How to Build a Color Palette in 5 Simple Steps

Color palettes are the secret to giving every makeover that tied together look, but how do you build one? We’re sharing some simple steps to help you put together a palette of your own for your next DIY project.

A vignette of a sitting area with white walls and a yellow arm chair.

Step 1: Start with the Space

Unless you’re doing a floor-to-ceiling overhaul, the first place to start when building a color palette is figuring out what’s staying. You can easily switch up blankets and throw pillows to match your new look, but fixed pieces like floors and countertops need to be worked into your palette if they’re not going anywhere. Paying attention to existing colors and tones in your room will help you create a coordinating color scheme that all flows together. 

Step 2: Find Inspiration

Inspiration is everywhere, so where do you start? Sometimes you might have a style you already gravitate toward – if that’s the case, the colors and patterns you love are probably already in your home. If you’re starting with a blank slate, you can find inspiration anywhere from artwork and magazines to Pinterest and Instagram. No matter where you look, these sources are the perfect way to get an idea of the colors and styles that speak to you. 

A laptop and mobile device showing inspiration images,

DIY TIP: Want to pull colors from a picture you love? Our ColorSnap® Visualizer app matches the colors in any photo with a coordinating paint color.

Step 3: Pick a Color Scheme

You can always lean on classic schemes like monochromatic or complementary, but did you know an emotional side comes into play too? Color is a powerful way to infuse a space with personality, so it’s just as important to think about the mood you want to create. If you love a space that feels dramatic, you can explore a color scheme that’s bold and saturated, but if you’re looking to create a natural color scheme, soft and earthy hues can help you get the look. This simple trick helps narrow down the color families and tones you want to stick with for your palette. 

GIF of color chips populating one at a time. Colors include Woven Wicker, Urbane Bronze, Shoji White, and Evergreen Fog.

DIY TIP: Check out our guide on Color Theory to learn more about tones and each color family.  

Step 4: Choose Your Base Color

The foundation of every palette starts with your base or primary color – aka the color you’ll use the most. Since your base makes up the biggest part of your palette, it’s important to choose something relaxing to the eye. Neutrals offer the most versatility because they go with anything and are easy to build off, but that doesn’t mean you have to go white or gray either. Shades like Evergreen Fog, Urbane Bronze, and Naval all have neutral undertones.

Step 5: Build Your Color Palette

You’ve planned, prepped, and picked your base color – now it’s time to layer in some more hues. While there’s no hard-and-fast rule on how many colors to use, a great place to start is choosing a secondary and accent color. If you stick with a palette of three colors, keep the 60-30-10 rule in mind – 60% of the space should be your primary color, 30% should be the secondary color and 10% should be your accent color. If you want to add more than three colors, you can build a bigger palette with varying shades of complementary colors to give yourself a few more hues to work with. 

Once you have an idea of how many colors you want, the key is to mix and match until you’ve found a combination you love. Color chips are our favorite way to mix and match when you’re building a palette, and you can order them online for FREE!  

A GIF of a room being layered with furniture.
Featured Color: Evergreen Fog SW 9130

DIY TIP: A color palette goes beyond the walls by helping you find decor and furniture in similar shades to create a seamlessly styled space.  

Ready to try building a color palette? Drop a comment below to share which room you’re making over, and if you need a little extra guidance along the way, you can also request a FREE Virtual Color Consultation to work with one of our Color Experts.

43 Comments

  1. I like warm colors and I would like to maximize the space.

    Here is the link to my home: https://www.zillow.com/homes/1140-Pierce-St-S-Shakopee,-MN-55379_rb/2189045_zpid/?

    JENNIFER MORTENSON
  2. I want to change my home exterior from a plain white, to a 3 color suggestions

  3. want to paint my small apartment with a soft gray in the living room. I have a small GALLEY
    kitchen, hallway, small bathroom, and a bedroom.
    should all the rooms be the same color? kitchen accessories are RED. : moving Room dark blue with yellow accessories and bedroom with black and white. I love vivid accessories, Because i rent the apartment the main color has to be pretty much natural. U saw a gray color last time I was on your site I saw a gray with blue hue. Also one with silver . I requested color samples, but did not get any.

    Linda Miles
  4. We are a small house painting company in Aurora CO and recommend Sherwin-Williams paint to all of our customers…thanks for this great information.

    Salvador Granados
  5. We are building a house. I want to paint my cabinets ‘sage’.. I like your ‘Naturalist’ collection but I don’t know that Sage is a good match for the ‘Naturalist’ collection. If Sage does go with the collection can someone help me develop a pallette?

  6. I am trying to use your web site to see how color would look like on my house. Does not work

    Russell Charlene
    • Sherwin-Williams logo

      Hi Russell, We’re always working to improve your color exploration experience. Our team is ready to assist with any questions or challenges you are experiencing with our color tools. Please contact us at 1-800-4Sherwin (474-3794) or email us at http://bit.ly/2Dgu0Ti Thank you!

