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How to paint a room with two different colours

Updated April 17, 2017

Painting a room with two different colours gives you endless possibilities. You can create a focal wall or solve a design dilemma. Paint can help you make small rooms look bigger, and make empty rooms appear cosy. Accent colours can make woodwork, cabinets and doors pop. Design tricks can help ceilings appear smaller or taller, depending on how you use colours. The colours you choose can make a room feel warmer -- or cool off a room already bathed in sunlight. Paint is an easy, inexpensive fix if you learn a few spatial tricks.

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Design ideas

  1. Stand at the door of the room you want to transform. Using a tape measure, determine the length of the walls and the height of the ceilings and then, using a ruler, draw out your current floor plan. Note the colours of the walls and then think about what you'd like to change in the room.

  2. Create a focal wall by painting it a darker colour than the rest of the room. Choose a wall that you want to feature such as the headboard wall in a bedroom or the wall that is first seen in a living room. An easy tip is to use two colours from the same paint strip. The closer they are to each other, the more subtle the effect.

  3. Paint a dramatic, dark colour on one or more walls and then paint the woodwork, doors or cabinets in white or cream. The contrast will show off the hue and the lighter trim will provide a bit of relief from the intensity of the colour.

  4. Bring a long, narrow room into balance by painting the two short walls a darker hue than the longer walls. Use both colours in accent pillows and rugs for a pleasing palate.

  5. Help a long hallway advance by painting the wall at the end of the hallway a darker colour. Using warm colours will also help walls advance. Cool colours recede.

  6. Paint vertical stripes on your walls in two different colours to make the ceiling appear higher. Paint the lighter colour all over the wall and then tape off the stripes and paint every other one.

  7. Cosy-up a large room with high ceilings by using a darker hue on the ceilings and a lighter colour on the walls. For ceilings over 3 m (10 feet) high, paint the crown moulding the same colour as the ceiling.

Painting a room

  1. Paint the lighter colour first if you're adding stripes or a focal wall to a room. If you're adding paint to a ceiling, paint that before the walls, whether it's a darker or lighter tone.

  2. Use painters' tape once the first coat of paint is completely dry. Drying paint usually requires four hours, but check the instructions on your paint can.

  3. Burnish the painter's tape with a small putty knife to be sure you get a clean line. If you're adding a focal wall, and have painted surrounding walls a lighter colour, then place the tape in the corner of the walls you've just painted to keep them from getting spots of your darker paint colour on the light walls. Remove the tape while the paint is still wet.

  4. Mark the wall for stripes. Use a tape or pencil to indicate the width of your stripes at the ceiling and the baseboards. For example if you are creating 25 cm (10 inch) stripes, starting at the left side of the wall, leave marks at 25 cm (10 inches), 50 cm (20 inches), 75 cm (30 inches) and so on down the wall at the top and bottom.

  5. Use a plumb line and chalk to tape off stripes for an even, professional looking finish. Burnish the tape well to make sure paint doesn't seep under the tape. Put a small piece of tape in every other stripe to remind yourself that you won't be painting those. Place painter's tape on the inside of the marked stripes, being careful to keep the lines next to the chalk lines you created. Paint the darker colour.

  6. Tip

    Be careful when you remove painter's tape. Pull it away from the wall at an angle to be sure you don't get wet paint on your surrounding walls.


    Using two colours that are opposite each other on the colour wheel, such as green and red, orange and blue, or yellow and purple will give you high drama, but the results can be too busy if the shades are not carefully chosen. Trying to achieve clean stripes on a wall that is textured is nearly impossible. Smooth walls will reap the best results.

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Things You'll Need

  • Tape measure
  • Paper
  • Pencil
  • Camera
  • Ruler
  • Two different paint colours
  • Paint roller and roller cover
  • Paint pan and liner (optional)
  • Angled paint brush
  • Plumb line and chalk
  • Blue painter's tape
  • Level

About the Author

Clare Bills is a writer, speaker and artist living in Ames, Iowa. She holds three Bachelor of Arts degrees, as well as a Master of Science in journalism/public relations. Bills worked in public relations for more than 15 years and now writes for several magazines and online sites. She is also the author of a foodblog: Nana Clare's Kitchen.

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