What Are Accent Colors?

Paint fan deck

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If you're in the process of redecorating a room, thinking about accent colors and creating a color scheme is a great starting point. Color influences not just what a space looks like but what it feels like, too, so considering the atmosphere you want to evoke is key.

What Is an Accent Color?

Accent colors are supplementary colors that typically contrast or complement the primary colors used in a room. Accent colors are used for emphasis, to enhance a color scheme, or to liven up or add drama to an otherwise monochromatic space.

Perhaps when you hear the term accent color, you think of a room with white walls and one dark blue wall. An accent color is not necessarily just a wall color that's different than the rest of the walls in the room, though. The one blue wall certainly fits in the category of an accent color, but there is a lot more to it. Accent colors can exist in the form of wall colors but also in the form of accessories such as throw pillows or artwork and furniture. They can be carried through furniture pieces and decor items, as well as an accent wall, to establish a continuous theme and harmonious aesthetic throughout a room.

If you want to add some visual interest to an otherwise plain room, using accent colors will help you achieve that. The general rule for accent colors is 60-30-10, meaning that 60 percent of the room should be your main color, 30 percent should be your accent color, and 10 percent should be your secondary accent color. If in doubt, stick to this rule, and you'll be able to achieve a balanced look.

Why Accent Colors Matter

Accent colors are a great way to create continuity and balance throughout a room. When done right, they will make a space feel harmonious and put-together and bring in contrast that adds definition and dimension. When overdone, however, a room can end up losing its sophistication and start to look a little kitschy.

Here is the key to doing it right: Use an accent color sparingly enough that it doesn't feel overpowering, use it in varying shades, don't just use it on the walls but add it in throughout your decor, and mix it in with two or three other colors to balance it out, so that the space doesn't start to feel like a checkerboard.

How to Find Accent Colors

When trying to find accent colors for your home, start with one room. Look at the room and its architectural structure, think about the way that you use it—whether it's a formal or informal space, for example—what furniture and decor items you want to place in it, the mood that you want to create, and what colors you are naturally drawn to.

Answering these questions is a good starting point for thinking about accent colors and a color scheme in general. Begin to pull together a color scheme of a couple different colors that you like and that complement each other, then select ones that you want to use as your main color and accent colors. If you're not sure about what colors will look good together, no worries!

There are plenty of tools you can use to help you out, from paint brand brochures that show curated color collections and fan decks that allow you to look at colors and various shades together to complementary colors on the color wheel and magazines showing spaces that appeal to you and you'd like to emulate. You can also read on for some tried-and-true favorites when it comes to color combinations and accent colors.

Popular Color Combinations

There are literally thousands of beautiful color combinations that you could use, but here are some examples of popular ones to inspire you, depending on the style and feel you want to create.


  • Sage green
  • Beige
  • Cream white


  • Blue
  • Tan
  • Crisp white


  • Blue and white
  • Calming neutrals as supportive colors


  • Burgundy
  • Deep green
  • Brown


  • White
  • Beige
  • Light green


  • Gray
  • White
  • Blue


  • Black
  • White
  • Gray


  • Coral
  • Teal
  • Beige


  • Pink
  • Green
  • Gray


  • Blue
  • Red
  • Brown