Take the guesswork out of finding color combinations.

How to Pick Color Combinations for Walls

by Kristine Lofgren

Choosing color combinations for your walls doesn't have to be a daunting task. Simply look around you, and you will find that the world is filled with ready-made color inspiration. From nature to family vacation snapshots, pleasing color combinations are waiting to be discovered. Whether you are creating a mommy-time oasis or a kid-pleasing playroom, choosing the right colors will give your space the look you want.

In-Room Inspiration

Designers have a secret for choosing the perfect color combinations; rather than starting from scratch, they simply pull colors from an existing item in the room, such as a rug, painting or a throw pillow. Since you are using an item already in the room, it will have the right tone for the space. For instance, the pillow from a girl's comforter set already has all the right colors, so choose a color or two -- or three -- from the pillow's fabric and use it on the walls. If the color is too dark or light, use that same color in a lighter or darker shade.

Color Wheel

The color wheel is a perennially useful guide when selecting color for your home. Use the green through red side of the wheel in a playroom or child's room, and reserve the purple and blue side for a more sophisticated adult space. Look at a color wheel that has at least 24 colors and select one color that inspires you; then, pick the two colors on either side of that color or the two colors that are an equal third of the wheel away. Alternatively, pick the color directly across from your chosen color. After you've chosen two or three colors, select paint in any hue of your chosen colors; for example, if you picked lemon yellow, yellow and yellow-green, consider pale lemon yellow, bright yellow and dark yellow-green.

Photo Inspiration

Use beautiful images from magazines and webpages or even photos you have taken for inspiration when choosing wall color. For instance, that picture of your kids playing in the sand at a recent seaside adventure may hold the perfect color combination for your home. The color of the waves, the sand and the sky act as a ready-made inspiration. Take your image to a paint store so that you can compare paint chips to the colors in your image for accuracy. Pick a neutral or two from the image you choose to keep the room from becoming too colorful.


Choose colors from nature to create a calming getaway from the hustle of modern life. In a typical nature scene viewed from a distance, most of the colors are neutrals, in a variety of browns, grays and beiges. Use these hues to create calm when you need a little relaxation away from the kids. A blue and white sky and green, yellow and brown foliage are inspiration for adding color without too much energy to a room. Select any mixture of these colors, but keep them subtle and soft. Just as in nature, a few choice pops of color appear on an accent wall or a colorful door in a bright floral color.


About the Author

Kristine Lofgren specializes in interior design, Web design, photography and gardening. She owns an interior design business in Salt Lake City. A graduate of Salt Lake Community College's interior design program, Lofgren is pursuing a Master of Arts in journalism from the University of Utah.

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images