      Sherwin-Williams
  7. Good afternoon, I would like you to help me with colors to paint my house on the outside. My favorite color is blue and I would like a combination of blues with other matching colors. Thanks in advance

  8. Small master bedroom, I need help

    Rod Karnitz
  9. Very interesting

    Mary Mankey
  10. I am building a house soon and want to work with Lime wash paint in great room . Creams and pastel greens. Would love a pallette. No greys.

    Connie Walker
  11. I want to paint the outside of my home it’s a stucco finish I have gold ,brick red and a pinkish colored flag stone. As of now I have a light solid color on home I’m looking for 3 to 4 colors to repaint home and trim plus garage door and 2 gates plus some shutters any help, been leaning on a medium golden for house mate Navajo white for trim and need something for gates and shutters the gates are wooden with large black strap hinges and door pulls or even any suggestions for complete job . I’m stuck with those colors of the flagstone& have flag stone on front and sides of home so I do need to bring those color schemes in somehow. Thanks any help would be Greatly appreciated.

    Ken Amburn
  12. I need a copper color that is iridescent

    Kim Fetterhoff
    • Sherwin-Williams logo

      Hi Kim! We no longer carry any iridescent products. We used to carry a copper glaze that would give a luminescent/iridescent sheen to colors but that has been gone for quite some time. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause you.

      Sherwin-Williams
  13. Hello! Trying to find some accent colors for our house. I need a few walls and cabinets. Our walls are Mindful gray. I like blues, greens and most inspired by the farmhouse look. We have white cabinets and a few wood accent walls.

    • Sherwin-Williams logo

      Hi Britany! For a job of this scope and detail, you would benefit best from a one-on-one virtual consult with one of our designers. You can schedule a “real-time” appointment with a designer when you sign up. This virtual consult will allow the designer to see your space and lighting which would be the best option for your project. Click the following link to get started. https://homeowner.sherwin-williams.com/colorconsult/

      Sherwin-Williams
  14. What is a good color for a small bathroom?

    Sue Dvorak
  15. I have a much easier 1-step process. Choose a throw pillow or a painting or a chair fabric that you love, and match up the colors to SW paint colors.

    Debra Share
  16. We are using retreat for an accent wall. Can you suggest some complimentary warm-toned neutrals to go with this?

    Candyce McClellan-Berens
    • Sherwin-Williams logo

      Hello! Check out these warm neutrals, any of which would work:
      Neutral Ground SW 7568
      Natural Tan SW 7567
      Stucco SW 7569

      Sherwin-Williams
  17. We have a 1 year old house and are needing to paint to front porch and decks. I need help to choose a right color for what we have. I am looking forward to a video consultation with a SW consultant soon! Thanks! Donna

    Donna Smith
  18. New build with light (slight blue undertone) gray large format tile floors throughout home except bedrooms. Darker gray countertops and gray ledgestone fireplace in a medium gray. I love sagey greens but can you help direct me to a good wall color with 10 foot ceilings?

    • Sherwin-Williams logo

      Hi Cindy, For a job of this scope and detail, you would benefit best from a one-on-one virtual consult with one of our designers. You can schedule a “real-time” appointment with a designer when you sign up. This virtual consult will allow the designer to see your space and lighting which would be the best option for your project. Click the following link to get started. https://homeowner.sherwin-williams.com/colorconsult/

      Sherwin-Williams
  19. Where can I purchase the chair you have featured with the colour Evergreen Fog SW 9130?

    Justine Spiller
  20. Looking for some guidance on painting exterior of house.

    James Hunter
  21. One big room, living room, kitchen, and breakfast or dinning room. All walls are painted with “Pachyderm”, As a secondary color I would like to add a soft Pink. then add a touch of grass green. Painting kitchen cabinets, should I paint them western reserve , or a couple of shades lighter than Pachyderm. I don’t want them to look
    yellow. Am I crazy ??????

    Sue Schwomeyer
  22. What accent color goes with double latte on my exterior house

    Janet nuccitelli
    • Sherwin-Williams logo

      Hi Janet, blues and greens work well with Double Latte SW 9108; is there one family you would prefer? Will this color be for doors or shutters or something else?

      Sherwin-Williams
  23. My husband and I are building a new home. I chose Gossamer Veil for the kitchen cabinets and the cabinets on either side of the fireplace. The walls have not been painted yet. The cabinets look too gray for my taste and I am hoping someone here can suggest a wall color that would tone down, or neutralize, the gray. At this point, I am considering Aesthetic White on the walls and Pure White for the trim. I am on a short deadline to give the builder the name of the wall paint color. Please help! Thanks in advance.

    Mary Ellen Price
    • Sherwin-Williams logo

      Hi there, For a job of this scope and detail, you would benefit best from a one-on-one virtual consult with one of our designers. You can schedule a “real-time” appointment with a designer when you sign up. This virtual consult will allow the designer to see your space and lighting which would be the best option for your project. Click the following link to get started. https://homeowner.sherwin-williams.com/colorconsult/

      Sherwin-Williams

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