May 2009: How to Choose the Proper Paint Colour

by Aubrey Boothman of Aub Jobes

As a handyman, I'm asked to put on different hats; that of designer, consultant, accountant, contractor, Zen guru and even babysitter.

The one area I'm most often asked for advice is in regard to colour. Whether it's paint for a wall, or "Will these curtains match?", or "You don't think it's too dark?" Many people are quickly overwhelmed with the choices and how to make a decision.

Where do you begin?

Check your closet. What colours make skin, hair, or eyes the most attractive? Basic black doesn't count. How about favorite paintings?
How do these things make you react? Is there an emotional response or are they simply fascinating?
Understanding colour and why certain colour combinations work will get you closer to a successful palette you can use in your home.

Primary Colours - red, yellow, blue

Secondary Colours - mix equal amounts of two primary colours and you get green, orange and purple

Tertiary Colours - mix primary colours with secondary colours. These hues are less visually demanding and generally form the basis of many decorating palettes.

Complementary Colours - these colours fall opposite each other on the colour wheel. They contrast visually and work together well. Blue and orange, red and green, purple and yellow

Adjacent colours - these are next to each other on the colour wheel. They harmonize and flow into each nicely like a red fading into an orange then into a yellow.

Your local paint store can probably show you a colour wheel or googling is always an option. However to avoid overloading you with the technicalities regarding 'Newtonian colour refraction' etc., let's talk more about....

Basic Colour Rules

Here are some ideas on why certain colours are chosen based on the effect they have on our emotions and perception of space.
  • Warm colours (reds, yellows, oranges) appear cheerful and uplifting while cool hues (blues, greens, violets) are calming.

  • Any colour appears more intense next to white so even the softest tones can be pumped up.

  • If you are using complimentary colours use one more than the other allowing one to dominate and the other to play a supporting role.

  • Light/dark combinations intensify the effect of both. Light colours advance and dark colours recede allowing you visually manipulate spaces. Painting an uncomfortably high ceiling darker than the walls will visually lower it.

  • Always view colour samples in their intended setting. Northern exposures can benefit by using bolder, brighter colours. Direct sunlight tends to intensify colours and adds a subtle yellow wash; incandescent light emphasizes warm colours while fluorescent light shows off cool colours.

That's enough work for today kids. I hope I haven't confused you further and I hope your choices are bold and beautiful.

If you are really lost, feel free to contact me at any time.

Aubrey D. Boothman
AUB JOBS ...your painting and repair handyman