Color Palette Basics

To build a color palette for decorating a room, you need to know the basics of the color wheel.  The combination of different colors and their relationship within the color wheel are the tool that is used to create a color palette or color scheme – the terms tend to be used interchangeably in design..

To create different looks within a room, there are several types of color palettes that are used:


To calm a chaotic room and give it a soothing feel, pick a monochromatic palette.  These palettes use one color in several shades on the room surfaces.  They can also look quite stylish and are used for many contemporary interiors because of the clean, elegant look.

For instance, a blue monochromatic color theme would use a blue wall color, a lighter blue trim color and a dark navy blue accent color.  Think of a paint chip which has four colors.  Those are just different shades of the same color and could all be used in a monochromatic palette.  In fact, that’s probably the easiest way to choose colors for this palette.

Analogous (side-by-side)

Analogous palettes use two or three colors which are next to each other on the color wheel.  It’s an easy color scheme to use and create, and more rich than the monochromatic palette.  Two things to avoid with a side by side palette are using too many hues of a color and combining warm and cool colors.


Complementary colors are opposite each other on the color wheel. Red and green, yellow and violet, blue and orange are the most obvious pairs of complementary colors. These pairs always go well with each other when they're used correctly.   Human nature is key to understanding why opposites work well together in a room.  When the eyes find one color, it automatically looks for the color’s complement.

What you should not do when decorating with complementary colors, is pair them side by side or use them in equal amounts within the room.  One color should be subtle and the other color should be more dominant.  Your goal is to have each color bring out the best aspects of the other color.

Complementary colors offer contrast and tend to be more attention getting than monochromatic and analogous palettes.  It’s a little more difficult to balance,  but when you get it right, it really shows!

Split Complementary

If you’re daring and bold and looking to reflect it in your room, try a split complementary palette.  Choose your main color, find the complementary color opposite from it.  Now use the two on either side of the complementary color as well.  This palette is perfect to use when combining colors for laying a faux finish.

Choosing the type of palette is the first step to creating your actual color palette.  That’s when the real fun begins!