How To Use A Paint Colour Chart

How To use a colour chart for lilac

by Phi Dang - September 9, 2020

We give you the best expert advice to paint your house like a pro!

The paint colour chart or colour wheel depicts both primary and secondary colours.  However, there are thousands of shades and each paint manufacturer have their unique name and description for each colour.  It’s quite easy to become confused by all the choices.

So, in this article, our ‘How to Paint Your House’ tips will teach you to use the paint colour chart.  We start by explaining the colour wheel and some basic colour theories.  Once you understand the concept, you will gain a sense of how to match colours.


The first circular diagram of colour was developed by Sir Isaac Newton back in 1666.  While there are many versions of a colour wheel the basic concept is the same; it is a collection of hues arranged in a circular formation in a logical sequence.

How to use a colour chart with primary colours

Primary colours

Traditional paints and pigments have only three basic colours: Yellow, Blue and Red.  All colours are derived from these three traditional colours.

Secondary colours

Secondary colours are formed by combining two primary colours.

Yellow + Blue = Green

Yellow + Red = Orange

Blue + Red = Violet (or Purple)

Tertiary colours

Tertiary colours are formed by combining a primary colour with a secondary colour.  The hue (colour) is a two-word name:

Yellow + Orange = Yellow-orange

Red + Orange = Red-orange

Red + Violet = Red-violet

Blue + Violet = Blue-violet

Blue + Green = Blue-green

Yellow + Green = Yellow-green

Colours are also known as hues and the graduations of the hues (i.e. light or dark) are called shades.  Also, in colour theory, a tint is a colour that has white mixed into it to lighten its shade.  Whereas, a tone is a colour that has grey added to it to darken its shade.


Colours like reds and yellows are considered warm colours while blues and greens are cool colours on the paint colour chart.  Purple can be either warm or cool depending on its shade.  Light lavender is a cool colour, but deep magenta is considered a warm colour.

Colour Harmony

Harmony is a satisfying or appealing arrangement.  In visual experiences, harmony is pleasing to the eye.  Harmony evokes balance and simulates interest.  Disharmony on the other eye can be boring or chaotic.

Contrasting colours

Contrasting colours are not opposite colours but work well together.  Match a deep or bold colour from one end of the spectrum with a lighter colour to create a more striking look.

Colour Chart with full colour spectrum

Here’s an example of a contrasting colour scheme from Dulux:Contemporary Colours


Complementary colours

Complementary colours are colours on opposite sides of one another in a 12-colour wheel.  For example:

Primary vs primary: red and green, blue, and orange, red, and green

Tertiary vs tertiary: red-violet and yellow-green

Complementary colours add brightness to the overall look. Colour Chart full spectrum using green and red

Here’s a example of complementary colour scheme from Dulux:Complimentary Colours



Split Complementary

Split complementary colours are a variation in complementary colours.  It uses two adjacent colours.  It is a softer version of the complementary colour scheme. Split Contemporary Colour ChartHere’s an example of a split complementary colour scheme from Dulux Paint Colour Chart:


Monochrome is a variation of a single colour.  Light tones create a relaxed and serene atmosphere.  Dark tones are rich and deep.  Combining light and dark can add interesting contrast and energy to a room.

Here’s an example of a monochromatic colour scheme from Dulux:Monochromatic Colour Swatches


A triadic colour is three different colours on the colour wheel.  They can be contrasting, complementary or monochromatic.  The match can produce a harmonious range of colours that are brighter and more vibrant for the room.Triadic Colour Chart Here’s an example of a triadic colour scheme from Dulux:

Triadic Colour Swatches


Every paint manufacturer creates and names its range of paint colours.  Paint manufacturers group colours into a collection of matching colours to make it easier for you to choose the colours you like.

Here’s a sample of a ‘heritage’ palette from Haymes Paint:

Haymes Heritage Colour Pallette



The kitchen is one of the most welcoming rooms in the home.  It’s the place where we gather for breakfast and cook delicious meals for family and friends.  If you are a creative cook, you may want to consider an exciting colour palette to inspire you.  If you are looking for a calming environment to prepare family meals, cool tones are better.

Bringing colour to the kitchen is not just about painting the walls.  Match your paint to other elements like the flooring, tiles, backsplash, and benchtop.  If your kitchen is an open-plan design that flows into another room (for example, a family room) you may want to consider complementary colours from the paint colour chart to create a flow.

Here are some ideas to inspire you:

Classic White Kitchen CupboardsClassic white.  Choose an off-white rather than pure white because pure white can be a little harsh.  A beige-tint will appear whitish but will have a touch of warmth in it.






Sleek Grey Kitchen Cupboards on subway tiles using colour chart

Grey is a popular choice for a modern, contemporary kitchen look.  Kitchen cabinetry painted in grey adds class and sophistication to the kitchen.















Mid Blue paint against floorboards

Mid-blue is an ideal shade that pairs well with most things including hardwood floors, tiles, and a patterned backsplash.







Bathrooms are intimate and personal spaces.  They are small spaces and can sometimes be a cluttered environment with towel rails, vanity, and showers/baths.  Avoid using too many colours when painting your bathroom.  Blues and greens are calming and popular choices for bathrooms because they make the room look bigger.

Here are some ideas to inspire you:

Grey Tones in timber trimmed Bathroom

Grey tones add class and sophistication to this timber trimmed bathroom








Half painted walls for contrast

Paint a dado on the bottom half of the bathroom in your chosen colour.  Pain the rest of the wall white to create a two-tone look.









This is the first part of the inside of the home, visitors will see so make a good impression.  Hallways are linking spaces and should give continuity to the overall colour scheme.   If you have a long hallway, paint the end wall in a warm shade to make it look shorter.

If you want to make a hallway look longer and more spacious, paint it in a lighter or pastel shade.   To choose a colour for the hallway, leave the doors to the adjoining room open so you can see what the overall flow will look like.


Paint the edges of the door in the same colour as the face of the door that opens into a room.  Paint the hinges in the colour of the adjoining room to create symmetry.






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