Design and Ideas


Foolproof Ways to Create Multi-Color Interior Paint Schemes

Who among us hasn't complained at one time or another about the stress we're under? Yet our homes suffer silently in the face of constant stress.

If you’ve had success painting accent walls in your home, maybe you’re ready to take the next big step with your interior painting: creating a multi-color paint scheme using three or four different colors in the same room.

The steps follow below and if you try this painting scheme, please share your success story!

Happy Painting,


Debbie Zimmer

If you want to tackle this project, you need to look at the room’s wall space in a whole new light and envision your walls as large, empty canvasses that often have several components.

For example, if there are chair rails in the room, they produce two separate “canvasses” on every wall (above and below the rail), doubling the room’s color potential. Are there half walls? An alcove? A soffit? These and other architectural elements present opportunities to introduce additional colors into the space and every one of these surfaces should be taken into account when creating a color plan.

Multi-color paint schemes look best when a predominant color is employed to hold things together. To that end, you should start to develop a color palette by selecting a hue that you really love as the room’s “anchor” color.

The next two steps are to determine the paint colors you’ll use to complement or contrast with your anchor color, and then decide where the various colors will be used.

If this is your first foray into the world of multi-color paint schemes, it’s wise to trust the judgment of professional colorists who create paint palettes for a living. Nearly every paint manufacturer offers free brochures showing professionally created, carefully coordinated color palettes comprised of several hues that go together beautifully. Choose a palette of harmonious tints and shades that include your anchor color and you won’t go wrong.

To decide which color goes where, you can proceed in one of three ways:

You can simply cut apart color cards and tape the color samples to the walls. In doing so, be sure to place the cards close together where one color will abut another, and view everything both in daylight and under artificial light at night (different lighting conditions can alter colors dramatically). Experiment until you’re completely happy with your plan.

Another way to map out a multi-color paint scheme is to rely on a color visualizer, which may be available either at the paint store or on the paint manufacturer’s website. Using this special software, you’ll be able to nimbly move colors here and there with just a couple of keystrokes until you get things exactly the way you want them.

A third way to go about developing a multi-color paint scheme is to purchase small samples of paint, and brush color swatches right onto the walls. This takes a little more effort, but it will make your decision-making virtually foolproof.

Whichever method you use to create your color plan, make sure that your anchor color is the predominant hue, taking up perhaps 40% of the total wall space. A secondary color should take up roughly 25% of the wall space, and any other colors you use should be confined to smaller areas where they’ll serve as accents.

By following these guidelines, you’ll greatly simplify your multi-color paint project and be well on your way to turning your room into something very special.

To learn more about color and decorating, or to download the Paint Quality Institute’s free color app, visit More advice on interior paint color can be found at

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