free interior decorating education from
Custom Search
Follow Lee Brown on Twitter
Love us? Share us! Help others find us when they search. Thanks so much.

Collating Color Scheme Part 10

Creating, Collating and Presenting Your Color Scheme

In our last lesson we learned about how to make it interesting, today we will learn what you have been waiting for, how to create, collate and present your color scheme.

This is the topic that we have been building up to, everything you have learned so far has been the building blocks of creating a color scheme. You have to have a great deal of color theory behind you before you jump head first into creating color schemes like a professional.

We have an article at, that is ideal background reading for creating color schemes. A must read Creating Color Schemes

Now that you have read this article, I will provide another step by step summary of how to go about creating a color scheme, creativity is a very personal experience, so after reading these variations, experiment with your own system until you get just what suits you best.

Step 1.

Ensure you have your client brief. I.e. What you want to achieve. Find a downloadable client brief form here and an article telling you the importance of a good client brief. Taking a good client brief will outline the budget, the design parameters and the ultimate goals for the project.

Step 2.

Ensure you have decided on the style, theme or look that you want to achieve.
Perhaps a Carribean Theme

Perhaps a Carribean Theme

Step 3.

Write up a finishes schedule. This defines all the areas that you need to provide a finish, product and color for.

Step 4.

Now that you are armed with what you want to achieve, you can begin to source your products, materials and colors. There are numerous ways to do this and they all depend on your circumstances.

a. If you have a design office and have sales representatives calling on you, you will no doubt have a design library full with products, information, brochures and sampling. You can start your sourcing here. Then if you can’t find what you want then you can call the appropriate sales representative and give them a brief to find what you want and bring the sampling to you. This method saves you time out of the office, money for traveling around looking, and searching in the wrong places.

B. If you are working from home and don’t have direct access to products and sampling then make sure you use your time wisely. Use the telephone and the internet to look for products, filter them out this way and get them to send you samples, if they won’t, then find out where and how you can access them. This will reduce your legwork. Once you have these company’s details, make sure you keep a record of them, so it will save you time on your next job.

c. If you are doing a color scheme for yourself, then unfortunately, more often than not you have to put in a lot of legwork, going around the retail stores looking for what you need. Make sure you keep a notebook or record of what and where you got the samples from as you will need to know this information to put into your finishes schedule and for when you have to return the sampling if necessary,( some company’s charge you if you don’t return samples and swatches, so it is prudent to keep track.)

Step 5.

Now that you have all the samples / products, examples or photos of them, you need to start pulling your color scheme together. Like most processes there are always more than one way to achieve your end goal.
color swatches

If you are working on a renovation or makeover you will often have existing elements to consider like sofas, chairs, artwork and area rugs. These can to a degree dictate which colors you can use but don’t feel tied down to these. Keep an open mind. The best way is to pick out something you want to be the feature or focal point of the room and start working your color schemes from there. Starting with the largest areas of color – the floor, walls, large furniture pieces, window treatments. You can use the color wheel to sort out what type of color scheme you want and how many colors you need. Now remember to consider all the areas we have learned about in your previous lessons when you are flicking through your samples trying to make decisions.

Now, if you are starting a color scheme from scratch you have an open book. Mind you, this can be quite daunting if you are just starting out. Most designers say always start with the flooring and work upwards. I think this works if you are experienced and can visualize an end result, but if you need a little inspiration if you are tackling this scenario for the first time, then you can’t go wrong with looking for a fabric first. This could be used for upholstery on chairs or sofas, or as window treatments of blinds or curtains. I find that fabric designers have real flair at combining colors and this can provide you with a very good starting point, you can pullout a few colors using your color wheel knowledge and work your scheme around that.

Step 6.

When you bring your samples together, make sure you look at them as they would be in the interior. For example, place the flooring sample on the floor, the wallpaper against the wall, hang the drapery fabric from the window. If you can do this in the space that you are designing even better as you will see the true light that you are working with, and we know how important light is to color.
color swatches

Step 7.

Don’t be too hard and fast with your color scheme to start with, pull things out, replace them with others, experiment, often something you had not thought of as being of any value can be enhanced when juxtaposed with another product. A wallpaper could leap to life sitting beside a fabric at the window for example.

Step 8.

This is where I will probably differ from many designers in my views on this topic, but in my experience what I am about to say works and saves you a lot of time, negotiation and heartache. “Don’t provide your client with multiple options”. Why not? I hear you ask. Because they have employed you to be creative, so back yourself and do it. In my experience options creates indecision and more often than not they try and combine a little bit from here and there and your wonderful design and creativity is compromised. I’m not saying you can’t make changes to your color scheme, as this s not where I’m coming from, I am saying stand behind your design, provide a bit if flexibility in the scheme, perhaps making the colors lighter or darker for example, but don’t do three totally different schemes as you will pay in the long run.

Step 9.

Now that you have chosen your products and materials and are happy with how they work together, just double check a few things that you have learned about, the texture, color weight, and make sure that you have covered all these areas. Is there interest in your scheme? If not how will you achieve this? Go back and start pulling different products into the scheme to make it have more impact.

Step 10.

Once you are sure that you have your scheme organized, write these into your finishes schedule. There is an example on the pages that you linked to at the beginning for you to use as a starting point and then you can customize your own. If you have any special considerations for any products i.e. indent – the supplier needs six weeks delivery time from another country, make sure that you note these factors on the schedule (they aren’t on the example one). If you are working on a full interior design project there will probably be a specification that goes with the plans or blue prints. The specification will cover all legal aspects of the supply and installation / application, guarantees, workmanship etc so your finishes schedule should be included in this documentation.

Step 11.

Presentation. For this I can’t stress enough – keep it simple. You don’t want to distract from what you have put together by making it look like a piece of artwork on a board. Select a neutral background board, black, white or gray board or card. Take small samples or swatches of everything and create labels for them. This can be done with a key system, i.e. you number the sample and have a key on the board saying what it is and where it is going. Or you can make individual labels and place them beside the sample, this can be done on a computer, type them and cut them out, use a label machine or hand write them neatly.. If you don’t have a physical sample or have to give the sampling back to the supplier, take a photo or scan it and use this. It’s not perfect, but it is better than nothing. This is often necessary for large items like drapery fabrics, blinds, pieces of furniture, artwork, granite or stone. Then on the board lay them out grouping them as you would see them from the bottom – flooring to the ceiling colors. This provides you with a good visual representation of how the colors will look when completed. Stick them down, I use double sided sticky tape, making sure that they are labeled and neat and tidy, place your business card at the bottom and the name of the project at the top. You are now ready to present your color scheme with your finishes schedule and your color board all prepared.

So now you have finished reading part ten, if you still have time, go and read your related articles, if not come back again and read them in your spare time. In four days time you will receive your last lesson – summary, if you don’t receive it in four days, then look in your spam email box, and if you just can’t wait for four days then you can find part eleven here online.

Bye for now


Lee Brown

Color Ecourse Coordinator