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.
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.
Do you want your kitchen to feel lively and fresh? Maybe painting your cabinets green would be a good idea.
Do you want your home to feel simple, clean, and minimalist? Go white.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
- 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.
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.
- 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.
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.
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.P.S. If you want to save this post for later, you can pin it here: