Don’t underestimate the challenge of picking a paint color. Ever. With the single exception of finding a vanity for our master bath, I’d been handling the hundred-decisions-a-day process just fine. Then picking a paint color for the kitchen happened – I still haven’t recovered.
Deciding on a paint color is no small task – our brains are highly influenced by color. Scientists believe that color accounts for 60% of our response to an object or place. Even the smallest variations in a particular color can have profound effects on our response to it. The last thing you want to do is paint your bedroom a color that subconsciously makes you agitated. And to further complicate the process, there are over a billion paint color choices on the market today.
To help you navigate the tricky job of deciding on a paint color for a room (or multiple rooms!) I have compiled a list of tips that will get you started. Your ultimate goal is to find the perfect hue without doing what I did (repainting your room numerous times) and driving yourself completely insane.
I hope these help!
Find inspiration all around you.
Study a fabric or a piece of artwork that you really like. See what colors stick out to you. Learn your color preferences that you may not even realize you already have!
Think about the mood of your room.
Neutrals and cool colors usually create a soothing and calm feeling while bolder colors can be dramatic and inspiring. This also applies to the level of formality in a room – typically deeper colors will give a more formal ambiance while lighter colors are seen as more sociable and casual.
Don’t forget about lighting!
Lighting is so important when picking a paint color. Natural daylight shows the truest color (go ahead – take your paint swatches outside!) – incandescent lighting brings out yellow tones – and fluorescent light casts a blue tone. Think about the type of lighting you will be using in your house and see your samples under those conditions. Additionally, think about how much (or how little) sunlight a room will receive – this will have a profound impact on your color selection. (Tip: if you find a color that you really like but you’re afraid it’s too dark for a room that receives little sunlight – ask them to cut it with 25% or 50% white.)
Don’t get distracted.
There are a lot of beautiful paint colors, but just because something looks great on a 2”x2” swatch doesn’t mean it will translate well on four walls. Often times, people will pick colors that are too bright or saturated because the samples stood out in the store. Interior designer Tobi Fairley says, “A bright cobalt blue, which is really trendy right now, can look great as a ceramic lamp, because it has a sheen to it, or as a silk pillow, because it has depth or interest, but when you put that same really bright color on the wall, it’s a whole lot stronger. Lighter, muddy colors (meaning they have more gray or black mixed in with them) work better than a really bright strong hue.”
Embrace your favorites.
Once you narrow down your choices to a handful of options, mix your favorite samples and test them on walls at home. This is a time consuming and messy process, so don’t expect to test a ton of samples. I shoot for 6 or under, the fewer you pick the easier a final decision will be. You’ll know if you really like them if you keep coming back to them in the store.
Walk into another room.
When you’re in one room you will see pieces of another room through it. So as you are choosing colors consider how they will flow from room to room. If possible, tie paint color in one room into the décor in an adjoining room.
Visualize your finished room.
I admit this was hard for me. No matter what color you choose, seeing four totally bare walls in an empty room is sure to seem overwhelming. Relax. Once you replace your artwork, furniture, window treatments, etc. your room will not seem so intense with one color. (Tip: if possible, pick your paint color last. Paints come in so many different colors that you should be able to match almost any fabric or other décor item easily. If you’re painting a not-yet-decorated room, have a good idea of your design plan before picking a paint color or you could paint yourself in a corner. Pun intended!)
Think of color in threes.
Use the 60 – 30 – 10 rule. 60% of the room should be your dominant color (usually what you paint the walls), 30% should be your secondary color (often a shade of white), and 10% will be an accent color. Of course most rooms have other accents in them, but be sure that the three most dominant colors all work well together if everything else is removed.
Look at books and magazines.
Today we have a thousand design websites, blogs (!), TV shows and inspiration boards like Houzz and Pinterest to help us with our design decisions. It’s easy to overlook the ‘old school’ décor magazines and books to help us find inspiration, but they are worth it. These resources have tons of information about design choices (not just pictures with no sources). Plus, reading a couple of pages in a magazine about one room or house will ultimately give you more knowledge than looking at a bunch of random pictures on Pinterest. I promise! I also suggest this book for choosing paint colors in particular.
Ignore the trends.
Ignore the designers. Ignore the sales person. Even ignore your mother (sorry mom!) when it comes to making your final decision. Taking a survey of opinions can be helpful, but ultimately you are the one who has to live with the color. Following these tips and taking your time (very important!) will help, but ultimately you should go with your gut. At the end of the day – if you’re feeling it, run it!