A Guide to Painting Monochromatic Color Schemes

A monochromatic color scheme provides a simple, uniform, yet elegant canvas that allows other design elements to pop. However, some designers make the mistake of either overthinking it or recommending overly dramatic layouts. 

Making the most of a monochromatic layout can be as simple or dramatic as you want. However, the overarching goal is to ensure the design coordinates with the theme, is believable, and pairs well with the home’s overall design and architectural qualities. 

When monochromatic schemes are done correctly, you will have a distinct visual design queue that flows, is unique to your preference, and will never be outdated by trends or the lack of popularity.

What is a Monochromatic Color Scheme?

A monochromatic color scheme involves one base color for large portions of a house, room, or area. Suppose you want a monochromatic style for a room or entire home. In that case, it will involve painting interior ceilings and walls and trim the same color throughout. Trim includes baseboards, doors, door jams, all moldings, windows, casings, shelving, and cabinets when applicable. 

One reason for monochromatic schemes is to allow an accent wall or focal color dominance. Drastic contrast is needed for the most impactful visual effect when you want an accent or color pop. However, subtle yet distinguishable color variations can create a similar effect. 

Changing or adding textures and lighting are more ways to increase the dynamic and uniqueness of a monochromatic design.

Reasons to Choose a Monochromatic Color Scheme

There are many ways to create a unique design based on a monochromatic concept. The effects and benefits of a less busy design range widely. Here are a few advantages and considerations. 


  • Using one base color makes the area less busy and becomes soothing, simple, and harmonious.
  • It created the perception of cleanliness and orderliness.
  • It’s easier on the eye.
  • Minimalist design and backdrop to highlight other furnishings
  • It makes choosing color more straightforward.
  • Contrasting elements are more pronounced
  • The ability to make bold colors pop more
  • Flooring and other natural elements are accentuated

Unique Designs

Design ideas come from many different sources, and each leads homeowners to very different paths. Suppose you are only conversing with a designer or gathering inspiration from a popular magazine. In that case, you will likely find instructions and rules to follow. However, your influence differs when paying for and working with a designer one-on-one. 

Without bashing the sound designers, we merely suggest not letting someone else live vicariously through you. Someone else’s experiences, tastes, or recommendations don’t always fit your needs. 

Take recommendations with a grain of salt, and consider how they fit into the design of your home, vision, and what you like. You will be misguided along the way if you are guided without taking steps to understand your goals or what you are ultimately trying to achieve.

Regarding home design, trial and error is pricey and inconvenient and should be avoided.

Monochromatic Tips for Interior Painting & Design


The first recommendation is to keep all paint sheens the same when considering monochromatic schemes indoors. The only exception for inconsistent paint sheens are ceilings. Ceilings often create unwanted glare from natural lighting. Painting the ceiling with a sheen also increases the visibility of surface imperfections, such as uneven drywall seams, which usually cannot be eliminated. 

Additionally, go bold or light in color intensity, but always consider durability. Incorporating a professional painter into the process of choosing colors will provide a technical understanding of how easily the paint will apply and other considerations relating to paint durability.

Timeless monochromatic designs future-proof your efforts, and you won’t have to worry about them going out of style. Neutral designs tend to age better. While dramatic designs are appealing initially, in our experience, most homeowners get tired of them faster and eventually revert to something simpler.

Considering surfaces that will likely remain and how the color will coordinate with them should be your initial consideration. You always want to coordinate the color based on flooring, tile, furniture, and hardware first. 

Choosing a color without considering these factors first could result in costly mistakes, such as repainting or replacing expensive items.

Do’s & Don’ts

Following these rules is essential to your success if you consider a monochromatic design scheme as a DIY project. The list below will help guide you in taking the proper steps to choosing a monochromatic color scheme.


  • Use one base color to start.
  • Variations can be used for other rooms and accents.
  • Choose related color variations that are at least two colors apart.
  • Furniture can be lighter or dark colors related to your base color.
  • The trim and the surrounding surface can be the same color.
  • Use a color fan deck to view color variations and determine light reflection values.


  • Don’t Pair vibrant colors with dull tones.
  • Don’t choose colors that are only mildly distinguishable or clash.
  • Never choose colors until you have an idea of what you want.
  • We recommend against picking colors that are too closely related. They will clash and create confusion.

Tips:  Light, dark, and neutral paint colors are all used for monochromatic color schemes. Choose colors that complement the existing area unless you’re changing or updating the entire home.

Monochromatic Tips for Outdoors

While dark blue exterior colors are, in fact, a thing, it is improbable for anyone to paint the entire outside of a home black. However, black and vibrant door colors are perfect accents for homes of many colors. 


White is the most popular blank exterior canvas and allows for color variations elsewhere. However, light, neutral colors have a very similar impact while making the home slightly different from what everyone else is doing.

Black or dark brown windows are also impactful exterior accents that pair well with outdoor home monochromatic color schemes. In addition, gutters, external hardware, garage doors, and mailboxes are impactful design queues that are perfect exterior accessories for color accents.

Finally, natural wood features are the most substantial addition to outdoor monochromatic designs. Natural wood features include wood shutters, cedar posts, and stained wood front doors. 

Painted white brick is among the most popular considerations when considering a uniform exterior facade.

Color, Hue, Shade, Tint, & Tone Explained

When considering colors for home design, it’s helpful to understand the basis for how the colors are created. Adding black, gray, or white to a primary hue is how many color variations are made.

Here are a few definitions of standard terms and descriptions of how each affects color.

Base Color:  A base color is the initial color from where the entire design and color scheme originates. Base colors are the central or dominant color from which matching or coordinating designs derive. 

Paint Product Base: Before mixing, each can of paint has a base color that helps to achieve the desired color.

Hue: Hue and color are often used the same way but differ. Technically, hue refers to the primary color family to which the color belongs. For example, blue, red, green. 


Colors: Color is a general term used to describe the distinctions between every hue, tone, and shade variation we see with the human eye.

Shade: The term shade is used when black has been added to a hue, making the color look more profound and rich.

Tint: Tint refers to how much a hue is lightened by adding white pigment. Lighter tints will contain more white to obtain a lower hue intensity.

Pastel Colors:  Lighter tints are considered pastel colors. Pastel colors are lighter but are not bright. Instead, pastels are a pale version of a hue.

Tone: Tone refers to adding gray to a primary color, lowering the intensity, and making the color look muted or dull.


Expression from within is the true mark of any interior design. We never encourage following or emulating upcoming or trendy designs, as they all are intentionally short-lived and only aim to grab our attention.

Following current designs as they come and go only guarantees that your home will quickly become outdated, need to be frequently redesigned, or have constant color changes.

Do you need professional help with your next painting project in Raleigh, Cary, or the Triangle area? Contact us today!

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