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THE COLOUR HANDBOOK A Guide to Selecting Colour

Get inspired – and seal in certainty – with these essential paint colour pointers.

Colour really does make the room. The perfect shade and finish can enlarge a small space, bring in more light, or deliver that kick of energy you need with your morning coffee. But finding the right one? Now that’s another story.
The colour wheel is a dynamic tool for exploration, from the warm reds, yellows and oranges on one side to the cool lavenders, blues and greens on the other.

Demystify the Colour Wheel

To get started, take a look at a colour wheel: Warm reds, yellows, and oranges congregate on one side, while cool lavenders, blues and greens are on the other. Creating a palette within one half of the wheel tends to be more harmonious. But pairing two colours that stand opposite one another adds a dash of invigorating tension. Which do you prefer?

Handy colour wheel terms:
  • A monochromatic colour scheme uses tints and shades of the same colour.
  • An analogous colour scheme uses adjacent colours on the colour wheel.
  • Complementary colour schemes (as in "opposites attract") include two colours that are opposite to each other on the colour wheel.
In this serene kitchen painted in soft greens and off-whites, a white, marble-topped island sits underneath two pendant lights.

Divide and Conquer

Pales, neutrals, whites and deeps: These are the four simple categories the Benjamin Moore Colour and Design Team suggest using to make choosing colours more manageable.

Delve deeper into the emotional impact of each of these colour categories in The Psychology of Colour, and while you’re there, click on a range of colours in the interactive tool to see how colours influence a room’s mood.
An open wood door lets light in to a hallway featuring an antique accent chair set against earthy green-toned wainscotting.

Accent on Trim

Glossy white trim is a classic, but why not think beyond white or cream? A coloured trim against a neutral wall will showcase a room’s unique architecture. Or consider an ombre effect by painting walls different shades of one colour, with darker hues closer to the bottom.
A luxurious dining room in dark blue walls features a glossy dining room table set with lit candlesticks and upholstered chairs with orange fabric accents.

Details. Details. Details.

Choosing the right sheen can enhance colour. Painting the walls in a gloss will add dimension and levity. Semi-gloss on a low ceiling will move light around the space and create the illusion of height. From a practical standpoint, remember that shinier finishes look best on smooth, well-prepped (e.g. spackled, sanded, etc.) surfaces, while matte or flat paints are more forgiving of imperfections.
Three versions of the same pale pink dormer show the effect of different lighting conditions on paint, including bright midday sun, overcast daylight and artificial light.

The Theatre of Light

Light in a room changes many times throughout the day. From the natural light of early dawn to the artificial light of nightfall, the interplay of light and colour is a crucial component when it comes to choosing your perfect paint colours.

As seen here, bright midday sun will wash out most pale hues (top); that same hue will be flattered by softer, indirect illumination (lower left), while artificial light will add a warm glow to the wall colour (lower right).
Greyed-down pales play beautifully in this living room which features an elegant glass desk, upholstered wing chair and velvet grey sofa tucked into a cozy alcove.

Test. Observe. Repeat.

Experimenting and observation is key.

To make sure you choose your colour with confidence, tap into pint-size colour samples. With these handy samples, you can paint a board – foam core will do nicely – and move it around to different parts of a room. Monitor how the paint colour changes at different times of the day so there are no surprises once you’ve applied your paint colour choice.
The cover of The Colour Handbook, A Guide to Selecting Colour, features a range of paint colours pinned together, creating a mosaic like effect; The Colour Handbook is available at over 5,000 independent Benjamin Moore retailers nationwide.

The Colour Handbook: A Guide to Selecting Colour

Visit one of the 5,000 locally owned and operated Benjamin Moore stores, and pick up your own copy of The Colour Handbook: A Guide to Selecting Colour for more inspiration.