen carefully to avoid a jarring effect.
  • By combining any three colors equal distance apart on the color wheel (or shades of those colors) a triad color scheme will be the result. A combination of purple, orange and green may sound outlandish, but subtle shades of those colors used in varying amounts can be an attractive scheme. Choose on shade as the predominant color, another as a secondary color and the third shade as an accent color.
  • An analogous color scheme uses neighboring colors on the wheel, such as green, blue-green, and blue, for a particularly harmonious effect. To avoid a static effect, use more of one color than the other.

Additional tips for color schemes

  • The first step in selecting a color scheme usually is to decide on the main color to be used in the room. If you don't know which colors you're happiest living with, glance through your wardrobe. If you don't see any red, you probably wouldn't like living in a room decorated in a red color scheme.
  • You can get the inspiration for your color scheme from an Oriental rug or a favorite painting. Either may suggest a pleasing color combination and could then help tie together the colors in the room.
  • Proportion and balance are important to any color scheme. After you decide which color will be dominant, add other colors in unequal amounts. One guideline is to select the dominant color for use in about two-thirds of the room and to use the other colors in lessening amounts.
  • Whether you're decorating your entire house or merely redoing one room, be sure to maintain a certain amount of color continuity throughout the home. Develop an overall plan and then decide how each room will be integrated into it.
  • In some cases, you may want to make your wall treatment the focal point of the room. For instance, a dramatic accent wall, stenciling or a super-graphic might dictate what other patterns and colors can be used in the room.
  • The floor covering in a room is often the only part of the decor that home redecorators don't want to change. If that is the case, the floor covering color must be a consideration when selecting a color scheme. Whether a room is colorfully carpeted or has hardwood floors will obviously influence what other materials are selected for that room.
  • Remember to consider the effect texture and pattern will have on your color scheme. Both can alter how a color looks in a room. For instance, a sofa covered in a blue silken material will lend a cool, luxurious feeling to the room, whereas a sofa covered in a nubby textured material the same blue color will exude warmth and comfort.

Paint Color Selection

  • Ideally, you should coordinate paint colors at the same time you are selecting your carpeting, upholstery and drapery fabrics. When you make your initial visit to your paint dealer, take samples of all materials to be used in the room -- carpet, fabrics, wallcoverings and accessories.
  • Select several paint chips that you think will work well with your furnishings, keeping in mind that the color will be much more intense on a large wall than on a small paint chip.
  • When studying paint chips, be sure to mask other colors on the same paint card. Otherwise, your eyes will tend to blend them all rather than see them individually. Take the chips of several possible colors home and examine them in the room you will be painting -- under both natural daylight and artificial night lighting. Hold or prop them up in a vertical position, as they'll appear on the wall. It is helpful to compare colors in a way that shows an equal amount of each. Mask off parts of each color with black paper if necessary.
  • If the color match must be precise, or if you're still unsure about your color choice, buy the color that seems best in the smallest available quantity. Brush out several 2 foot x 2 foot samples on the walls of the room you will be painting. After they've dried, study the samples in daylight and under artificial lighting, next to other materials that will be used in the room.
  • When you're sure about your color choice, buy all the paint you will need for the project at the same time to ensure color consistency. (Your paint retailer can help you estimate how much you'll need.) If possible, when finishing one can of paint and starting with another, begin and end at a corner so that any color differences will be unnoticeable. One alternative is to ask your paint dealer to give you all the cans from the same batch. (All cans of paint have batch numbers.) Or mix the cans of paint in a large pail before you start.
  • If the paint you select will be used in a room exposed to a good deal of sunlight, be sure to choose a light-stable brand to prevent fading and ensure color permanency.