Top Designers Share Their Tips for Pulling Off Every Paint Color

Deep Color Scheme: Charcoal + Brick

Picking a new paint color can be intimidating—especially if you're venturing into non-neutral territory. To ease the paint-selection process, our favorite designers and editors divulge their secrets for decorating with color. Discover Better Homes & Gardens paint ideas for nearly every color on the wheel, as well as styling tips to help you achieve just the right vibe when you're incorporating a new hue.

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Blues

blue paint lids

Shades of blue with a little gray provide a beachy vibe. "A range of blue-gray shades reflects a comfortable, easy lifestyle, whether you're lakeside or landlocked," says Nate Berkus, New York City-based interior designer, TV personality, and author. "Camel, natural linens, and seagrass all work really well with this palette, and it pairs beautifully with dark wood finishes and classic black and white." What doesn't suit this scheme? "I'd steer clear of honey finishes, earth tones, and warm oranges or reds."

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Greens

green paint lids

If you're looking for an earthy color with a little zip, give fern greens a whirl. "These greens are energetic. They work well in homes with families because they match the vibrancy of active kids," says Jill Goldberg, a Boston interior designer. To select a fern green that isn't acidic, look for a hue with gray undertones. "They add longevity to a color and keep it current," she says.

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Neutrals

tan paint lids

Creamy neutrals bring layers of warmth, plus they're delightfully versatile. "Everything goes with camel brown. It's like decorating with the little black dress. This palette can feel modern or classic. It's very flexible," says Janet Lee, color adviser, stylist, and author of Living in a Nutshell. And don't think neutrals have to be boring. "Neutral color doesn't mean neutral personality," Lee clarifies. Varying shades in the same family adds pizzazz—especially in a small space. "Put oyster and butter with shades of caramel, and the look is so sophisticated," she says.

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Yellows

yellow paint lids

These happy daffodil hues are a surefire mood-booster. "I'm hooked on the joyous, youthful, and adventurous atmosphere yellow affords a room," says Will Taylor, the creative force behind the Bright.Bazaar blog and book Bright Bazaar: Embracing Color for Make-You-Smile Style. Taylor considers yellow a sociable color that works best with other hues. In a broad color scheme, "A peppering of accents—a vase, throw, or cushion—will make a room soar," he says. To pick an allover yellow for walls, "Opt for a creamy shade that contains white. And choose paint that has a chalky finish."

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Pinks

pink paint lids

Petal pinks are bright pick-me-ups, but they can also be surprisingly sophisticated and livable. To suit grown-up tastes, skip the confectionary pinks like bubble gum and cotton candy. "Choose a pink that is found in nature, like the pink in a sunset," says Shazalynn Cavin-Winfrey, a designer in Washington, D.C. What pinks are hot? "What I'm seeing is less of a blue-gray pink and more of a coral pink. It's a natural evolution from orange," she says.

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Oranges

Yellow Paint Colors

If tangerine has too much zing, give these softer golden oranges a second glance. "These yellow-oranges create moods in a room. Lemony orange is happy. Reddish-orange is welcoming. Brownish-orange is more serious," says Asler Valero, a New York City interior designer and color palette creator for California Paints. When enveloping a room in orange, Asler prefers the creamier shades that border on yellow. "These lighter colors are refined, classic, and livable," he says. But don't let orange stray too far from its vibrant roots and wash out. "Avoid light yellow," he says. "It disappears. The best shades are vivid and earthy and influenced by browns."

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Reds

orange paint lids

Tomato reds and oranges are daring picks that pay off. "You have to have a little bit of a fearless streak to use these colors. But their strength can make a room feel anchored and elegant," says designer Molly Luetkemeyer. "When you do a strong move on the wall, you've thrown down the gauntlet. The other pieces in the room need to have the same level of intensity." Try this trick when choosing colors: Buy a sample of the hue you like, plus three variations—one lighter, one more gray, and one more brown (look at the adjacent strips on the display for these). "A color with a little bit of 'mud' in it will be more sophisticated," says Luetkemeyer.

