Decorating is a craft, with application techniques and skills that can be learned, practised and perfected. However, when it comes to working confidently and creatively with colour palettes, even the most skilled professionals can sometimes feel out of their depth. Luckily help is at hand as Vicky Jones, Sandtex Trade brand manager explains.

Are you totally confident giving colour advice to your customers? If so, you are one of the lucky ones. Many decorators feel this is a subjective matter best left to designers and creative types. This reticence to get involved with colour decisions is most prevalent where exterior makeovers are concerned, and for good reason. Interior decor can be quickly and easily rectified if paint colours clash, but when it comes to painting the outside of a building the implications of getting a colour scheme wrong (and the costs of putting it right) are multiplied several times over. What’s more, those uncoordinated paint colours will be on show to the world at large.

We have introduced Sandtex Trade Colour Coach™ to help decorators to offer more objective colour advice and inspire their customers to think more creatively about exterior colour schemes. Colour Coach does not just bring a massive range of paint colours to their attention; it can also be used to quickly identify combinations of Sandtex Trade trim and masonry colours that complement each other. The system is based on scientific colour theory and the recommendations of colour experts at Crown Paints.

Colour Coach displays can be found in many Sandtex Trade stockists and the core components of the design tool – two Sandtex Trade fan decks (one for masonry and one for trim), eight colour cards and a user guide – are available in kit form to professional users.

How to use Colour Coach is really easy to use, both as a paint colour “reference library” and also as a colour combining tool. All you need to do is choose any masonry or trim colour – first of all your starting point is to identify a single masonry or trim colour that your customer particularly likes using the fan decks or colour cards, whichever you find easiest to work with. There is plenty of choice – both sets of materials contain the same 640 shades – 240 particularly suitable for trim and a further 400 for masonry.

The fan decks are clearly arranged into eight colour groups and on each page the swatches range from deep colours at the bottom to light colours at the top. Each page is clearly identified by a number in a square box, and also has other numbers shown in circles. These numbers are your key to successful colour combining!

The eight colour cards give a very quick overview of colour availability for both trim and masonry in each of the colour groups. You will see that the individual columns on each card have the very same square boxes and circles as the equivalent pages in the fan decks.

Subtle or striking?

To find a trim colour to co-ordinate with a chosen masonry shade (or vice versa) think about the type of colour combination required, taking into account the appropriateness for the local environment.

Most homeowners will opt for a subtle and harmonious “tone-on-tone” scheme or combine one fairly strong colour with a neutral shade – By neutral we do not mean creamy beiges, but the less saturated achromatic colours in the black, grey, white part of the spectrum. Colour Coach can also be used where strong contrasting colours are required to make buildings really stand out from the crowd, but this is normally only appropriate in the commercial sector.

  • Coloured trim/neutral masonry
  • Contrasting trim and masonry
  • Harmonious
  • Coloured masonry/ neutral trim

How to ‘colour combine’:


Finding complementary colours for a subtle and harmonious “tone on tone” colour scheme could not be more straightforward – you simply pick trim and masonry colours from pages with the same number in the two fan decks or from the same column on the colour card. You can’t go wrong! Whichever colours you choose will work together beautifully as they are drawn from the same tonal range within the same colour family.

Coloured masonry, neutral trim

If your customer has chosen their masonry colour and wants a neutral trim, you note which colour section the masonry shade came from and simply open the trim fan deck at the corresponding colour section. You can then choose any of the three neutral shades off the first page in that section, immediately after the colour divider. If using the colour card, choose a trim shade from the three in the first column.

Coloured trim and neutral masonry

Likewise, if your customer has already picked a strong coloured trim and wants a suitable calming background colour for the masonry, stick to the same colour group in the masonry fan deck and choose any of the five neutral shades shown on the very first page, immediately after the colour divider. If using the colour card, choose a masonry shade from the five in the first column.

Creating a striking contrast

For the most daring colour combinations you will be taking colours from different colour groups. Looking at the chosen trim or masonry swatch, note the two numbers in circles at the top of the fan deck page (or at the top of the column on the colour card). These numbers denote individual page numbers in the other fan deck (or column numbers on other colour cards) that contain shades that should contrast well with your original colour choice.

Have your paint mixed to order

Colour Coach provides a unique six digit SCAN™ code below every swatch to enable you to have your Sandtex Trade paints tinted and mixed at the colour zone counter. Generally speaking if you are going to use a popular high volume masonry coating such as Sandtex Trade High Cover Smooth or Fine Textured Matt you will be able to have almost any of the 640 shades mixed to order. When it comes to trim, you will find an equally impressive colour palette available, whether you are looking for the traditional high sheen finish of Flexigloss X-tra or the contemporary low-sheen finish delivered by new Sandtex Trade Eggshell X-tra.

With Colour Coach you will feel more comfortable discussing colour schemes with your customers in the knowledge that your advice will be based on sound colour theory rather than subjective likes and dislikes. Your customers in turn will appreciate this additional professionalism and will hopefully be inspired to choose a colour scheme that will give their house real kerb appeal, and act as a great advertisement for your services.