Choosing the perfect paint color can sometimes feel like the most overwhelming part of a project. The options are literally endless, and it’s so easy to get it wrong. Paint is relatively easy to fix, but let’s be real: you don’t want to have to re-paint your space 5 times to find the perfect color.
Over the years, I’ve gone from choosing a color I’m not happy with almost every time (and generally living with it instead of changing it) to nailing it almost every time, so I figured it was high time I put a post together with all of my best tips and tricks for how to choose paint colors for your home.
How to choose paint colors: my best tips
Buy a fan deck
Having a fan deck from your favorite paint brand is a great way to make narrowing down your options easier. It will group similar colors together in palettes so you can see the darker and lighter versions of any color you’re considering.
I’ve had my BEHR fan deck for years now and I turn to it over and over and over. Mine is outdated now (I need to grab a new one!), but all of the colors are still available and it’s honestly still more options than I’ll ever need.
When I need to choose a color with my paint swatch fan deck, I’ll flip to the general color family I want and then look through the options, putting small sticky notes on the ones I like. I almost always recommend gravitating towards the deeper and darker colors (towards the bottom of the palette) because colors will generally appear lighter on the walls then they do on the swatch.
I use the fan deck to narrow my options down to three or four, then I go grab samples (more on that later). This is honestly my number one tip for making paint decisions far easier, and if you paint with any sort of regularity, you’ll be glad you grabbed one!
always get samples
Do you know the biggest difference between the times when I’ve hated the paint color I’ve chosen and the times I’ve loved it?
That’s right – samples.
You might fall in love with a color on a paint swatch, but until you actually put the paint on your wall in your space, it’s so hard to really know what it’s going to look like.
Generally speaking, the only exception to this that I have is things like furniture or cabinetry – I’m more likely to choose that based on a paint swatch, because it’s a smaller surface area. But, for walls it’s very rare for me to choose a color without grabbing at least three or four samples first!
You can generally get paint samples in various paint sheens, so be sure to choose the one that matches the sheen you plan to use in your home (I always choose matte, and go with a high-quality paint – Behr Marquee – to ensure it’ll be more durable).
Oh, and while we’re talking about samples…
Use a paint sample swatch
I always like to use SureSwatch clear film rather than painting my samples right on the wall. If you just paint a square on your wall, it can sometimes still show through even after two coats of paint.
Why? Well, for one reason, the edges of your sample square will be slightly raised up from the rest of the wall. So, there can end up being a faint outline where the paint is just thicker – especially if you do two coats for your sample. If you do a paintable film instead, you can simply stick it on the wall (and even move it around), then remove it when you’re done.
Another reason paint samples can sometimes show through is that, depending on the brand you’re using and the store you buy from, some samples only come in one or two paint sheens. If you’re only able to get a satin sample but you want to use matte paint, you could have flashing (where there’s a slight sheen difference) show through the finished product.
Test your color in multiple lighting situations
One of the biggest mistakes you can make when choosing paint is to paint the sample on your sample swatch, throw it only on one wall, and make your decision based on that view alone.
Colors will look different in different parts of your room, at different times of day, and under different lighting conditions.
Make sure you like your paint color on every wall of the room, including the darkest and brightest spots. Leave it up long enough so you can see it in both daylight and at nighttime, and view it with both natural lighting and overhead lighting!
Basically, take your time and don’t rush the decision!
in general, choose a more muted tone
Do you want a beautiful, green bedroom? Or a bold blue living room?
Unless you’re positive you want a very bright and colorful shade, I always recommend choosing a tone that feels a little more muted than you might initially be drawn to. Look for something with gray or brown undertones to help ground the color, or else you might feel a bit like you’re living in a box of primary crayons.
Of course, it’s important to note that if you want a really bright and bold color, then go for it! But if you often find yourself frustrated with your color choice because it feels a bit too much, try finding a similar shade that feels a little more muted – and go for the darker colors towards the bottom of the palettes. It might look intimidating on the swatch, but if you want to go bold without being too bright, something deeper will be your friend!
Just remember that colors will always feel different in an entire room than they do on the paint swatch. So, while you love that electric blue color in a 3″ square, it might not translate as well to an entire room as a calmer, deeper blue would.
Google can be your friend!
If you’ve narrowed down your choices to just a few colors and you’re still struggling, I recommend you turn to Google!
I like to do a quick search for the name of the color I’m considering and then click the “Images” tab. You’ll almost always see some examples of the color in real-life spaces (along with the brand’s mock-ups of the color in a room) and it can be a really great way to visualize how a color will look in an entire room.
This is obviously not a foolproof method (sometimes you’ll get images that aren’t the color you’re searching for, and your lighting conditions will always be different), but it’s a really helpful activity when you’re on the fence and need a better look at a specific color!
Using these tips, you should be well-equipped to head the the paint counter with confidence to order your next can of paint.
Of course, the most important tip of all to remember is this: it’s just paint! In the end, if you find that you aren’t fully satisfied with the color you’ve chosen it’s no big deal to pick a new one and try again!