Crafting the Perfect Color Scheme

Crafting the Perfect Color Scheme

Most people think creating a color scheme for a room is difficult, but we think that’s a myth.

There are four categories that any good color scheme falls into. Once you understand these fail-safe types of palettes, the rest simply comes down to your personal preference.

Let’s walk through the four types of color schemes, and then we’ll do an exercise to help you make your own.

1. Completely neutral

Whites  Great in a big, bright, modern room.

Bright white big airy modern room white neutral color scheme Bright white modern living room neutral white color scheme

Grays  Soft and refreshing, works best in a neutral part of your house, like an entryway or hallway.

Gray hallway neutral color scheme Gray hallway neutral color scheme

Tans (beige, cream, brown)  Warm and inviting, great in nearly any room

Cozy living room neutral tan color scheme Cozy bedroom neutral tan color scheme

2. Mostly neutral, with an accent color

Bright accent  Good option if you want color but not overwhelming color

Room neutral color scheme bright teal aqua accent colors accessories Small apartment living room neutral color scheme bright pink accent color

Subtle accent  Similar, but less bold

Kitchen neutral color scheme subtle accent color gold lighting modern Modern kitchen neutral color scheme purple accent color modern lighting

3. Mostly neutral, with several colors

Complementary  Can work in any room. A good rule of thumb is limiting it to 3 colors and making the walls one color, the upholstery a second color, and accessories a third

Colorful living room white walls colorful pillows curtains modern Bedroom complementary purple yellow gold color scheme Reymour Flanigan

Warm  Cozy with a bit of boldness, ideal in living rooms and common areas

Dark red dining room formal warm color scheme Sunny cheerful yellow living room bright color scheme

Cool  Calming and peaceful, best for a bedroom or bathroom

Green blue bathroom peaceful calm color scheme warm colors Green blue bedroom peaceful calm color scheme warm colors

4.  One color, all out

Monochromatic (different shades/brightnesses of the one color)  Perfect in a bathroom, closet, or other small space like a breakfast nook

Purple desk office monochromatic color scheme Breakfast nook dark royal purple color scheme bright accent color

All the same brightness  Fun in a child’s bedroom, or any room you’re feeling bold about

Yellow kitchen modern monochromatic color scheme Pink kids child's room monochromatic color schem

We just presented you with a lot of options. So now how do you go about picking one for your home? We said that once you understand the options, it’s all about personal preference: now all you have to do is pick a single color you like and run with it. Pick a color, right now, for this exercise.

Your home is all about YOU, so make sure it’s a color you love. And no, white, black, brown, and gray are not colors! Choose something from the rainbow or get a little more creative with maroon, turquoise, or lavender. You won’t have to use your color extensively if you don’t want to, but every room needs at least an undertone.

We’re going to go through this exercise with the color orange, because it’s one of the trickiest colors to decorate with. Once you understand the process with orange, it should be easy with any other color!

1. Completely neutral: Integrate just a hint of orange by using tan fabrics and warm lighting

Mediterranean living room neutral colors tan orange

Here’s your first option, and it’s what you should do if you wanted to choose white or tan as your color. Instead of actually making your walls, furniture, or accessories orange, simply make tan your primary color and use warm (yellow) lighting. This will give your room an orange undertone without actually making it an orange room.

Follow this approach if your color is red, orange, or yellow. If you chose green, blue, or purple, then use white lighting and a cold shade of gray that’s slightly tinted blue or green.

2. Mostly neutral, with orange as the accent color

Living room neutral color scheme orange accent color

The second option is to paint your walls a neutral color but add orange furniture or accessories. Most rooms are already neutral, so this is the easiest way to integrate your favorite color, and eliminates all worries about matching with another color.

The oranges in this photo all match very well, but don’t hesitate to use several shades of orange in different parts of the room. Sometimes it even looks better if all the colors are not identical.

3. Mostly neutral, with orange and blue as complementary accent colors

Living room neutral color scheme orange blue complementary accent colors

So you can’t pick one color or don’t want a single-tone room… Here’s what you do instead! Use the color wheel to find your complementary color — the directly across from your color on the wheel. For orange, the complementary color is blue. You could of course pick a non-complementary color to go along with your main color, but complementary colors are guaranteed to look great together.

Color wheel complementary colors for color scheme

You could also get fancy here and pick three colors, all equally far away from each other on the color wheel.

Adobe has a great tool to find colors that go together. We recommend using the complementary or triad setting (for two colors or three) to find color schemes for your room.

4. All-out orange: Orange walls, vases, lamps, pillows, and books

Living room bright orange walls

The fourth option is to go crazy with the color you chose. This room has orange everything: orange walls, orange accessories, and tan/brown furniture. If you like bold design, give this technique a chance. You could always post a photo on Decorator and preview how a bright color will look in your room before you paint!


After reading through this example, you should have a pretty good idea of how much you want to integrate your color palette into your room. Once you have a color in mind, simply base your design off one of the four types of color schemes we demonstrated.

We want to leave you with some tips from HGTV for picking the perfect color scheme — it’s the most useful and relevant article we’ve found about this topic.