The benefits of using a colour chart when decorating

6th March 2020


The benefits of using a colour chart during any decorating or refurbishment are multiple. It is an essential step in the process but it should never be the first or last thing that you do.

Using a chart for your colour scheme should also be a relaxed process, if it isn’t, you’ve probably opened it too soon! Many people make the mistake of deciding to re-decorate, then rushing out to get handfuls of colour charts only to find they become totally overwhelmed by the choices on offer.

If you decide to go on a family holiday, you wouldn’t dash out and buy an atlas as your first step. You would begin by narrowing down the options until the choices become manageable. For example, what time of year would you like to go, summer or winter? Would you like it to be an active holiday, educational or simply relaxing? Then, once you’ve established what you are after;  a summer holiday perhaps, with some activities for the children, a beach nearby, flight of two hours or less, with a certain budget to work to, you’re well on your way to choosing your destination. A lot of this process you do without even realising it. So why when it comes to decorating do so many people pick up a colour chart and then stare at it for hours hoping for inspiration to jump out?

Whether you consider yourself creative or not, if you’ve decided to decorate your house without the help of an interior designer, you are committing to a degree of creativity. Just as a novelist doesn’t start writing a novel by flicking through a dictionary for ideas, or a songwriter study chord charts for song ideas, nor should you hope to be inspired by a colour chart for decorating inspiration. Words, chords and colour charts are tools used to achieve an end result, not muses used to create a vision.

The truth is that the answer to your colour dilemmas and quandaries is probably closer than you think – you’re just so worried about making a mistake that you can’t see it. So here is a suggestion how to use a colour chart to find your perfect colour scheme: don’t start with the colour chart 😉

Instead, start with the room or space that you’d like to decorate. Look at it. Look at the things in it and work out what you like and what you don’t like. Furniture, fabrics, art, ornaments. Anything that you are fond of and that you think works well in the room.

If there is nothing and the whole room leaves you totally cold, find something. Go out looking for fabric, furniture, art, browse antique shops, find something that you think will bring the room to life and create the mood you want to have. Once you find it you’re out of the starting blocks and you can start to unlock the answers. Given its function, let’s call this item your “colour trigger”.

Say you’ve chosen a curtain fabric. This will have from one to several colours in it. However many it has, the chances are extremely high that these colours work well together. After all, that’s the fabric designer’s job to make sure that they do! So there you have your family of colour to work with. The same principle will apply with a piece of art, a vase, a tile, whatever you’ve chosen as your “colour trigger”. You like it because it has a combination of colours that you find pleasing and feel suit that room.

If there are several colours, look at them closely and think about which one you would like to make more of a feature of (obviously if the item only has one colour this becomes a much easier decision!). In most patterns, you will find you have a background colour with other accent colours. If we continue with the curtain fabric scenario, let’s assume we have a neutral-coloured background with a green and pink pattern on it. If you are feeling bold about your colour choice then maybe consider finding a colour that replicates the green or the pink; if you want to be more subtle then maybe focus your attention more on the background colour. There are no set rules about the boldness of the colour(s) you choose, it’s more a question of keeping within the colour families.

By now you should be getting an idea of the sort of colour you’re looking for. This is the time to start using the colour chart for your scheme so open it up and see which colours complement the ones in your trigger item.

At Paint the Town Green we have tried to make this next step of the process as easy as possible for you by keeping our colour selection as small and concise as we can. Decades of experience have gone into honing colours that represent each “colour family” well without providing copious amounts of superfluous, overwhelming choice. If we ran a restaurant we would offer five starters, five main courses and three puddings. Everything we served would be organic, freshly prepared, of the highest standard and utterly delicious! You would then quickly identify the options that were to your taste such as meat/ fish/ vegetarian/ vegan. Easy choices made simple.

Whichever paint chart you are working with you should find that you are able to dismiss a good 70% to 80% of the colours immediately as they do not fit with your vision or the colour family you have chosen. If not, have another look at your colour trigger. Let’s come back to our hypothetical curtain fabric. We’ve got greens and pinks to work with as well as a neutral looking background. If you have decided you want a subtle neutral colour on the walls, we need to make sure that it ties in with what’s on the fabric.

Most neutral colours, such as greys, are very subtly infused with a stronger colour. Looking at our Paint the Town Green greys, Days has a hint of blue in it, whilst Grey Seal has some pink. Some greys can contain a subtle nod towards purple such as our Titanium, others create a softer feel by bridging the gap between grey and beige, such as Pictures of You or Moonlight Shadow.

Paint The Town Green        Paint The Town Green        Paint The Town Green        Paint The Town Green       Paint The Town Green

Use your colour chart to narrow down a short list of possible contenders but try not to make a final decision at this stage. Colour charts are great for narrowing the field but a combination of the size of the swatches (they tend to be very small) the influence other colours have on your perception (unless you cut up your colour chart into tiny pieces you will almost always be looking at several colours at the same time) and the fact that you may not be looking at the actual colour; (Paint the Town Green use actual paint for their swatches but others use printed simulations of the colours) it can be risky making your final choice at this stage.

Once you have your short list of 3 or 4 colours, get some sample pots for the final elimination stage. This is time and money well spent (particularly if you can get a deal. At PTTG we offer a 3 for £10 deal on all tester pots!) as making a wrong choice at this point can have expensive consequences both in terms of paint purchased and labour/ time spent applying it.

Paint your samples on a piece of paper – at least A4 size, bigger if you can – using a separate page for each colour.  Make sure you write on the paper what the colour is as it’s very easy to get them mixed up! This sounds laborious but it isn’t. Our paint is quick-drying so even if you apply two coats, it doesn’t take any time at all.

Now move them around the room at different times of day. Blue tack is useful at this point as it enables you to stand back and also to walk into the room and immediately see how the colour looks on the wall. Looking at the samples at different times of the day is essential as light has a massive impact on how the colour looks and this changes throughout the day and night and every room is different. Be mindful of this factor also when looking at your chart.

Paint The Town Green

If you decide to use more than one colour, either for a feature all or for woodwork and ceilings, follow exactly the same procedure, just make sure you put them next to each other to ensure they work together.

Once you’ve identified your colour(s) put them next to your “colour trigger” for a final check that, colour-wise, everything is singing from the same hymn sheet.

If you’ve followed this process correctly you should be relaxed, confident and excited about how your room is going to look. If not, don’t panic, simply scroll back to the top of this blog and begin the process again. Happy decorating!


Paint the Town Green offer an in-house colour consultancy. Our eco-friendly paints have the lowest possible levels of VOCs making them a better choice for you and the environment. All water based, they are odourless, quick drying and come in three finishes: matt, wipeable or eggshell.

For more information about our paints or for a decorating quote, please visit our showroom at 39a&b Allfarthing Lane or call us on 020 8871 0531. 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Related Posts

Browse the blog.