Painting Primers: Color Basics - What's Your Flavor?

Painting is by far one of the most effective ways to change the feeling of a room and there are many ways to get it done. The first step in the process is probably the hardest of the entire project; choosing the color.

There’s a lot to be said for choosing the perfect color when it comes to painting a room. But, who’s to say what the perfect color is when there are so many choices and styles to choose from? Lately there have been a lot of efforts from paint companies to make that choice easier to tackle, while still giving you as many choices as possible. Sherwin Williams for example has recently partnered with the designers of the HGTV™ channel to produce designer collections which takes a lot of the guess work out of matching and selecting accent colors and “unifying your palette.”

The Right Question

As you begin to consider what color you would like to select, don’t just ask yourself: “What color do I want?” It’s really easy to make the mistake of only deciding you want to paint a room red. There are a lot of reds. The better question might be: “What flavor do I want?” because red comes in a lot of flavors. Do you want red like an apple? Or the classic Marlboro Red they used on the latest run of Camaros? Maybe a barn red or the red of a budding rose. What flavor do you want?

Palettes: Personal or Pre-selected?

Very popular today is the selection of a palette of coordinating colors instead of a single color for a room. To select a palette, there are a couple options. The least stressful option would be to select a readymade palette from design companies like HGTV™, where there are 20 colors which all coordinate well. Sherwin Williams carries eight palettes from HGTV™, and recently also produced a few palette selections for kids from Fischer Price™. These selections not only make it easy to pick accent colors for walls but also help theme curtains, furniture, and other decorations.

Option number two is to select colors the old fashioned way; one by one. Lots of people still prefer the individual swatches over the designer selections because they’re easier to personalize. With the swatches there are a couple rules of thumb to keep in mind though.Skip 2

  1. Picking an accent from the same strip: There are usually six swatches on each strip. To choose an accent color it’s always a good idea to “skip 2” or to choose a color at least two swatches away. For example, if you choose the first color on Sherwin Williams’ strip number 76, the color is SW6525 Rarified Air, skipping 2 colors would give you SW6528 Cosmos etc.
  2. Picking an accent from other strips: There isn’t a hard and fast rule to choosing other strips for accents, but it is usually a good idea to still skip 2 down or up on the swatch so the shades aren’t too close together.


Chair Rails

Never underestimate the power of using minor details to change the feeling of a room. By far the easiest of these choices is to install a chair rail. Chair rails are always a cool idea in larger rooms because they give a sense of depth to a room and also can have the effect of making the room seem taller.

It isn’t necessary to paint different colors on both sides of the rail, using the same color can have a very Victorian feel and it also helps to break up an over-large wall without hanging pictures or art. There are perks to using different colors though. If the color used below the rail is darker than the color above it, the wall will feel much more tall and open. The top color also matters. Putting a darker or brighter (not lighter) color on the top will make the room feel less tall and less open.

Chair rails can be used in many ways to create different atmospheres. It's popular in offices or executive suites to use a dark brown or leather tone below a rail and contrast it with a deep blue or burgundy above. In living rooms or dens a turn of the century style can be found using a wood tone or wainscoating below a rail set higher than usual (between shoulder and eye level) with pastel or cream tones above. 


Color can be a very powerful tool to transform a home and set an atmosphere. Using your personal sense of style and an adventuresome attitude, the sky is the limit of what you can accomplish. Over the next posts, we’ll bring you more tips about approaching painting projects, but for now just ask yourself: “what’s my flavor?”


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