Colour is the most impactful choice you have when delving into home design. Most of us intuitively know which colours go well together, but nothing will improve your bold decorating decisions more than truly learning the science of why.
This guide will take you through the basics and how to apply colour in your home.
First, we’ll go over some words so that you can sound and feel like a professional.
Primary, Secondary and Tertiary Hues
These are the groups of hues (colours) that form the basis of all visible colours. Our brains stack these groups into a natural hierarchy, starting with Primary and ending with Tertiary.
- Primary colours are absolute and cannot be made by mixing other colours together. They are the bedrock of colour.
- Red, Blue, Yellow
- Secondary colours are the ones made by perfect mixing two primaries together.
- Purple, Green, Orange
- Tertiary colours are everything else and are made by mixing both primary and secondary along with black or white values.
- Teal, Khaki, Pink, etc
Value is the perceived brightness of a colour and is the foundation of combining multiple colours together. Value can be deceptive so be sure to use a value checker to make sure the colours you’ve picked don’t subtly break the style you’re going for.
A low value range between colours will give a flat or uniform effect but can be overbearing or messy when using vibrant colours, as they’ll compete for the same dominance and attention of your eyes.
High value variance will give a subtle pop of contrast and boldness, even when the colours are similar. Analogous.
Value can be affected by 3 categories (just like the colour groups).
Tint, tone and shade.
- Tint is mixing your colour with white. This softens the intensity
- Think: Red to pink
- Tone is mixing your primary (or secondary) with grey. This reduces the vibrancy/brilliance
- Think: Purple to lavender
- Shade is mixing your colour with black. This increases vibrancy and the deepness of the colour.
- Think: Blue to navy blue
Top tip: Value can be checked by taking a photograph of the colours then converting it into black & white (greyscale) and seeing which colour is lighter or darker than the other.
Monochrome or ‘Single colour/scale’ is a style based on a chosen colour and adjusting only the shade or tint. Monochrome can be ‘black and white’ as you might imagine. However, you can choose any colour as your base and work from there.
A colour can either be warm or cool.
Warms are your reds, oranges and yellows. These are situated on one side of the colour wheel.
Cool colours are the blues, purples and greens. These, unsurprisingly, are on the opposite side and contrast warm colours.
CHOOSING THE COLOUR FOR YOU
Now we’ll go over the actual process of picking your colours, step by step.
You’ll want to begin by selecting a main colour for your room. Depending on if you’re doing a full refurb or just adding in some new paint and window blinds, you’ll take a different route to your main colour.
The main colour will act as your anchor for the rest of the decisions and will drive the theme, vibe or mood of the room. Make sure the main colour is one that you truly like, it will often be the highest in the hierarchy of colours.
If your room already has furniture and flooring that you won’t be changing, you’ll need to begin by finding a colour that matches those elements. Find a few that you like then narrow them down until you have a main colour that’s harmonious with your room. Adding in a new rug, curtains or blinds that uses the main colour can help tie the room together. You’ll want to match your choice to your furnishings.
If you’re fully decorating from the ground up, you’ll have a lot more freedom in your choice and can truly tailor the colours to your desire. Matching the furnishings to your choice.
You can stop after choosing a main colour and go for a monochromatic scheme, though, you’ll still want to look at the various shades. You can find your subsidiary colour(s) in a few different ways depending on the result you’re aiming for. Complimentary, analogous, monochromatic.
Complimentary colours are ones that oppose and contrast in a pleasing way. These are opposite on the colour wheel. Yellow – Purple. Blue – Orange. Red – Cyan. These types of colour pairings will typically bring contrast and energy to a room, however playing with the overall value of complimentary colours can give you that same boldness but with the softer appeal of naturals and pastels.
Analogous colours are side by side, sharing similar hues and properties to each other. For example, all being warm, all a shade/tone of the same colour, being in the same quadrant of the colour wheel. Analogous colours are those that don’t bring contrast via colour variance but if you’re aiming for a warm feeling room with some contrast you can use that wonderful tool, Value, to boost it.
Monochrome we’ve already touched on, but for this you’ll take your main colour and adjust its tone positively or negatively. Selecting the shades that match your tastes.
Regardless of the overall style that you’re going for, adding in naturals like beige, grey or even just white can bring visual relief to your space.
Once you have your colours selected it’s important to do some tests to make sure they do work together as you’ve envisioned in your mind’s eye. Doing small samples with the colours inside the room of choice will help you gauge the impact they have. Nothing beats seeing a physical example.
LIGHT & COLOUR
Choosing colours you like is vital but another piece of the puzzle is the lighting in the room. The intensity and amount of light can change the final aesthetic of your room. You can further improve your choices by taking into consideration the rooms natural, or lack thereof, light.
A darker room you might want to brighten up. A certain wall could benefit from a strong colour, that will bathe the room in bounce light. It’s even possible a room gets too much light, where you’ll want some darker values to absorb the excess, though, this can be achieved with curtains or blinds leaving your colours at the whim of your venetians.
HOW COLOURS AFFECT YOUR ROOM?
Each room in your home will have a different mood and this is mostly driven by the colours. Their temperature, shade, tone and vibrancy all work together to give off different vibes. When designing a room, it’s wise to consider the feeling you are aiming for.
Warms feel confident, cosy and intimate. Cools give a relaxed, clear and calm feel. Vibrant colours will lend energy, life and voice to a room. Natural tones will typically feel safe and spacious.
Certain colours will give a room space to breath, others bring it in close and make you feel safe. They might leave you feeling refreshed or help you take some time for yourself.
Knowing what you want for each room can help you make those first steps to choosing a colour that is fit for purpose.
COLOUR IS MORE THAN PAINT
So, you’ve chosen your colours, done a sample, bought the paint, but there’s more than that. The items and furnishings you put in the room need to match and work with, not against your intentions. The materials matter. The fabrics count. What you attach to your walls and windows can either make or break a room.
Paint forms the springboard for you to jump into furnishings and window coverings. You’ve gone for a nice warm room, bright burnt oranges with some soft natural beige subsidiaries. You could drop some orange cushions and roller blinds to really bring out the energy of the room, or put in a softer brown, straddling somewhere between the orange and the beige. Whether you want subtle, bold or a subtle bold. The choice is yours to make.
We are based in Salford and cover the North West predominantly but often travel further to suit our client’s needs.