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Putting different colors together can be quite challenging, especially if you enjoy bright shades.

While bright colors work well together on sports uniforms or in eye-catching toys for children, brights can be visually disturbing on the walls and floor of your home.

Let’s look at some paint colors that do not go well together as well as some combinations to avoid.

Key takeaways

  • Bright yellow and charcoal gray do not go well together.
  • Blue and smokey gray do not go well together.
  • Cardinal Red does not go well with warm colors.
  • Sunflower yellow and white do not go well together.
  • Blue-white shades of paint and robust yellows do not go well together.
Paint colors that do not go well together graphic

The RGB Numbers

RGB refers to red, blue and green. Colors with high amounts of red tend to be warm.

Colors with lots of blue tend to be cool. Colors with lots of green either tend to be greens, or they tend to be sooty.

If you have recently moved into a space and are considering changing up colors, take a hard look at what you’re going to keep.

Perhaps the floors are in good shape and you just want to change the wall and ceiling paint. Let’s say you currently have gray carpet.

RGB paint colors in cans

A Warning About Gray

Gray is the trickiest color to pair with other neutrals because it’s seldom neutral. Invest in a packet of bright construction paper.

Lay a piece of bright yellow construction paper on charcoal gray carpet and you will see the carpet lean towards blue.

banana yellow and charcoal gray paint colors
Bright yellows and Charcoal gray do not go well together

Put blue construction paper against smoky gray carpet and the rug will suddenly lean towards brown.

Use these gray tendencies to your advantage. Do you want an accent color to go with your charcoal gray carpet?

Go with navy, and use either white or a silver gray with a lot of blue on the other walls. If your carpet is a warm gray, put a rich green on your accent wall and use a light ivory on the others.

The greatest risk when pairing gray with very light shades is that you will push your ivory and white walls into a state of dirty tiredness.

If you can determine the warmth or coolness of a large piece of real estate in the room, such as flooring, wall color or a sofa, you can avoid this error.

blue and smoke gray paint colors
Blue and Smoke gray do not go well together

Colors to Avoid: Brights

If you have a home theatre and spend every weekend watching your favorite sports team, go ahead and paint the walls the same colors as the uniforms.

Just be aware that bright shades, such as those found on your favorite team jersey, are designed to be seen from far away.

In a very small room, such shades can quickly become visually disruptive.

Cardinal red is a lovely shade on a bird. It may even be a great color for shelves in your child’s room.

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Pairing it with anything on the warm spectrum, from ivory to orange, will not offer much of a visual break.

Sunflower yellow is another color that can be nice in small doses. Take care when you pair this color with white.

Most white paint colors contain a bit of blue.

cardinal red and ivory paint colors
Cardinal red and ivory do not go well together

Pairing a blue-white shade of paint with a robust yellow will leave the white walls looking sooty. The yellow object may also turn mustard.

Greens are often quite forgiving, as long as you use deep and subdued shades.

A pine green play rug may be thrilling for a child’s space, but bright green walls will push back against every other color and may leave everything else feeling tired.

Royal blue is another shade that is spectacular in small doses. The trouble is that any color that is pure on the RGB spectrum will push against other shades, rather than just letting them exist.

The top number is 255. If the color you’re considering is coded 0,0,255, please be aware that the saturation of this blue will be intense. Even plain white will get pushback from this color.

Choosing a Simple Base

For those just starting out on their DIY decorating journey, I strongly recommend the colors found in nature.

For example, dark green leaves in a flower bed serve as a nice background for flowers of all colors. Both a blue sky and white puffy clouds look terrific over a sandy beach.

Beach chair and umbrella on sand beach

On the biggest expanse of your home, do your best to start with a simple neutral.

Carpet is tricky because it has a nap. A dark gray carpet may appear navy from one angle and gray from the other direction.

When shopping for carpet, run your fingers over it to push the nap and make sure that you like both shades.

If you can choose a solid surface or wood floor, do so. Lighter flooring, such as a natural finish rock maple or a light cork finish, will make the room look bigger.

Darker flooring, such as red oak or cherry wood, will make the room feel cozier. Be aware that nearly all wood flooring choices will be on the warm spectrum.

Pro tip: Don’t use classic red to paint your bedroom or livingroom. According to Tasteofhome.com, classic red can be off-putting or unsettling.

bedroom painted with classic red paint

Next, Choose Your Accent

You can use your favorite shades when you choose your accent color. If you just love bright turquoise or fire orange, find the exact paint chip with that color and buy a small sample can.

Invest in a blank canvas and paint yourself a sample. Hang it on your accent wall.

Study this color in all lights; morning, noon and night. What happens to the color after dark? Very bright shades tend to become unstable as the room darkens.

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If you’re not happy with the quality of the color at the end of the day, try a darker or smokier version of your favorite shade.

Another option is to add small doses of your very favorite in upholstery fabric. Fans of lilac and pink may not want them on their walls, but these colors can be quite lovely on curtains and pillows.

sunflower yellow and white paint colors
Sunflower yellow and white do not go well together

…or Leave Everything Neutral

Strong colors can really limit your decorating choices. Your red wall may be invigorating, but your green sofa will turn that room into a perennial Christmas decoration.

White trim will give it the feeling of a barn or a stop sign.

Worse, the wrong strong color will be difficult to cover. Not only will you need to wipe out the shade with a color blocking primer, but you’ll have to put in more time and effort returning the room to neutral.

If your floor is warm and wood, look for an ivory or cream for your walls. Not only will ivory and cream be restful, but they’re light enough you can put them on the ceiling.

You can also get them in a semi-gloss and put them on your trim, from doors to kitchen cabinets.

Against an ivory, your green sofa and brown armchair will look terrific. If you want a bright red throw to snuggle up in through the winter, drape it over the sofa in December.

There’s no reason not to use your favorite shades, but be aware that making them permanent may not be the best choice.

Other paint color combinations to avoid

  • Black and navy
  • Red and purple
  • Orange and Blue
black and navy paint colors
red and purple paint colors
orange and blue paint colors


Guard Your Secrets

Another option is to use your very favorite brights in private. If you’re going to paint your kitchen cabinets ivory but you love robin’s egg blue, paint the inside of the cabinets your favorite shade.

If mornings are not your best time and you love Van Gogh sunflowers, treat yourself to a bright gold shower curtain.

You’ll be energized by the end of your bath and you can change it out if the color tires you.

Recap

Bright or pure shades of color are inherently pushy. Intense blues, greens and reds can leave even bright white looking tired and dirty.

Accent colors should be chosen with great care to avoid making a lot of extra work and expense for yourself.

If you love a color to the point that you have to have it, look for small or private ways to incorporate it to keep it special.

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