The ultimate guide to paint layering


Paint layering is a great way to give a room a new and modern look!

Layering is de rigueur in fashion these days – tees, tops, sweaters, whatever. It not only looks smart, it’s practical. If you get a little warm, you can simply peel off a layer or two. Too cold? Layer up!

You can use the same approach when dressing up the interior of your home, according to a leading paint color expert. “Layering paint color is one of the easiest – and least expensive — ways to make a fashion statement with your home decorating,” says Debbie Zimmer, spokesperson for the Paint Quality Institute.

What is layering? It’s a clever way to create an interesting interior color scheme by selecting paint colors that resemble one another, but don’t exactly match. And the good news is that paint manufacturers have already done most of the work for you.

Start by checking out your local paint retailer’s color display, explains Debbie, where you’ll find color cards with three or four similar hues having different values (degrees of lightness or darkness). The cards will be arranged categorically, with the reds in one section, blues in another, and so on. Before long, you’ll zero in on the part of the display with the colors you favor.

After taking a few color cards home, viewing them in daylight and under artificial light, and becoming comfortable with your selections, you’ll be ready to create your layering plan. As is true when layering your wardrobe, there are many options.

“The most basic form of layering – and the most foolproof approach – is to work with two or more colors from a single card,” says Debbie. “These will have natural harmony regardless of where they are used.”

Let’s say you’ve chosen a card with tints and shades of rose. You could use the lightest of the rose colors on the walls and a darker shade on the woodwork. Another option: Paint three walls in the rose tint, and use a darker shade to create an “accent” wall.

In the same way, you could employ not only two, but three variations of a color from the same card: using one for the walls, one for the trim, and a third (perhaps the lightest) for the ceiling; or, using one for the walls, another for an accent wall, and a third for the trim.

Want to really let loose with your layering? Expand the color palette. Rather than relying on a single color card, choose a couple of cards that are close to each other on the color display, then mix and match to create a totally unique combination. (If you go this route, keep in mind that the further away the cards are from one another, the less the colors will have in common, and the trickier it will be to achieve a harmonious, layered look.)

Paint layering can be used to create beautiful rooms, but the process also has practical implications: Just as you can easily remove or add a layer of clothing to quickly change your outfit, you can often add or remove a layer of paint color to quickly modify your décor.

For example, if you tire of an accent wall, you can paint it the color of the rest of the room, or you can apply a different accent color, without repainting everything. “That’s part of the beauty of layering with paint: It’s an economical form of home decorating to start with… and simple and inexpensive to change,” Debbie says.

Yes, layering is very much in vogue. It’s smart dressing and smart decorating. The biggest difference between the two? It’s a lot less expensive to layer your home with paint color than to layer your wardrobe. And it can be every bit as exciting!

About the Paint Quality Institute (SM). The Paint Quality Institute (SM) was formed by Rohm and Haas Company (now a wholly-owned subsidiary of The Dow Chemical Company (“Dow”) in 1989 to educate people on the advantages of using quality interior and exterior paints and coatings.

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February 16, 2016