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How to Choose the Right Paint Colors for Your Home

Paint samples on paper; choosing the right paint color helps

Ask a homeowner to choose a paint color and you'll probably strike fear into their heart. Maybe because finding the perfect color seems daunting while standing in front of the hundreds of sample cards at the home improvement store, or maybe because we all know the amount of time that goes into painting and we're afraid we might hate the color we picked. No matter the reason, it's a very important decision that sets the stage for the rest of your home. It's the backdrop against which everything is set and often also plays a starring role as well and is a major contributor to the overall feel of your home.

Call me strange, but picking paint colors is one of my favorite things. I have been asked about paint colors so many times over the years--both people asking the name of the paint colors in my homes and people asking me to help them choose their paint colors--and I get giddy when I get to pull out a paint fan deck and start sharing.

Since choosing a paint color is intimidating for so many people (but fun for me), I put together some of my best tips for choosing the right paint color as a way to help you get past the immobilizing decision with confidence and clarity. So let's dive in.

living room with dark blues walls and big window; how to choose the right paint colors

Consider the Purpose and Mood of the Space Before Choosing A Paint Color

Before you ever head to the paint store or pull out samples, I want you to think about the purpose and mood of the space you'll be painting. Ask yourself the following questions to gain clarity on how you want the finished room or home to feel.

  • How will this space be used?

  • What are the physical specifications of the room? (Size, ceiling height, areas that won't be painted such as a fireplace or bookshelves)

  • Will the paint color be a backdrop or have a starring role in the space?

  • How do I want the space to feel? Dark and moody? Light and airy? Fun and vibrant? Calming and peaceful?

  • What existing colors (in furniture, flooring, or other decor) do I need to work with?

Once you know the answers to those questions, you'll be ready to choose your paint color. The right paint color will take all those things into consideration and strike a balance.

Here are a few color groups that might help you narrow down the spectrum of choices.

  • Moody: Deep blues or greens, charcoal or black, a rich burgundy

  • Airy: Whites, light yellow, light grays, sky blue

  • Vibrant: Reds, pinks, mid-tone greens, turquoise, oranges

  • Calming: Water-inspired blues, soft greens, warm neutrals

  • Earthy: Tarracotta, browns, olive green

Say you wanted a deep and luxurious feel for your living room. It will be mostly used as a gathering space that's semi-formal and somewhat small. It has a brick fireplace and mantle that won't be included in the paint project. You want the color to be rich and inviting without being overwhelming. And you have a deep leather sofa you need to work with.

Taking all these things into consideration, you'd automatically eliminate anything in the light and mid-tone ranges as well as anything that doesn't go well with your sofa. You'd also make sure that the color of the brick fireplace goes well with your chosen color. At this point we're still choosing a broad color range. So let's say you decide you want a navy blue.

Great, on to the next step.

Take Inspiration from Your Surroundings to Choose the Right Paint Colors

Another suggestion for choosing an inspiring paint color is to look for inspiration beyond the paint swatches. There are many places you can find gorgeous colors in real-world settings.

  • Magazines. Home magazines will often list paint colors along with the interior shots. And even if you don't get the exact color name, you can use the image to get you started.

  • Go for a Walk. Nature has an amazing way of blending colors and creating gorgeous palettes. Go for a walk and look for colors that bring you the same feelings that you identified as wanting for your space. Take a photo to reference later.

  • Pull colors from a statement piece. Maybe you have a rug you love, a piece of art that would look great in the space, or a wallpaper you're dying to put up. Often using colors from things we already own or have chosen is a great starting point. And while you may not want the exact color from your statement piece, it gives you a reference point to work with.

dark blue photos; how to choose the right paint colors

Going back to our dark and luxurious living room example, let's say you have some artwork with deep blues in it. You'd choose some color choices that coordinate with the blues in the artwork and will look good next to the fireplace and sofa. Get a few (maybe 3-5 colors) samples from the store, and pick a few that are the closest to matching (if that's what you want) or are a darker version of that color (if it's still too light for your mood).

You've now narrowed it down to just a few choices! On we go.

Test Your Paint Color Before You Paint the Whole Room

I cannot stress enough the importance of testing your chosen paint colors in your actual space before committing. It's a pain in the neck, I know, but it's so important. It's also a lot cheaper and less time consuming than repainting the room because you chose wrong.

To get samples, there are a couple of options:

  1. Buy samples, and then either paint a swatch the size of a piece of paper on the wall or on paintable swatches that peel and stick to your wall (these are so cool) and see how the color really looks in your space before picking your final color.

  2. Pre-painted peel-and-stick samples from Samplize. They do all the work for you! You just pick the paint company and color name, and they mail you peel-and-stick samples. It's painless, mess-less, and brilliant frankly. They carry Shwerwin Williams, Farrow & Ball, Benjamin Moore, PPG, and more.

  3. Many paint manufacturers also offer pre-painted swatches through their websites if you know what paint manufacturer you want. (You can also use the room visualizers available on many paint sites such as this one from Sherwin Williams, but I would use this to get you in the right general direction, not for choosing a final color. How it looks in your actual space will be very different than a photo.)

how to choose the right paint colors

Check how the colors look at different times of day and even in different places in the room (in a dark corner vs. where sunlight comes through the window). Choose the color that's best in the most different circumstances, and you'll pick the right color.

Choosing the right paint color to create a space that gives the mood and feeling you want is easy when you consider the purpose, inspiration, what you have to work with, and how to make sure you're fine tuning your choice to be the best choice in the long run.

What other paint-choosing advice would you add? Let me know in the comments, and if you know anyone struggling to decide on paint colors, help them out by using the social media buttons to send this article to them. Happy paint color choosing.

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