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Choosing the right colors for your painting project can seem intimidating at first. With thousands of colors, dozens of manufacturers, and several types of sheens to choose from, the number of combinations available may seem endless. However, considering the fact that a new look can revitalize every surface of your home, add a new level of enjoyment to every room, and increase the resale value of your home, it's well worth the effort. Plus, once you get educated on the subject, which you are about to do, you'll find that it's really not so difficult after all.

Color Basics

First, let's learn about the basics of color. The basics of color are hue, value, intensity, and temperature. Let's learn about each one in turn.

Hue - Hue is actually just a different word for color. The term refers to different combinations of primary colors with different values and intensities.

Value - all this refers to is how light or dark a color is. The value of a color changes based on the amount of white, grey, or black that is added to it. Terms such as tint, shade, and tone are just synonyms of value.

Intensity - intensity refers to the brightness or dullness of a color. This is different than how light or dark it is, which refers to value. If a color jumps out at you, it has a bright intensity. Modern teens might refer to a color such as this as being "loud". Dull intensity hues are primarily used as main colors, while bright intensity hues are used for accents.

Temperature - this refers to whether the color is "warm" or "cool". Colors like red, orange, and yellow are warm colors, like the colors of a fire. Colors like blue, green, and purple are considered "cool" colors, like the color of water. Neutral colors are combinations of warm and cool colors, such as grey or beige. The temperature of a color is good for setting the mood of a particular room or space.


So now that you know the basics of color, how do you choose what color combinations you like, and which aren't right for you? The best place to start is to look at examples of color combinations in actual rooms. Magazines about the home and decorating are great resources for doing this. You should only use this technique for inspiration, however, as trying to reproduce something exactly from a magazine often never captures the feeling you were looking for. Another resource you can use is a manufacturers paint color fan deck. This gives you a sample of hundreds of different colors. Be warned though that, due to printing limitations, the colors you see printed in magazines or a fan deck won't always be the exact color of the paint. This is where applying paint samples comes in. Once you have an idea of the colors you want to use, you should always get small samples of the paint before committing to buying all of it. Apply those samples to the room you plan to use them in, let them dry (the color is always different after it dries), and determine if you definitely like them for that room. Doing this can save you lots of time and money by ensuring that you have the exact colors you want to use before you make a large purchase or start the actual painting.

Choosing the Right Exterior Colors

If you live in a subdivision with a homeowner's association, the first thing you need to check are the covenants and restrictions placed upon you. Check to see if any apply to the colors you are allowed to use for the exterior of your house. You don't want to buy all that paint and spend the time and money to do the project only to find you don't comply with the neighborhood's rules.

Another thing to consider is how well a certain color can hold up when exposed to sunlight, and how many coats it will take to get the job done. The best colors for this are neutral colors like light to medium browns, or beige. They cover well, meaning they won't require many coats, and they resist UV rays better than average. The worst colors are pure colors such as yellows and reds. They will require many coats and they fade fast in the sunlight, especially reds.

Finally, if the house you're painting is an older, historic home, check with your local housing authorities for advice on historic colors you can use. You might even qualify for tax incentives to restore the home to its classic beauty.

Choosing the Right Interior Colors

When deciding on colors for your interior, you must take into account the overall style of each of the rooms. The style, flooring, furniture, and art all affects how certain colors will look in the room. If you are going to be changing any of these things in the near future, you should choose your colors taking into account these changes.

The color of a room also affects the perceived proportions of the room. For example, a light color on the ceiling will make the walls look taller. A light color on the walls can help a small room look bigger and spacier, while a darker color can help a larger room look smaller and cozier.

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