Choosing interior paint colors can be a bit intimidating. Some homeowners are so afraid of making a mistake that they stick with white or off-white rather than go out on a limb with color. Knowing just a little bit about color theory can help you decide which paint colors go together and which combinations to stay away from. Even if you do make a bad choice, painting mistakes are never fatal. Just get out your roller and try again.
The color wheel can be an invaluable help in choosing paint colors. It contains the colors of the rainbow--red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple--and most wheels also show in-between colors. One of the first things to decide is which color will be the prominent one in your room. Red, orange and yellow are warm, energetic, cheery colors. Green, blue and purple are cool, soothing colors. Once you decide the feeling you want and the main color that will help you achieve it, you can use a color wheel to choose other colors in the room.
Analogous colors are next to each other on the color wheel, such as blue and green or red and orange. These colors match and will go well together in a room. For instance, if you decide on a soothing blue palette, you could choose to paint an accent wall green for a more interesting room.
Complementary colors are across from each other on the color wheel, like blue and orange or yellow and purple. Rather than matching, these colors make each other stand out. Complementary tones should be used for color pops in a room, because too much of a complementary tone can be jarring and overwhelming. In the previous example of a soothing blue room, orange could be an accent color, in the pillows or artwork.
Paint Sample Cards
Wherever you buy paint, you will find many color cards on display. Each card shows a range of colors, from light to dark, with a common tint. Because these colors all come from the same palette, you can choose two colors from the same card and be sure that they will work well together.
Try Before You Buy
Still unsure? Most paint and home improvement stores sell sample sizes. Get samples for the colors you're considering using and paint a large swath in the intended room. If you're planning to use the colors next to each other, paint your samples next to each other. Observe the colors at different times of day to see how light affects the way they look. If, after living with them for a few days, you're satisfied with the colors, go ahead and purchase all the paint you'll need for the job. If you're not happy, try some more samples.