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Purples

purple

You don't have to confine purple to kids' rooms—you just have to choose the right sophisticated shade. "People think the color is childish or overbearing, but if you stay in the whispery purples, there's a sense of restraint about the color that's really appealing," says Anne Coyle, a Chicago interior designer known for her color sense. But keep in mind that lavender is not a soloist; it needs harmony. "Avoid using it in a kitchen or bathroom," she says. With limited complements of pattern, texture, and color, warns Coyle, "It gets old really quick."

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Blue: A New Neutral

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Searching for a new wall color? Consider using blue as a throughline—the same way some people might use brown or black. For example, paint a room blue, then mix blue upholstered pieces with white or gray pieces and add touches of yellow, green, and orange.

— Sasha Emerson, interior designer

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Blue: Expand Your Horizons

Decorating Gallery

Blue and brown is a color palette that can't fail. "The way to update this classic pairing is to bring in bold leaf green, ivory, and citrus orange for your throw pillows. Every room needs a bit of citrus pop."

— Elaine Griffin, interior designer

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Blue: Picking Favorites

blue room

When choosing a blue hue, consider how often you're in the room. For example, don't select a very bold blue for a living room—you might tire of the color. Save it for a den or a playroom and pick a more serene tone for central living spaces.

— Sasha Emerson, interior designer

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Blue: Icy Cool

bedroom

Frosty blues look elegant with soft creams and shiny accents such as glass. Take the chill off icy colors by pairing them with warm browns, reds, or oranges.

— Stephanie Hoppen, author of Choosing Blue: Color You Can Live With

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Blue: Warm Front

fireplace

Natural wood tones, sandy beiges, and limewash finish balance barely-there blue rooms. And don't forget to consider paint finishes: Chalky flat finishes are warm, while shiny blues will give a bit of a chill.

— Stephanie Hoppen, author of Choosing Blue: Color You Can Live With

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Blue: Perfect Pairing

Bathroom shower

You can't go wrong with blue-green and white, which lets the sea-inspired color take center stage. Other gorgeous matches for blue include coral, red, hot pink, sandy tans, and yellow-green.

— Kelly Berg, interior designer and color consultant

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Blue: Color Contrast

Bedroom 3

When a cool blue room needs livening up, go bold: Try a dash of vibrant lemon yellow, zinging fuchsia, or fiery red.

— Stephanie Hoppen, author of Choosing Blue: Color You Can Live With

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How to Bring Blue into Your Living Room

Beloved for its timeless appeal, blue can also look fresh and modern. Watch to see how blue can transform a living space when paired with different accent colors.

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Green: Nature's Hue

family room

Look outside to see what colors are naturally paired with green. Usually, those deep pinks, blues, browns, and whites will look great inside, too.

— Stephanie Wohlner, interior designer

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Green: Location Matters

living room

In spots that lack light, steer clear of grayed-down colors—these "moody" greens play better in sunnier locales. Instead, pick hues that have a little more white to keep the walls from looking weighed down.

— Kishani Perera, interior designer

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Green: Go Bright

Bold green walls

Pair citron with blue-green, coral, or raspberry as accent colors to make the standout hue all the more striking. You can also match citron with latte brown on the walls, then bring in muted citron with furniture fabric and accents.

— Philippa Radon, color expert

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Green: Big Picture

Bathroom Vanity

Celery green is a natural for allover color. Pick a version with some yellow in it so it doesn't come off as juvenile. And don't ignore the ceiling—cover it in white or a 50-50 mix of white with the wall color.

— Kishani Perera, interior designer

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Green: Making the Grade

Griffin
griffin residence

One rule of thumb: Always spring for paint samples. This is especially critical when you want a muted green—what seems like khaki on the chip could be vibrant olive on the wall. To prevent earthy greens from looking drab, choose your accent colors carefully. Try pairing lighter shades of green with creams or butter yellows to wake them up a bit.

