Color Tips: Choosing Interior Paint Colors

From the Color Experts at Sherwin-Williams: Coloring Within the Lines — Ideas for Using Color Inside Your Home

If your CCQ (Color Confidence Quotient!) is modest but you'd like to boost it by learning more about color placement basics, consider the rules of thumb below, from the color professionals at Sherwin-Williams.

However, if you're sure of your personal style, feel free to break the rules and create new looks that reflect your unique tastes and personality. You'll find everything you need to validate your choices at your neighborhood Sherwin-Williams store!

  • When creating a warm or cool color scheme, choose one color as the predominant color and then other colors as accent colors.
  • If you have a long and narrow room, you can consider painting the end walls a darker shade than the long, narrow walls. The darker colors will recede and will create an illusion of width in this instance. Light colors will advance.
  • Solids and simple patterns reduce visual weight, while bold patterns add visual weight.
  • Bright and intense colors add visual weight, while muted, neutral colors reduce visual weight.
  • To make a small room look larger, choose a light-color paint and select furnishings in the same color family. Or, you can paint some of the furniture to match the walls.
  • Light-color ceilings will attract attention, but dark-color ceilings will direct the eye back to head level, allowing the focus to be on the walls, furnishings and accessories in a room.
  • Light affects color dramatically. Fluorescent light tends to be cool lighting and brings out more green or blue in a color. Incandescent light — light bulbs — brings more of the red or warmth out in a color. It is important to view colors in daylight or night, because they will appear different.
  • The location of color within an interior space can make a great deal of difference in influencing the room's character. A color placed on a ceiling, wall or door may elicit many different reactions.
  • Perception of temperature may also be altered with color. Most design schemes contain more than one color in a space, so if the design includes a color from each group — warm and cool — coordination of the space is still accomplished.

RED

  • Ceilings: weighty and annoying.
  • Walls: advancing and energetic.
  • Floors: confident.

Red is predominantly used as an accent color, but we are currently seeing more of a trend using this color on walls. Large amounts of saturated red create a more complex space, while saturated brown-reds can make a room warm and inviting.

PINK

  • Ceilings: soft hues delicate and comfortable.
  • Walls: complementary to skin tones when soft or pale. Dramatic when highly saturated and vivid tones are used.
  • Floors: for select and special spaces.

ORANGE

  • Ceilings: energizing and advancing.
  • Walls: soft peachy tones are warm and glowing. Bright tones are energetic, burnt orange shades are rich and warm.
  • Floors: creates movement.

While orange is reserved typically for accents, pastel oranges are cheerful and lively. When this hue is close to peach, it has the ability to enhance skin tones and therefore would be a suitable color in a bathroom.

BROWN

  • Ceiling: dark hues are heavy but work in high, open ceilings, especially to conceal exposed ductwork.
  • Walls: mid-tone and dark hues can evoke richness, warmth and comfort. Soft hues are natural and create a neutral backdrop for furnishings.
  • Floors: implies durability, stability and reliability.

The light values of brown are good environments for work or for living. The red-browns have a good use in interiors because they bring warmth and comfort.

YELLOW

  • Ceiling: light hue, luminous, reflective and glowing.
  • Walls: warm if a golden hue.
  • Floors: bright hues are distracting and agitating.

Ideal for safety purposes due to the high visibility qualities, it also appears brighter than white and is useful in poorly illuminated and dim spaces.

GREEN

  • Ceiling: protective (reflection on skin tone can be unattractive).
  • Walls: safe, calm, reliable, neutral, yellow based hues create warmth, blue based hues tend to be cool.
  • Floors: natural up to a certain saturation point (light to dark), soft, relaxing (if closer to blue-green).

Green is an excellent color for interior environments, especially when involving concentration and meditation.

BLUE

  • Ceiling: soft shades are cool and heavenly, dark hues give the illusion of the ceiling advancing.
  • Walls: pale to mid-tone shades are soothing, darker hues provide a dramatic backdrop.
  • Floors: movement (darker hues) to effortless movement (lighter hues).

Blue has a tendency to be cold and bleak if applied to large areas. Medium or deep tones are appropriate in incidental areas. Pale blue is refracted sharply by the lens of the eye, therefore it tends to cast a haze over details and objects in the environment.

GRAY

  • Ceiling: shaded, creates shadows.
  • Walls: bland to neutral, cool and neutral.
  • Floors: neutral. Blends into a space.

Gray is the color, which inspires creative people to become more creative. Gray is a great classifier. It performs the opposite of orange in that it makes things seem more exclusive.

WHITE

  • Ceiling: blank - creates lightness, reflects light and reduces shadows.
  • Walls: neutral to empty, clean.
  • Floors: intimidating.

White indicates delicacy, refinement and sophistication. White may be too harsh as an interior color in some climates. All-white work environments encourage great precision.

BLACK

  • Ceiling: heavy but works well for an exposed ceiling with open ductwork.
  • Walls: threatening or dramatic.
  • Floors: unusual and absorbing. Dark furnishings would get lost placed directly on this floor color.

Black is very dependent on where it is used. Black works as an accent color in either residential or business interiors. It is associated with dignity and sophistication.