I'm spending Labor Day weekend painting in my new house. Until then, I'll be busy trying to find the answer to a question I'm sure many of you have grappled with too: What color do I paint my walls? It's a bit overwhelming, in part because the first step toward determining what color to paint the walls is figuring out a color scheme for the room. This involves considering how the possible hues might work with the lighting, flooring, and decor that is or will be in your room. What's an intrepid homeowner to do when it's time to create a color scheme? To get the process started, I'm relying on some color basics. Let's start with the color wheel. Light reflected through a prism creates a rainbow of color known as the color spectrum. Visible light is comprised of seven wavelength groups-red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. Red has the longest wavelength and violet the shortest. This progression of color from largest to shortest wavelength is often presented in a color wheel.
The color wheel includes 12 colors: three primary colors (red, blue, and yellow), plus three secondary and six tertiary colors. Secondary colors are made by mixing together primary hues (for instance, green is a secondary color created by combining red and yellow). If you mix a primary color with a secondary color, you have a tertiary color (such as yellow-green, which is created by mixing green and yellow). The purity or saturation of a color is called intensity. The primary, secondary, and tertiary hues on a standard color wheel show colors at their full intensity. There are a couple of ways to change the intensity of a color. Adding white to a color lightens its intensity, creating a tint. Darkening a color with black creates a shade. And adding gray to a certain hue makes a tone. These techniques also affect the value (lightness or darkness) of a color-tinting leads to a value that's lighter, while shading produces a darker value. The color wheel provides a great starting point for creating color combinations to use in your home. All you have to do is pick a color and build possible schemes around it. Monochromatic color schemes use one color in a variety of intensities. The key to making a monochromatic color scheme work is to use several tints or shades of a color (but watch out for too many contrasting values!).
Complementary colors are located on opposite sides of the wheel. (Red and green are complementary colors commonly used at Christmas, but diluted versions of the hues also work great for decorating anytime.) Split complementary schemes feature three colors-one primary or intermediate color and the two colors on either side of its opposite. Try using a single warm color (such as orange) against cool colors (like blues and blue-violets) for a split-complementary scheme. Triadic schemes involve three hues that are equidistant on the color wheel, such as red, yellow, and blue. Analogous color schemes are created using colors next to one another on the color wheel; for instance, blue looks nice with blue-violet and blue-green, which are located on either side of it. OK. So now you know a bit about how color works and how to build a color scheme. But that still doesn't help you figure out what colors to use, does it? Here are some pointers for selecting a color to jumpstart your scheme: Pick colors that appeal to you. What hues are you drawn to? Look at the clothes in your closet or the colors you gravitate toward when shopping or looking at magazines. Just because blue is your favorite color doesn't mean you should paint your entire home blue, of course, but at least this gives you a starting point. Look for inspiration Do you spend a lot of time outside? Look to nature for color ideas. Do you have a favorite painting you want to display in your home? Perhaps you can pull the colors for your scheme from that piece of art.
Everything from fabric patterns to a bowl of fruit on your kitchen table can create color inspiration. Consider mood Different colors evoke different responses in people. For instance, warm colors like yellow, red, and orange are energizing and can help wake up a room (which makes them ideal for offices or kitchens). Passive or cool hues such as soft blues, greens, and purples work well in bedrooms because they're calming. And neutral colors (browns, beiges, grays, taupes, whites, and blacks) are, as their names suggest, somewhere in the middle, which is why they're so useful for bringing rooms together, toning down other colors, or creating a natural color palette. Remember intensity? That affects mood too-high-intensity colors are bright and brilliant, while low-intensity colors are quiet and subdued. Get help. There are plenty of resources available to help you select the right hues. Take a color quiz [http://www.waverly.com/decorate/colorquiz.asp] to figure out your preferences. (It turns out I like warm colors, which may explain why I'm leaning toward sunny yellow for my office and a rich red hue for a bedroom accent wall.) Or check out paint manufacturer websites such as Behr and Sherwin-Williams, which provide all sorts of ideas and inspiration. If you're having trouble envisioning how the colors you select will look in your rooms, try Color-A-Room, which allows you to test out different hues on the walls and furnishings in a variety of different settings. Want to know which colors I ultimately select for my rooms? Stay tuned!