— Ruthie Sommers, interior designer

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Purple: The Right Pairing

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Purple has a little of both sides of the color wheel. When choosing coordinating colors, try pairing purple with gray to create a glamorous look. For a more feminine approach, partner it with white, or if you want to add warmth, bring in brown.

— Jeffrey Bilhuber, author and interior designer

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Purple: Purple Power

Headboards

If you want an energizing color, focus on purples that veer toward blue, instead of those closer to mauve or pink.

— Sara Story, interior designer

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Purple: Just Plummy

purple bathroom

Rooms with lots of natural light can handle saturated plum walls. In rooms with little light, keep the hue as an accent.

— Elaine Griffin, interior designer

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Purple: Sweet Lavender

purple wall

It may be light, but lavender is still a strong paint color—and once on the walls, paint colors only intensify. Your rule of thumb: Choose the top (and the lightest) color on the paint card when selecting lavender for the walls.

— Jeffrey Bilhuber, author and interior designer

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How to Decorate with Purple

Purple is having a bit of a renaissance. Try our tricks for pulling off the royal hue.

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Neutrals: Khaki Foundation

Pink beige bedroom

Think of tan walls as the perfect backdrop for a diverse array of colors and patterns. Balance out bold accents with khaki upholstery fabrics.

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Neutrals: Know Your Mark

Parks Guest Bath

If you want a lighter cream tone, avoid green or gold undertones. Instead, look for a rich cream color with a brown base. Hint: Hold the colors you're considering against a true-white paint chip to make sure you have the desired undertone.

— Mary McGee, interior designer

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Neutrals: Give It a Boost

Decorating Gallery

Avoid beige boredom by using a variety of finishes and textures in a room. A dark leather coffee table, a bright citrusy chair, patterned drapes, and a great rug give a latte-color space more richness.

— Mary McGee, interior designer

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Neutrals: Out of the Box

living room

If you're looking at neutrals on a paint chip, go one square beyond your color comfort zone to ease you out of the "safe" neutrals. Just keep in mind that most colors look darker on walls.

— Kelly Keiser, interior designer

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Neutrals: From Blah to Beautiful

Contrasting Islands

Beige has a reputation for being bland, but it actually runs the gamut from grayish mushroom to greenish khaki to rich café au lait. If you're most comfortable in the beige family, use variations like those to keep your spaces feeling current.

— Kelly Keiser, interior designer

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Gray: Undertones

eclectic living room

When decorating with gray, it's important to match accent colors to its undertone. If you look carefully at grays (or any neutral), you'll notice most have a subtle hint of color. A gray with blue undertones, as shown here, works well with white woodwork, tan accessories, and pickled furniture finishes. Use gray with green undertones alongside dark wood finishes, clear-glass accessories, and stony surfaces for a peaceful aesthetic. Grays with warm undertones make a beautiful alternative to beige.

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Gray: Welcome Neutral

formal living room

"Because we live in such a color-filled, busy world, coming home to a calm, neutral space"—like this relaxing light gray living room—"feels like a breath of fresh air."

— Kelly Keiser, interior designer

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Gray: Go to the Source

Bedroom

Refer to the source of your gray obsession. Was it a cashmere sweater? A shade you saw on a restaurant wall? Once you have your muse, compare the item (or photo) to paint chips. Try to match the color you like while achieving the mood you're after.

— Jonathan Rachman, interior designer

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Gray: Natural Influence

living room

"If you're the kind of person who agonizes between six blue-grays, use a natural material you love, like tile or stone, to help you make the selection."

— Rebekah Zaveloff, kitchen designer

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Gray: A Rush of Warmth

Decorating Gallery

Combine the right materials to keep gray from feeling too cold. In a gray room, add patinaed furniture, natural rugs, lots of linen, and warm accent colors.

