How to Choose the Perfect Paint Color for Your Home Every Time

6 best tips and tricks to choose paint colors for your home and getting it perfect every single time without the guess work.

This post has been a loooooong time coming. Literally every single day, I have multiple paint color questions in my inbox.

And while I try my best to answer all of them and truly love helping every chance I get, my response is usually the same, “Only you can truly decide the best paint color for your home. Because choosing the perfect one through a computer screen is pretty much impossible.”

One of those give a man a fish, teach a man to fish kind of things…

So while we’re in the process of deciding the perfect paint colors for the home office (that we hopefully will be breaking ground on next week), this is the entire process I use for every single room makeover.

How to Choose the Perfect Paint Color for Your Home Every Time | 6 best tips and tricks to choose paint colors for your home and getting it perfect every single time without the guess work.

6 Tips to Choose Paint Colors for Your Home

1. Decide what sort of mood you want your room to have.

There is such a thing as the psychology of color, and you’re probably already aware of it. (If you don’t believe me, think about your color association to brands in marketing.) Red is energetic, white is clean & pure, blue is peaceful, etc.

Before diving into paint color swatches, decide first how you want to feel when you walk into a room. Do you want your bedroom to feel dramatic and sophisticated? Paint it black.

How to Choose Paint Colors for Your Home Perfectly Every Single Time | Kilz Rebel Black Bedroom

Do you want your kitchen to feel lively and fresh? Maybe painting your cabinets green would be a good idea.

How to Choose Paint Colors for Your Home Perfectly Every Single Time | Sherwin Williams Billiard Green Kitchen Cabinets Two-Tone

Do you want your home to feel simple, clean, and minimalist? Go white.

How to Choose Paint Colors for Your Home Perfectly Every Single Time | Magnolia True White and Benjamin Moore Coventry Gray

Once you nail that down, you can start the next step…

2. Find Paint Color Inspirations.

Pinterest, Google, and Instagram have made searching for paint color inspiration so much easier, but don’t rely on images you find on the internet or in magazines as your only tool for choosing what paint to pick up at the hardware store.

How to Choose Paint Colors for Your Home Perfectly Every Single Time | Pinterest home office pins

Cell phone screens and laptop monitors skew colors and make it nearly impossible to tell what paint colors really look like in person. Not to mention, not all rooms and lighting are created equally.

Get a general idea of some paint colors you might want to sample from photos online, and make a list of your favorites or a color “family” you want to try.

3. Pull a Color from Textiles, Art, or Wallpaper.

When designing a room, plan with a piece of art, wallpaper, rug, or other textile as your starting point. It’s easier to match a paint color to fabric or art than it is the other way around.

How to Choose Paint Colors for Your Home Perfectly Every Single Time | Behr My Sweet Heart Pale Pink Bedroom & Wallpaper Focal Wall

Take your piece of art, wallpaper sample, or fabric swatch to the paint store so you can choose paint strips to base around it. The Sherwin Williams ColorSnap Match app can come in handy for matching paint to items too if you don’t want to take something to the store.

How to Choose Paint Colors for Your Home Perfectly Every Single Time | Benjamin Moore Kendall Charcoal Gray Dining Room

If you’re planning to create an accent wall, choose a bold paint color in the print. If you’re choosing paint for a large space, focus on subtle colors in the fabric.

4. Identify Paint Color Undertones.

It’s easy for most people to see a “mass” color tone – the main color you see when you first glance at a paint chip.

But a paint color’s undertone can be tricky. And if you’re not careful, that cool gray you were hoping to paint your living room ends up looking like a baby boy’s bright blue nursery.

How to Choose Paint Colors for Your Home Perfectly Every Single Time

Undertones can vary from green, yellow, beige, blue, and pink.

Here is how to identify paint color undertones:

  • First, try to determine if a color is warm or cool. (Warm paint colors will have a pink, beige, or yellow undertone. Cool paint colors will have a green, blue, or purple undertone.)

