8 Steps to Choosing the Perfect Paint Color

If you never really “got” the meaning behind this blog’s name, you’re about to see firsthand what I meant by “bless’er house”. (That ‘er in there is just an abbreviation of “her” since we usually have our own way of pronouncing words here in the Carolinas.)

Here’s the full meaning if you haven’t seen it yet, but last week, I had one of those “bless her heart” moments. As in, “She’s not the brightest bulb in the chandelier. Bless her heart.” Yeah, one of those.

If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, you might already have an idea of what I’m talking about.

8 Steps to Choosing the Perfect Paint Color | Bless'er House

I’ve been gearing up for another room makeover, this time in Olivia’s room with still builder primer white walls, and even though I picked up a few paint chips from Sherwin Williams the other week, I somehow lost my head.

8 Steps to Choosing the Perfect Paint Color | Bless'er House

I’m a huge fan of Fixer Upper, and it seems like everything Joanna Gaines touches turns to gold. So I figured, “I bet I could paint with this gray color she used in one of her recent makeovers and it will look awesome!” After all, it looked great in the pictures, so it has to be beautiful in person too, right?

Really, y’all. I knew better. But I didn’t feel like going through the process of picking up paint chips, trying out samples, and going back to the store yet again with a toddler in tow to purchase the paint. I just wanted this painting project done.

You think I would have learned. It’s happened before. (Bless my pitiful house and all the drama I put it through.)

And even though after polling many of you on social media and the vast majority of you said you loved it, I wasn’t sold on it. Some of you still echoed my exact thoughts (like Jill from The Rozy Home and my friend Esther in that snapshot below).

8 Steps to Choosing the Perfect Paint Color | Bless'er House

It was a beautiful color, but it was more beige than I’d envisioned, clashed with the gray in the fabric (French Stamp by Premier Prints), and felt too grown-up to me for a 2 and a half year-old girl. I was picturing light and sweet and instead ended up with dark and dramatic.

If you take anything away from this post, here’s the jist: Go with your gut. If you’re not head over heels for a decorating decision you’re making, change course. Don’t settle for something you don’t love.

Luckily, I was able to sell my gallon I’d bought to someone on my local Facebook buy/sell/trade group who could appreciate it better, and I trapsed right to the paint store to do this color choosing thing the right way. (In the end, it cost me $10 to learn this lesson.)

I went back to the drawing board and gathered up lots of paint cards. These are just a few:

8 Steps to Choosing the Perfect Paint Color | Bless'er House

So since I quit being stubborn, here’s how you’re really supposed to choose paint colors:

1. Look at your Pinterest boards or favorite rooms and pay attention to the colors used.  Are they usually in the blue family? Red family? Very neutral?

2. Gather up plenty of paint strips that appeal to you or are in the color family you have in mind (blues, greens, etc.). If you don’t even have an idea of what color family you’d like, think about what sort of mood you’d like in the room. Blues/greens – calming, reds/yellows – energetic. If neither of those two ends of the spectrum sound appealing, you’ll probably want a true neutral (no undertones).

3. Analyze your paint strips on a white surface.  I like to use a piece of white foam posterboard and sit in windowlight to see the truest colors possible.

4. Focus on the darker colors on paint strips to see undertones.  Lighter colors can be really tricky to see if a gray or beige has a green or blue undertone. If you look at the bottom two colors, it will be more obvious. If you don’t really see a color present other than black or brown, you have a true neutral.

8 Steps to Choosing the Perfect Paint Color | Bless'er House

5. Tape the paint strips you are most drawn toward to your poster board and position it against the wall in the room to be painted. Move the poster board around the room to see the colors in different light and even leave the board in the room for a day or two to see how the colors change with the lighting. Pay attention to how the different colors will work with your fabrics and furniture colors too. You don’t want them competing with each other. Don’t rush! Waiting a day or two to make a decision is better than living with a paint color you hate for several years or going through the extra labor to repaint it.

6. Consider the space size and amount of natural light in your room.  If you have a small room with very little or no window light, you probably want to choose lighter colors. For larger rooms with a good amount of natural light, you can get away with darker colors. But hey, sometimes you can break the rules if you’re feeling daring. I’ve seen some gorgeous dark yet small offices and large, white spaces.

