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Creating Colour Schemes

This subject describes the skills and knowledge required to assess colour requirements, research and experiment with different colour options and create preferred colour schemes for presentation to the client.

This new unit is an elective, and has been included in the Certificate III Painting and Decorating because of the following reasons:

  • There is currently not enough assessment or training in architectural styles, writing colour specifications, or understanding the principles of colour selection in our current Cert III qualification. In fact, there is currently no training in selecting colours at all in the current Certificate III training package.
  • Painters regularly select colours, or help clients select colours. Even when they don't, having an understanding of these principles will help them understand the process.
  • More women are entering the industry, and are naturally more attuned to colour selection. This elective will be more attractive to anyone who wants to learn this skill.
  • Many painters would like to add colour consultation to their skill repertoire and make it an extra feature of their business.
  • The paint retail market often employs ex-painters. They advise the public on colour selection all the time, even though most of them have had no formal training.
  • Painters who help clients choose colours should have an understanding of all the principles behind it.


Adding this subject will make the trade more attractive to people who have an artistic flair, and might not normally see this trade as a career choice. It will raise the profile of the trade in the mind of the public. Instead of just being an 'applicator' we might regain some professional pride in our trade.

Before choosing a specific colour, make a note of the colour of all the permanent features of the room you are painting. For example, the colour of the flooring, counter tops and any furniture that will remain, such as couches and tables. The new contrasting paint colors don't have to match the existing items but shouldn't clash with them either. For example, bright purple may not look so good on the wall in a room with red cherry wood flooring. Remove any colours from consideration that won't look good with other items and features of the room.


ColoUr Wheel


Take a look at a color wheel. It sounds basic, but can help to identify both the colors that appeal to you most and the colors that contrast with them. Contrasting colors, also called complementary colors, are the ones directly opposite each other on the color wheel. Identify the colors you like most, and then narrow them down based on what will work best with the permanent fixtures in the room. Single out your colors by then looking at which pairs of contrasting colors appeal most to you.


For example, if your client loves amethyst purple, but isn't so fond of the thought of incorporating green into the room, look for another pair of contrasting colors, such as purple-blue and pale yellow.


Primary ColoUr


Once you settle on a pair of contrasting colors, choose one to be the primary color in the room. This will be the color that you will paint on more than one wall or on the largest walls, or will have the most space on a single wall with more than one color. A good rule of thumb is to use the primary color at least 60 percent of the time compared to the secondary color. This will keep contrasting colors from becoming overwhelming and garish.


Secondary ColoUr


The secondary colour will serve as more of an accent to the primary paint. It can be highly visible and used in large amounts, but is not the main color of the scheme. Use the secondary color on trim, inside window frames or arches, on the upper one-third of the wall or even on the ceiling. You can also use the secondary color to create stripes or geometric patterns on the wall.

The National Painting and Decorating Institute has created industry validated learner guides, trainer guides, assessment, and multi-media video lessons for this new unit. The learning material is available to any RTO or college using our state-of-the-art e-learning system.

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