Video: how to choose a colour scheme

A colour scheme is the best way of stamping your personality on a space. Your scheme can be bold, sophisticated, calm and relaxing, vibrant, anything you want. But choosing colours that will all work together needs careful thought. In this video, interior designer Gordon Whistance shares his advice on choosing the right complementary colours for your home.

Video: how to choose a colour scheme

An example of a tonal scheme by Dulux

All colours are influenced by light
Your scheme will be affected by the light in the room - the way it falls onto them and the way it reflects off them. So, the first thing you will need to do is work out the orientation of your room (which direction it faces).

North-facing rooms are invariably cold and gloomy so will need colours that inject light and warmth. Try a sunny yellow or rich terracotta. If you prefer neutrals, opt for whites with a creamy base and avoid any with grey undertones. Sunny, south-facing rooms offer much more flexibility. As these rooms get a lot of natural sunlight, you can afford to use cool shades like blue or violet as well as warmer ones.

Use the colour wheel
This can be a helpful reference tool. Much loved by interior designers, the wheel explains the relationship that exists between different colours and can help you make decisions about your scheme. You can view the colour wheel at Johnstones and experiment with colour online before even picking up a paintbrush.

Choose a tonal scheme
As the name suggests, a tonal scheme uses several tones of one colour. This is a safe and easy way to decorate a room especially if you’re nervous about mixing colours. You could use one shade on walls and others on skirting, furniture, windows or accessories. Tonal schemes work particularly well in softer, relaxing hues such as browns and creams. To avoid a bland overall effect, texture and pattern are key. Try an opulent velvet throw, an embroidered cushion, pretty floral blinds.

Another failsafe option is to create a harmonious scheme. This is similar to a tonal scheme but looks richer as you’ll be using two colours instead of one. Harmonious shades sit adjacent or close to each other on the colour wheel such as purple and pink, or green and yellow.

Contrasting colours
If you want your decor to make more of a statement, choose two contrasting colours. These are located opposite each other on the wheel. You could team zesty orange with cool blue, or soft lilac with apple green. For other colour ideas, view the latest trends at Dulux. Contrasting colour schemes use a predominance of one colour with a smaller amount of the second shade. Use the main colour on walls then introduce the second on a feature wall or with accessories. Balance the scheme by bringing in a couple of neutral shades like cream or white.

It’s no surprise that neutral schemes are so popular. These shades are one of the easiest groups of colours to work with. Black, grey, white, brown and beige don't actually appear on the colour wheel, but they all work well together and can be easily mixed and matched.

What are hues, tints, shades and tones?
Every individual colour on the wheel can be altered in three ways by tinting, shading or toning.

These are the purest and brightest solid colours. They form the full spectrum of colours which progress around the colour wheel in gradual increments. Try them in a kid's playroom or home office.

More commonly known as pastels, tints are simply any colour with white added. A colour scheme using tints is soft, youthful and soothing. These would work well in a girlie bedroom or maybe a bathroom. Used alone, pastels can be a bit insipid so liven them up with black or silver.

A shade is simply any colour with black added. Shades are deep and powerful. As they have a masculine feel, use them as dark accents, not for all over colour.

A tone is created by adding grey to a colour. Tones are complex, subtle and sophisticated and work well in almost any room.

Get back to nature
If the colour wheel sounds too complex, take your inspiration from nature. Go for a walk in the countryside or on the beach and look around you. Notice what colours naturally go together. The blue and yellow of an iris, the earthy bark and foliage of a tree, the slate and ochre of the seashore.