How to choose Paint Colours and use Colour Charts to create Colour Schemes for Your Home




One of the things that a lot of my customers don’t realise is that there are two different types of colour chart; colour charts which are digitally printed and those which have actual paint samples on them.
Although the former type have been adjusted to try and best represent the colours in question, they are never particularly accurate.
If you have a choice, I’d always recommend that you use colour charts that have actual paint samples stuck to them.
Most premium brands such as Farrow and Ball, Little Greene, and Paint Library use only this type, but Crown have developed one which contains what they refer to as their ‘Historic’ colours and Dulux have one for what they refer to as their ‘Heritage’ range.


There may be several reasons why you might want to recreate a particular colour . You may want to paint your walls with a colour that matches that of some wallpaper that have used on feature wall for example. Or perhaps you have had a leak, you want to paint only one wall in the room, and you are not sure what colour was used previously on the walls.
If I am trying to match a colour I usually follow one or all three of the following steps:

1. Firstly, I’ll try to match the colour using colour charts that use actual paint. I’ve often managed to find almost identical colours to the one that I’m trying to match this way. If I can’t find the correct colour then I’ll follow step 2

2. Use a computer in a decorator’s merchants to scan the sample and mix up a tester pot. The ‘magic eye’ as it is often known, will scan/photograph the sample and either mix a bespoke colour based on the sample, or find the nearest colour in the range of a certain brand. I prefer the system at Crown Decorating Centre as their computer mixes bespoke colours.

If you are trying to match a colour which has been previously painted on your ceiling or walls, then you can neatly chip off a little piece of plaster using a hammer and chisel and take this to the decorator’s merchant. If you are trying to match wallpaper, then you can bring a sample with you. Either way, the sample will need to be at least the size of a ten pence piece.

3. If neither of the above steps has proven to be successful, I’ll usually mix the colour by eye. I’ll usually start with a base colour which I’ve usually chosen using one of the steps above, and then decide which colour or colours need to be added to it. If you decide to do this, I recommend buying a bucket and adding colours to this rather than trying to mix in a paint tin.

TIP: In order to determine the tonal difference between two different colours it helps to squint your eyes while looking at them.


Pairing colours

While the decision about which colours ‘work’ is a very subjective one, I definitely find that pairing colours that have a similar colour temperature works best.

For example, if using more than one shade of grey in a room (for example a mid-grey on the walls and a pale grey on the woodwork), I would try to make sure that they are both either warm greys or both cool greys. Using a cool grey that has a hint of blue on the woodwork and a warm grey that has a hint of brown on the walls probably wont look quite right.

That isn’t to say that creating contrasts can’t work. But it should be a conscious choice rather than an accident.

Using different colours on walls and woodwork
A lot of people stick to painting their ceiling and walls white and using a colour only on the walls, but there is no reason why you cannot paint the woodwork with a colour that is darker than the one that is used on the walls. We recently designed a colour scheme for a living room in an 18th century cottage near Bath. We chose ‘Red Earth’ by Farrow and Ball for the walls paired it with a dark grey that we mixed ourselves for the woodwork. The customer was apprehensive when we first suggested it but was over the moon with the result because it worked really well with the period of the house. While this colour scheme works really well in a house of this age, it probably wouldn’t have worked in a 1960s house, so when choosing colours it’s worth making choices that are sympathetic to the age of your property.

Using the same colour on ceilings, walls and woodwork
Many people are frightened of painting everything in the room the same colour because they think it will look boring, but on the contrary it can demonstrate confidence and a lack of fussiness. It could be argued that you are drawing attention to your woodwork by painting your walls with a colour and your woodwork white and that it is unnecessary unless there is a particular reason for doing so. Using just one colour can work particularly well in period properties or rooms that have wooden panelling (see photo below).


That said, painting the woodwork in a room often takes longer than painting the walls and given that white never goes out of fashion, it may save you time in the future to paint the woodwork white and save a colour that might potentially go out of fashion in a few years for the walls.

Tester Pots

I always recommend buying tester pots first rather than relying on a colour chart. Always test the paint out in the room you are planning to use it, and paint as large an area as possible. And remember that colours are relative. So if you are painting your tester pot colour on a white wall, it’s going to appear quite dark. If you are painting your tester pot on a dark wall, it’s going to appear lighter.


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