How to choose colours

There’s no doubt that choosing a colour can be an overwhelming task. One glance at the colour wheel in the paint shop presents a dizzying array of options. Then there’s the added complication of choosing a colour which everyone in the household will be happy with.

The best way to tackle this task is to understand how colour works, which is where our handy guide comes in.

There are only 3 main colours

Red, yellow and blue – it all starts from here. The hundreds of hues and shades you’re confronted with at the store are all formed from these 3 primary colours.

So your first thought should be, which of the primary colours appeals most to you and the room you’re painting?

If two primary colours appeal to you, then you can start delving into the secondary colours. These are derived from mixing 2 primary colours – so, yellow and red will make orange, for instance.

From here you can mix a primary colour with a secondary colour to create what’s called a tertiary colour, but at this point you’ll be going with your gut, based on the appeal of the primary colour you enjoy looking at.

What about white and black?

True, white and black are strong colour choices but, by definition, they’re not primary colours. White is the absence of colour while black is a combination of all the colours. As soon as you start adjusting the mix from white and black, you enter the neutral colour territory, which holds great appeal for fans of beige, grey and creamy tones.

Just take note that neutrals will also have hints of the primary colours – a honey hue will have hints of yellow while a peach hue will have hints of red, for example.

Finding complementary colours

At paint stores, you’ll encounter either a colour wheel or a colour pallet, showcasing the various hues that can be mixed to suit your tastes.

These have been designed to show the relationships between colours. One good trick to learn is that, on a colour wheel, the colour opposite to the colour you like is its complementary colour. They’re contrasting but work well together.

The 60-30-10 trick

To choose your paint like a pro, use this trick which decorators have adopted to give rooms a balanced appearance.

60% is the base colour which dictates the atmosphere you want to achieve.

30% is the strong secondary colour which is used for aspects such as the accent wall and windowpanes, and brings much needed character to a space.

10% is where things get creative as you add accent colours through accessories and printed fabrics.

See the light

Lighting is often overlooked in colour choices, but whatever you choose needs to work in the day as well as the night.

If you’re painting a room which is lacking in natural light, then lighter and brighter colours will boost the mood, if that’s what you’re after.

If your rooms have recessed or ‘down’ lighting, they’ll have a warm glow which should be complemented by your paint choice. Fluorescent lighting creates a cooler feeling which will work nicely with equivalent colours.

If you’re experimenting with both warm and cool colours in a room, be sure to balance them out with complementary neutrals.

Test your choices

We hope that this quick overview will help you navigate colour choice with more confidence in the future. Our last tip would be to test your choices in situ – get a small sample pot of your favourites, dab them on the wall and leave them there for a few days to see how they respond to the variations of natural and artificial light, as well as your surrounding furnishings and artwork.

And if you need help, well, you know who to call. At Pelham Painters in Hobart, we’re always happy to offer advice.