How to Choose Paint Colors for Your Home Perfectly Every Single Time | How to identify paint color undertones

  • Put a paint chip on a piece of white printer paper. You’ll be able to see the undertone better against the stark, true white of the paper.

At first glance, this lightest colors on this paint chip look white. But once I put it on a piece of white computer paper, I could see a green undertone.

How to Choose Paint Colors for Your Home Perfectly Every Single Time | How to identify paint color undertones

This paint chip’s lightest color looks white to the naked eye, but once I put it on the white paper, I could see creamy yellow undertones.

How to Choose Paint Colors for Your Home Perfectly Every Single Time | How to identify paint color undertones

  • Look at the darkest colors on a gradient paint chip strip. It’s usually easier to see undertone in the darkest shade on the strip.

How to Choose Paint Colors for Your Home Perfectly Every Single Time | How to identify paint color undertones

5. Brush Paint Samples on White Card Stock or Poster Board.

Whatever you do, don’t skip this step. I swear it pays off. Use clean brushes to paint color samples on white foam board and tape them to different walls around the room that you plan to paint.

How to Choose Paint Colors for Your Home Perfectly Every Single Time | White paint colors | Benjamin Moore Swiss Coffee | Decorator's White | White Heron | Super White | Simply White | White Dove | Chantilly Lace | Pure White

Leave the boards up for a day or two and look at them in different lighting throughout various times of the day. The colors will look different depending on the room’s natural light morning, noon, and night and on gloomy days and sunny days.

When deciding, try to use light bulbs in the room that you will use in the final room design.

Different bulbs can produce different color variations:

  • Daylight bulbs will make colors look blue.
  • Incandescent bulbs will make colors look yellow.
  • Natural light from windows will reflect the truest colors.

Based on my samples in my lighting, I could test the Benjamin Moore whites I was considering for the office makeover:

  • Swiss Coffee – A darker white with yellow undertone
  • White Dove – A slightly brighter white with yellow undertone
  • Simply White – A bright white with a neutral undertone
  • White Heron – A bright white with a neutral undertone
  • Decorator’s White – A bright white with a slightly blue undertone
  • Chantilly Lace – A bright white with a neutral undertone
  • Pure White – A bright white with a neutral undertone
  • Super White – The brightest, truest white

(By the way, did you catch my furniture layout trick in Instagram Stories for planning furniture layouts. 😉 )

Giving yourself that time allows you to see how colors behave in different light so that you can rule out the ones you don’t prefer.

6. A Few More Paint Color Tips to Consider

  • You can use more than one color in a room, but try to keep it to three colors maximum. If you want to have bold colors, keep it to two and make the third color a neutral to keep the room from feeling overwhelming.
  • Choose your boldest color first when paint selecting. Neutrals are more lenient.
  • If you want color but are afraid of being too bold, choose either green or blue. Those two colors are the most plentiful in nature and feel less overwhelming in large doses. Think about how a pair of blue jeans goes with pretty much anything. Same goes with blue paint.
  • When in doubt, choose 2-3 colors on the same paint chip strip or in the same color collection. They’re already formulated to go together and will have similar undertones. Paint brands often work with designers and artists to create color collections, so rely on those to take out the guess work.

Most importantly though, don’t be afraid! Paint isn’t permanent and can always be changed if you decide you don’t love it.

It all does seem like a lengthy process, but I’d rather spend a day or two debating over a paint color than regretting a paint color for years after (or having to repaint an entire room because of a color mistake).

Does that help? Maybe?

Have you used any of these methods before? Or do you usually wing it?

I’ve learned my lesson the hard way too many times before.

If you have any paint color questions, hit me with ’em! I’ll try to answer them all in the comments.

P.S. If you want to see all of our home’s paint colors, here is our whole house paint color scheme. 

P.P.S. If you want to save this post for later, you can pin it here:

How to Choose the Perfect Paint Color for Your Home Every Time | 6 best tips and tricks to choose paint colors for your home and getting it perfect every single time without the guess work.

 

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16 Comments

  1. What color are the closet doors in the white room with the moldings, gold ceiling light, and gray and white rug? I love it.

