Changing the colour of a room can have a hugely positive effect on how the space looks and feels, but choosing the right paint can be a terrifying task. It may be a mistake that's easily remedied but many of us still struggle and often end up going with the safest option. We've put together our handy guide to help you be bold and brave when it comes to colour in your home. From the latest trends, to how to visualise paint in a room to the tools needed for DIY, we give you the 101 on using paint in your home.
Choosing a paint colour
Paint colours, like anything, tend to follow trends. Remember the avocado-coloured bathrooms of the 80s and the mustard and orange hues of the 70s? Although it can be fun to brush on the latest trendy deep blue or mustard don't be swayed by a desire to be fashionable - instead go with your gut and choose shades which will make you feel at home. Joa Studholme of Farrow & Ball explains, "Choose colours you like. It may sound obvious, but we see so many clients who feel constricted by the need to be tasteful. Don't feel that because you have a Georgian house you have to use Georgian colours."
- Don't ignore your floor colour: it's the second largest surface to the walls and will have a colour of its own. Even wooden floors have a shade, whether honey hued, cherry or limed, and this will effect how paint will look.
- Let your art lead you: gather your artwork together and look for a colour that stands out; this can be a fantastic way of choosing an accent paint.
- Consider the size and shape of your room and how much light it gets during the day. Deeper colours tend to suit cosier rooms such as the study and living room, or bigger rooms with lots of light, but strong colours can be used in smaller amounts to bring depth and a focal point to any room. Unless you are looking to achieve a very clinical look, keep 'brilliant white' for the bathroom and always use a softer white for ceilings and woodwork through the rest of the house.
- It's a myth that spaces will appear larger painted white - if you have a tiny room be bold with your colour choice.
- Certain colours - most commonly those found in nature - are calming, which is why you often see neutral tones, pale blues and greens in bedrooms and bathrooms.
So you've found a colour you like and you think it will work with the room, but what about matching other colours to it? Whether you're looking to create a feature wall or painted accents, or want to add colour with furniture, accessories and textiles the colours need to sit well together. So...
- Work within a spectrum of tonesPaint specalists spend days of their lives carefully organising the colours on paint charts for ease of use. Tones and shades arranged in the same vertical lines will always complement each other.
- Create a moodboard on PinterestFind rooms that have used a combination of shades you like, or mix and match colours, whether it be paint, curtains, cushions; you'll soon get a sense of what you like.
- Consider the proportionsConsider which colours you are using together, but also how much of each. This is usually driven by the architecture and proportions of a room. Using two colours in equal measure can be surprisingly effective, but normally you will achieve a sense of balance by using more of one colour and less of another; a grey hue with an accent of yellow, for example.
Yes you can repaint if you decide you got it all wrong, but that takes time, energy and expense so try not to rush into anything. Pick up paint samples and start testing colours. Ensure you paint a large enough area to really get a sense of how the colour will work in the room; we suggest painting an A4 piece of card or a cereal box. Watch your swatch at different times of the day. How it looks in the morning will be very different from the evening depending on the direction of the light. Also, consider how will it look under artificial lighting.
How a paint appears on the wall will vary depending on the brand, but paint finishes can roughly be categorised into:
- Matte: Generally considered the standard for interior walls, this is the least reflective sheen and has a velvety texture. It offers the greatest depth of colour and is good for hiding imperfections on walls.
- Eggshell: Some reflectivity and reasonably durable, this paint is most commonly used in kitchens or bathrooms by those looking for a durable, easy to clean paint without the gloss finish.
- Satin paint: Like eggshell but slightly glossier.
- Semi-gloss and gloss paint: The most reflective finish and the most durable, easy to clean paint, it's traditionally used on baseboards, mouldings and doors, or occasionally in bathrooms. Trends have seen gloss paint used more frequently on wooden floors or to create a feature; but be wary of highlighting imperfections when using it this way.
Eco PaintEnvironmental issues are being more highly considered in the paint industry and many new paint formulations now contain low VOCs (volatile organic compounds) which were considered to have adverse health effects and cause problems when waste paint was disposed. However there are also now a fantastic range of eco paints, which are by no means less effective in finish or colour saturation An architectural historian by trade, for the past 10 years has developed a range of paints, working with specialist paint manufacturers to develop beautiful coloured paints which are both safer and healthier by returning to non toxic paint formulations. These are ideal for historic buildings as the colours are achieved using natural pigments and casein glue allows surfaces to breathe and therefore naturally regulate.
Choosing a painter & decorator
Award-winning decorator, Wayne de Wet gives us his top tips:
- Use a painter and decorator that belongs to a trade body like the , the UK's largest list of professional decorators.
- Try , a great website that tells you what a painter & decorator has recently been working on.
- Log on to and click on the decorator tab. Dulux provides a list of their approved and guaranteed decorators.
Or, if you're doing it yourself...
- Always make a plan, a list of what's needed and most importantly give yourself plenty of time.
- Preparation, preparation, preparation! And don't rush.
- As a rule of thumb, begin at the top and work down, so start with ceilings, coving walls and then wood work. If hanging wallpaper, finish all the paint work first.
- Make sure you do at least two coats, three if you are choosing a dark colour.
- When picking from a colour card, cut out the squares you like and place them on white paper. This will give you an idea of what the colour really looks like, without it being affected by the ones next to it.
Tools required: 1. Scraper 2. Filling knife 3. Sandpaper 4. Roller pole 5. Roller 6. Scuttle 7. Paint kettle 8. Stirring stick 9. Quality brushes