Using Color Theory to Create Color Schemes for Paint Palettes

color palette | Flowers Painting

With the spring and summer months upon us, many homeowners will begin to embark on various home improvement projects. Whether full renovations are in order, or you’re simply updating and redecorating, a fresh coat of paint is usually part of the equation. Paint is an affordable and easy way to upgrade and completely transform a space but deciding on the perfect paint color can be a daunting task.

Tools like a professional consultation, visualizer technology, design magazines, social media, and forums like Pinterest, can all be useful to collect ideas for inspiration, but when it comes to choosing the right paint for your project, understanding color theory can be an invaluable resource when making your ideas a reality. The Spruce’s article “Tips for Choosing Interior Paint Colors” mentions color theory as a useful tool when choosing a color scheme and eventually building a palette for your project. Understanding the relationship between colors can help you to choose shades that complement each other and fit with your overall design vision and decor elements.

Understanding Color Theory

With endless colors, shades, and paint products available, creating a color scheme for a given project can be an uphill task. Where do you start? Understanding the basics of color theory can help you create color schemes with a few basic, simple color concepts. To truly understand how to use color, it is important to understand individual colors to create harmonious color schemes and dreamy palettes.

Color theory is more than the color wheel, while a color wheel is a useful tool to take a deeper dive into understanding the relationships between individual colors, there are many other aspects to consider when truly understanding how to work with color.

Color Temperature

Color temperature refers to how “warm” or “cool” a color is. At the very basic explanation, blues, greens, purples, and greens are “cool” colors while yellows, reds, oranges, pinks are your “warm” colors. Most people view color temperature in absolutes, and while there are definite points that determine the warmness or coolness as a color, some, like violet and yellow green are almost undefinable, or universal, meaning they can be used as both warm and cool tones. Understanding relative color temperature can be helpful when choosing a paint color to find the exact shade you have in mind more quickly.


One of the most effective techniques to choosing the perfect shade of paint, especially as it relates to neutrals, is understanding color undertones. All colors have a mass tone, the color you directly see, and many colors may also have an undertone. Identifying the undertones in a color scheme or palette is essential to creating harmonious color combinations—and here’s why: If you seem to have created a color scheme that should work, but doesn’t, the undertones of the selected colors are likely fighting each other instead of working together. Start by comparing like colors side-by-side so you can examine the differences in undertone.

Color Harmony

To create harmonious color combinations, start with the basics, the twelve hues of the color wheel are divided into primary, secondary, and tertiary colors. The three primary colors, red, blue, and yellow in theory can be mixed together to create all other colors. By mixing two adjacent primary colors, the three secondary colors, green, violet, and orange are created. Tertiary colors are hues created by mixing a primary with an adjacent secondary color. Six tertiary colors are yellow-green, blue-green, blue-violet, red-violet, red-orange, and yellow orange.

Color Schemes for Paint vs. Color Palettes

Often used interchangeably, color schemes and color palettes are different.

Color Schemes refers to the framework of how colors are selected and paired together. A color scheme is based on color theory. There are different types of color schemes. To easily start creating color schemes you need a basic, inexpensive color wheel to show how colors relate to one another. The placement of colors around the wheel is not random, but rather the spectral order (rainbow), forms a complete circle. Each color’s placement is designed to help identify harmonious combinations, whether used in mixing paint, or building schemes, a color wheel can be a useful tool to the basics of understanding how to work with color in an effective way.

A color palette is more specific and refers to the actual colors chosen based on a decided upon color scheme. A palette is specific shades or even the exact paint colors being used in the scope of a specific project.

Types of Color Schemes that Create Color Harmony

  • Monochromatic is made from a single-color family. In most palettes and designs, monochromatic schemes are made up of tints, shades, and tones from the same color family combined with white, black, and gray.
  • Complementary or two-color harmony is created by pairing two colors positioned directly across from one another on the color wheel. A complementary scheme has the highest degree of color contrast.
  • Analogous two or more colors that are positioned side-by-side on the color wheel.To create this scheme, choose a main color on the wheel and then choose two to three tones directly to the left or right of the main color.
  • Triad is a combination of three hues that are equally spaced from one another along the color wheel. For example, red, yellow, blue or green, purple, orange color families.
  • Tetradic two sets of complementary colors. Using four colors can be a challenge but can also create a rich color scheme by using a dominant color and three accent colors to create a balance of cool and warm colors.

Using Color Theory to Choose Paint Colors

Using the basic understanding of color theory and how colors relate to one another gives you a leg up on choosing the perfectly balanced color palette when giving your space a makeover. These techniques are useful for creating a cohesive interior design plan, and helps put together all aspects from the main wall color, accent walls, cabinetry colors, and decor theme. Use color theory to choose an exterior paint and trim combination with high curb appeal.


About Flowers Painting

Flowers Painting is a full-service interior painting company that services the entire Charlotte metro area including Mooresville, Huntersville, Davidson, Concord, Rock Hill, and more. We recently added our second location in Winston-Salem, NC, and service the entire Winston-Salem area, including Kernersville, High Point, Clemmons, Rural Hall, Tabaccoville and more. Flowers Painting provides full painting services including color consulting, interior painting, faux finishing, textured walls, cabinet refinishing, interior stairs, handrails, and more. To see pictures of our finished work be sure to visit our website gallery.