— Jonathan Rachman, interior designer

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Yellow: Just Golden

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Golden yellow can be unpredictable. Fluorescent light tends to bring out the green in golds, while natural light makes shades seem more yellow. A combination of natural and artificial light is the best way to showcase gold in all its glory.

— David Bromstad, interior designer and TV host

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Yellow: Shades of White

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If you're using a light, creamy shade of yellow, paint the surrounding woodwork a warm white. Bright whites tend to make yellows look gray, but warm whites will keep yellow cheerful.

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Yellow: Color Shift

yellow kitchen

Try this twist on an accent wall. Buy two cans of paint: one yellow, one a 50-50 mix of the same yellow and white. Paint the full-strength color on the wall opposite the room's entry so it draws you in. Then use the lighter mix on the rest of the walls.

— Marlaina Teich, interior designer

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Yellow: Hues of Change

Decorating Gallery

Resist matching wall colors perfectly to a favorite fabric or rug—this makes your room feel flat and one-dimensional. Try going two shades lighter or darker to create visual variety.

— Sara Gilbane, interior designer

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Yellow: Lighten Up

White dining area with orange seating

Consider the windows when deciding on a sunny color. Yellow walls work best in a room with abundant natural light, but dark rooms can make yellow look dingy and drab.

— Sara Gilbane, interior designer

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How to Incorporate Yellow into Your Design

Nothing boosts a room's mood quite like yellow. Watch and see how to incorporate yellow in doses big and small.

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Pink: Let It Shine

office

Pale pink looks best in a room with lots of light streaming in. That way, the color can really glow, distinguishing itself from neutrals.

— Lori Deeds Carlton, interior designer for Kemble Interiors

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Pink: Gender-Neutral

Make the Headboard a Focal Point

Blush pinks first emerged as an alternative to creams and beiges in the fashion world. The same is now true in the home. This soft hue is a great neutral that can be used for carpet, on a wall, or on a large piece of solid upholstery.

— Brandi Hagen, interior designer

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Pink: Cool Down

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To put a chill on bright citrusy pinks, add a splash of turquoise. Or for a sophisticated look, pair a rich grapefruit color with dark chocolate. Bring in soft yellow for a youthful, cheery look.

— Kelly Berg, interior designer and color consultant

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Orange: Unexpected Elegance

peach room

If you're tempted to paint a room red, consider a peach or melon hue instead. Both are saturated colors like red, but they're more elegant, unexpected, and sophisticated.

— Katie Ridder, interior designer

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Orange: Yellow to Red

Orange Living Room

Integrate oranges from both sides of the yellow-to-red spectrum to create captivatingly high-contrast compositions. This vivid version is striking against the traditional reds of an Oriental rug.

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Orange: Pretty in Peach

peach bedroom

Consider those hues that are hard to put a name on—peachy pinks or orangey corals. These hybrid colors are always interesting and bring depth and softness to any space.

— Katie Ridder, interior designer

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Red: High-Intensity

Red family room

Pair terra-cotta with equally vivid colors—gorgeous golds, a purple so deep it's almost brown, olive and sage greens, and fiery oranges—for serious impact.

— Allison Smith, interior designer

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Red: Dramatically Dark

Small Drama

Use a deep color, such as chestnut or rusty red, for dramatic effect in a powder room or small den. When you have a tiny room, go ahead and make it more of what it is—small and dark—but make it bold in the process.

— Cecilie Starin, interior designer

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Red: The Right Dosage

Deep Color Scheme: Charcoal + Brick

Decide how much and what intensity of red you want to use: Go bold by painting walls orange-red, but ease the color's impact with neutral furnishings. Create spaces that demand attention by introducing glimmers, flashes, or explosions of red—the warm shade that burns the hottest. Take the middle road, using rosy red as your dominant color. Or simply spark interest by incorporating a red chair or burgundy sofa. The vibrant velvet sofa in this living room proves that a little goes a long way.

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