How to pick out paint colors you’ll love


If you have a home, you’ve probably decided to paint the walls a time or two. Or twelve, if you’re like me. And why not? I don’t think there is a cheaper way to give a room a fresh look. But how do you pick out a color that you’ll love the first time around. You know, so you don’t have to redo it in two weeks because what you thought was chartreuse in that tiny little square actually turned out to be highlighter green. You been there?

Well, I’ve got a few tricks that I use for picking out wall colors that make it much easier to get the right one, the first time.

Let me start by saying I’m not going to tell what color to paint your wall. I love all colors and in the right situation, any color can look good. Greens, grays, blues, even purple or pink. Done in the right way and paired with the right supporting shades, any color in any shade can look good on a wall. Color is such a personal choice. Cool colors. Warm colors. Both are great.

  1. Choose the color you want to go with.
  2. The first thing is to decide whether you want green, or pink, or gray, or blue. Like I said, anything goes. And you can pull your inspiration from anywhere. Magazines, blogs, photography. Pinterest is a GREAT place to find inspiration. (Let me know if you need an invite.) I’m currently absolutely addicted to pinning. For a visual person like myself it’s like the Willie Wonka Factory of candy stores!

  3. Choose your hue or “how blue is blue”
  4. Here’s where a lot of people go astray. They know they want a pale blue or gray. So they go straight to the light blues. But the problem with that is your eyes can’t tell what exactly the base is when it’s diluted by the white to make the lighter shade. And it’s the base color that you’ll really notice when you get it all over the wall and bathed in light.

    It’s what makes the “cream” you thought you picked looked strangely greenish when you get it on the wall.

    So the trick is to go to the dark saturated colors on the bottom of the color strip first. No matter how light or muted you want the final to be, you’ll want to start with the base. If you don’t like the base, you won’t like it lighter either. It is much easier to see that there is green in that gray instead of the blue you wanted when the color is deeply saturated.

  5. Pick your shade.
  6. Now you decide how light or saturated you want the final color to be. Do you want a bold, saturated wall or a muted neutral? Once you know the hue you want, just go up the swatch until you get to the shade you want.

    One thing to remember, if you’re painting a room with a lot of windows and natural light, you may want to go with one shade down from what you were originally thinking because the light will wash out the color and make it look lighter than it is. The opposite goes for a room with not much natural light. Sometimes it’s a good idea to go with one shade lighter.

  7. Trust your instincts
  8. Once you’ve gone in order to choosing your paint color, the final and sometimes most important step is to just trust your instincts. At this point, I usually just say “go for it”. If you’re still not sure, most paint companies are now selling samples. If you use these, remember that it’s a good idea to paint a couple coats to get the best coverage.

    One of my favorite ways to test a paint color (although I admittedly don’t “test” very often.) is to buy a cheap piece of foam core and paint a giant sample board. Then you can hold it up on different walls and see what it looks like in different light.

    Most of the time though I think it is just prolonging the inevitable and driving you crazy. The only way to really know what it looks like is to get it on the wall.

Final tips: Don’t judge a color while it’s wet. And don’t quit painting until the whole room is finished. No matter how nervous you are, or how much you don’t think it’s what you wanted. Hold your judgment til the end. If you follow these steps when picking out the color, MOST of the time you’ll get what you wanted.

Have you ever had a nightmare experience trying to choose the perfect color? What happened?
Do you use a similar system for picking a wall color? How do you choose?

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