8 Steps to Choosing the Perfect Paint Color | Bless'er House

(By the way, don’t trust paint colors as you see them on a computer screen! That Amazing Gray actually looks really good in that photo there. It looked much darker and more beige in person.)

7. Narrow your favorites down to 4-5 colors and buy sample pots of them.  (If you have all kinds of brands you want samples of, usually you can have any color mixed anywhere you can buy paint. I got my Benjamin Moore and Sherwin Williams samples at Lowe’s since it’s an easier drive for me. And they’re a few bucks cheaper.) You can paint your samples on poster board as well or paint on the walls at different spots around the room to check them in various light. It’s crazy how much a color can change from how they looked on the paint strip to the actual paint. The samples help clarify that.

8. Bring any furniture, fabrics, or accent pieces into the room and place them near your paint samples to see which one(s) best coordinate. Whichever one screams to you as “the one”, scoop up your protesting little one, bribe her with chocolate and the cool racecar carts at the home improvement store, and buy the winning can of paint…or maybe that’s just my routine.

If you want to know what colors I tested in my samples, I tried out Sherwin Williams Amazing Gray and the Benjamin Moore colors Gray Owl, Moonshine, and Revere Pewter.

8 Steps to Choosing the Perfect Paint Color | Bless'er House

I’ll be revealing tomorrow what I chose! So excited! I will say though, it amazes me how different these paint colors are in these photos I’ve taken than they are in real life. Of course that could just be the photographer’s fault. 😉

Be sure to pin this post for later, just in case:

8 Steps to Choosing the Perfect Paint Color | Bless'er House

Which one do you think works the best? Do you have any tips for choosing paint colors? Or a never-fail go-to paint color you really like? I’d love to hear them.

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36 Comments

  1. we just started painting our house today. We bought a foreclosed home and the walls were yellow on one side and pepto pink on the other! We chose gray owl for our home and we are loving the color!!

  2. Sadly, I make bad paint choices all the time. Thanks for the helpful tips.
    Looking forward to seeing which one you went with. I like the moonshine…was is that one????

    1. You’re in good company. I’ve made some bad paint choices in my day too. We chose Grey Owl but Moonshine was a very close second.

      1. My *grey owl* kitchen looked baby blue. I think it has to do with the lighting. How did yours turn out?

        1. Mine turned out awesome! I’m so sorry to hear yours didn’t. Paint is so crazy weird. I know we’ve all made paint mistakes. If I don’t go through this whole process of samples and looking at them in all kinds of light, I’m pretty much always destined for failure. It’s tricky business.

  3. I like gray owl best. Whichever you choose should look great with the pastel pink! I’m a Fixer Upper addict too and want to repaint all the walls in my house in nuetrals.

    1. That’s what we chose, Jenny! 🙂 I’ve figured out I love painting with neutrals too. Makes changing up a room when you get tired of it so much easier and faster than having to repaint in a new color.

  4. We have such a hard time picking paint colors at our house – well gray paint colors to be exact! We painted our entire kitchen (so. much. cutting. in.) with what we thought was a true gray…but I have no idea what we were thinking because it CLEARLY had blue undertones in it. We even got 4 different paint samples to try too! But, we now have a baby blue kitchen. One day we’ll be painting the cabinets white, and we’ll fix the wall color then. For now we’ll have to deal with a kitchen that looks like a baby’s room. Guess next time we’ll have to follow your steps!! 🙂

    Can’t wait to see which color you chose. I have always loved Gray Owl so my vote is definitely on that one!

    1. I know exactly how you feel, Shelby! When we first moved into our house, I just chose a paint color that I saw on Pinterest that I really liked. (I blame first homeowner syndrome on that one.) Our entire downstairs is okay, and I can live with it, but it’s definitely not the color I had envisioned. Gray is so crazy hard! I guess we all have to learn from our mistakes to get better at this stuff. And I miiiight have chosen Gray Owl on this one. 😉 Hehe