  2. Great reminders! I am in the process of repainting kitchen cabinets. We finally splurged on Iced White Quartz (looks wonderful) countertops and while my Duck Egg blue lowers work, we are thinking about SW Naval with our white uppers. So off to the paint store we are heading. In my years, I have frequently painted – and re-painted – homes, furniture, fixtures so many times that if I am NOT painting, I wonder why. Even my cats are concerned as they have never had their color changed. I am living vicariously through your magical wand of transformation, Lauren. Thank you!!

  3. I have been using Samplize lately and it really streamlines the process. You get large peel-and-stick, reusable sheets with your chosen paint colors. It saves having to buy and store paint samples. So much easier!!!

  4. Hi, Lauren! I love following your blog & Insta! You have the most beautiful style & also love seeing your sweet fam! I am a painting newbie, so this post was super helpful!

    As far as paint finishes, what do you typically use on walls vs. trim/doors?

    Thanks so much!

    1. Thank you, Arielle! We typically use eggshell sheen on walls, satin on cabinets, and semigloss on trim/doors. Hope that helps! 🙂

  5. HI Christy! I have been in the same boat. Not feasible to spend too much money on just sample. And I always end up trying quite a few sample before I decide which I like. I have learned that home depot color matches Sherwin Williams and their sample pots are smaller and way cheaper. So now I get Home Depot sample pots matched and then buy Sherwin Williams color that I liked.

  6. Fantastic explanations! I can help everyone else choose paint but when it comes to me, I second, third and fourth guess myself! Why is that?! Maybe it’s because the hubs thinks if the paint isn’t pealing from the walls, it still looks good? Ayi yi yi. Pinned.

  7. I use Sherwin Williams paint but the smallest you can purchase is a quart. How do I find the right color without spending a lot of money on paint samples?

    1. We purchased samples too, but for me, it was worth spending money now to avoid hundreds of dollars in a mistake down the road.

  8. Your method is genius! I love this post!
    My husband wanted a gray color in the master bathroom-after 2 failed colors – one looked purple the other too blue – I went a different direction and it made a huge difference. I now ALWAYS test first and look at different times of day. I’ve also figured out if painting over a darker color always prime. If not your perfectly chosen color go in a different direction.

  9. Years ago we moved into a very blah house and decided to paint our living room cathedral wall a rich chocolate brown. Sounds great right? WRONG. We got it up, a great deal of work to paint up 20 ft! Once up, it looked like a sick baby had had a terrible diaper accident all over! It was disgusting. We had only looked at the paint samples in the evening, once morning hit, YUK! We went out that day and got a different paint. I sure learned a hard lesson. After that I bought small amounts and painted foam core samples.
    I also learned the hard way about a warm room and a cool room, depending on your light. We painted our bedroom a lovely white, until afternoon came, then it got cooler and cooler until the temp seemed to drop 10 degrees! That side got very little natural light. We put a skylight in and that changed everything!

  10. I chuckled out loud when you mentioned the gray looking like bright baby boy blue, because that’s exactly what happened to me! So I repainted AFTER trying out samples on the wall. Didn’t go with my gut, and ended up again with blue walls, not as bright, but blue nonetheless – grrrr! Couldn’t afford to paint yet again at that time, but getting ready now to make some changes and determined to end up with neutral gray walls!

  11. I have a hard time seeing undertones myself so, I ask the store employee what colors are used in the mixture.

  12. This was very helpful. I love your blog and your creativity! I’m in the middle of painting, and picking paint for our new home and it’s much more challenging because both of my kiddos are color blind (not full color blind, they do see color, but they see shades of red instead of green, and pink instead of gray, and vice versa), so I’m trying to find colors that look the way they should look to them and me. We settled on Behr Royal Orchard to paint a piece of furniture because it actually looks green to them! YAY! Thank you, again for sharing your creative ideas! I’m going to stencil a wall soon with the stencil you used on your front stoop!

  13. Excellent article!!! I agonize so much over paint colors, and really appreciate such a wonderful summary of how to proceed!

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