Adapted from information from the Paint Quality Institute
A pleasing paint job can transform an old house into a
masterpiece. On the other hand, most everyone knows of
a house painted in colors that make passers-by shake their heads and say, "what
were they thinking?"
Understanding color combinations will help
you choose a winning paint scheme, such as this combination of soft
yellow, green and red hues. PQI Photo
So how do you go about successfully creating a color
scheme for your house?
Understanding as much as possible about color theory and
vocabulary will help ensure that your paint scheme is something to be proud of. In a PQI study done some years ago, 62% of the homeowners surveyed said they typically do exterior painting for aesthetic reasons. So,
while exterior paint is an important means of protecting surfaces, its often color that drives the purchase.
So before you grab the scrapers and paint brushes, learn as much as possible
about color theory and color vocabulary. A good place to start is the color wheel.
The Basics of Color
Sir Isaac Newton developed the color wheel in the early 1700s and it has been used ever since as the foundation of color theory. The color wheel is comprised of the following:
Primary Colors There are three primary colors red, blue and yellow. These are spaced equidistant from one another on the color wheel and are the basis for all other colors in mixing paints.
These are made by mixing together equal parts of two primary colors. Mixing red and blue produces violet, mixing blue and yellow produces green, and mixing red and yellow produces orange. On the color wheel, secondary colors are situated equidistant between the two colors that comprise them.
Tertiary or Intermediate Colors
These colors are formed when a primary color is mixed with an adjacent secondary color. For example, mixing blue with green
produces the tertiary color, blue-green. These colors are located on the color wheel between the two colors from which they are made.
So, what about black and white?
Black and white, while usually referred to as colors, arent really colors at all. In the paint business, they are actually used to alter the nature of a color.
When you add white, you create a tint of the color; adding black or grey
produces a shade of the color. The tints and shades of a single color are regarded as different values of that color. The term hue is essentially a synonym for color.
It's one thing to understand the makeup of individual colors, but quite another to appreciate how (and why) different colors work together in a pleasing fashion.
For that, it helps to be familiar with four basic types of color schemes:
These are combinations based on colors found at certain relative positions on the color wheel that have proven to work well for many people.
Monochromatic color schemes
Monochromatic color schemesuse just one color; however, they often contain two or more values of that color light, medium and dark blue, for example.
This type of color scheme is usually (but not always) subtle and conservative; it can also be very sophisticated. A monochromatic approach is often a
good option for people who are just beginning to experiment with color, or for those who live in conservative neighborhoods where bold paint colors or color combinations would not be welcome.
The house below is a nice example of a monochromatic color scheme.
This Italianate style house looks dignified
with its monochromatic color scheme in shades of green.
Complementary color schemes
Complementary schemes employ colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel.
One example would be red and green in the simplified color wheel at the right.
As you might expect, complementary schemes tend to have a great deal of contrast. Consequently, these treatments can be very lively. To keep them from being too
lively, it is best if one color is dominant, with the other serving as an accent.
The house below is a good
example of a complementary color scheme.
A fine example of a complementary color
Triadic color schemes
Triadic color schemes involve three colors that are equidistant on the color wheel red-violet, yellow-orange and blue-green, for example.
The simplified color wheel at right offers examples.
These are typically highly complex color treatments that take an experienced eye to compose in an aesthetically pleasing palette.
The house below employs a vibrant and sophisticated triadic color scheme.
This beautiful commercial Victorian building
is painted in a triadic color scheme of deep red, yellow and blue-green.
Such highly complex color combinations require careful planning and a
sophisticated understanding of color theory. Photo: PQI
Adjacent color schemes
Adjacent color schemes
(also known as analogous or related schemes)
employ colors that are next to, or near, each other on the color wheel.
An example from the color wheel at right would be green, blue-green and blue.
Typically, one of the three colors would be dominant, probably on the siding, while the other two would be accent colors. Although visually complex, adjacent color schemes are typically not as difficult to create as triadic treatments, since there is inherent harmony in colors that are adjacent on the color wheel.
The house below uses shades of blue and purple for a lively color scheme.
Adjacent color scheme: the light purple is
the dominant color, used on siding; trim is light and dark blue with
complementary accent colors. Probably not the paint job you'd want to give a
house in a conservative neighborhood.