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Successful color schemes in painting fall into four basic categories, ranging from very subtle to extremely colorful. For a fifth option – technically not a color scheme – based on black, white or gray. Once you see how the different schemes are formed, you can build your own combinations from a favorite color, adding other colors you love or finding new ones you never considered in your home painting activities.

The Monochromatic Scheme

A monochromatic scheme uses variations in value and intensity of a single color to create a virtually fool-proof design scheme. These combinations are both elegant and restful. Imagine walls and furnishings covered in varying values, and perhaps some patterns, or orange, from peach to burnt umber. Because the colors all come from one source on the color wheel, such rooms have a pleasing unity.

With a monochromatic scheme, too much contrast between values can look uneven. Choose a trim color only a shade or two darker than the wall, or use other elements to provide a middle value. For instance, if you paint the wall a light blue and the trim slate blue, unify the two colors by selecting upholstery that’s between the two in value. You can enliven any monochromatic scheme with texture and pattern, and add interest with a splash of accent color schemes, such as an antiqued red chest in an ochre room.

The easiest way to build a monochromatic paint scheme is to select colors from paint charts or chips that include several values of the same color.

Neutral Colors

One of the most refined monochromatic schemes combines neutral colors. Unlike the true neutrals- white, black, and gray – these “colorized” neutrals are very low-intensity versions of colors. Take green to its lowest intensity and the result is a neutral. Yellow becomes a buttery off-white. Neutrals can vary in value, just like any other colors. Pearl and butter are light in value, celery and camel are medium, coffee bean and charcoal are dark.

These softer hues lend ambience and a hint of color to a painted room but never overwhelm it or stand out. They are ideal backgrounds for furnishings and artwork, since they put the focus on what’s in the room, not what color is on the walls. Use the color wheel to discover the most pleasing partners for these colors. For a complementary contrast to a neutral yellow-green, you might choose merlot, a very low-intensity red-violet that lies opposite yellow-green on the wheel.


References: Color Combinations for House Painting By Louis Carlo Lim I available under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0.