10 Really Smart Tips for Choosing the Right Paint Colour

How to get the colour you love without feeling overwhelmed

Even the most decisive among us can find ourselves stymied when faced with paint chips or swatch books.  We think we want white walls, only to discover that ‘white’ apparently comes in hundreds of different shades, different finishes, different textures – and then we have to choose a complimentary trim colour, too.

Here are 10 tips to help you get the colour you love:

  1. Think about what you use the room for.  If it’s a breakfast room where you usually read the morning paper, you’re going to want a brighter colour.  A bedroom for a child who has trouble settling down at night might need a darker, calming tone.
  2. Don’t try to replicate that room you saw on Pinterest.  Photographs – especially the ones you see on your computer monitor – aren’t accurate, and can be particularly deceptive when it comes to wall colour.  That warm mustard you see in the photo might actually be bright yellow with a Photoshop filter or overhead lighting you can’t see.  Trying to colour-match from a photo on your iPad will almost always end in disappointment.
  3. Take your paint chips home before you buy anything.  Colours will look a lot different under the fluorescent lighting of the store than they will in the actual room you’re trying to paint, so make sure you see paint chips in context.
  4. Try sample patches on your walls.  Whether you’re engaging professional painters or doing it yourself, sample patches are invaluable:  They’ll let you see how the colour will really look when it’s dry, and they allow you to see how the colour looks throughout the day in different lighting.
  5. Take your time.  The #1 cause of paint colour dissatisfaction?  Someone made a split-second decision because they wanted to get it over with, and didn’t think it through.  No, you don’t have to take weeks to ponder your options, but a day or two of quiet consideration will go a long way.
  6. Compare your samples on a white background.  It’s funny how you can look at a colour and think it’s ‘white’, until you put it up against something that is a really bright white and you realize that the first colour had a blue or green or red cast to it.  Doing the ‘white test’ will ensure you don’t end up with a bedroom that has an off-putting greenish tinge.
  7. Know that dark colours will seem darker.  A dark blue or brown on a paint chip is one thing; standing in the middle of a room with all four walls painted in that colour will seem considerably darker.  If you’re at all concerned about your room being too dark, choose a shade or two lighter than you think you want the end product to look like.
  8. Don’t guess at colour matching.  If you’ve got your heart set on matching your paint to a fabric, ornament or wallpaper, take that item with you when making your choice.  Item too big or unwieldy to take to the store?  Professional painters can bring colour options to you.
  9. Don’t get caught up in ‘rules’. People will tell you that small rooms should be painted in bright colours and large ones in darker shades, but not every room is created equal. A large room with skylights might benefit from a crisp white palette; a small powder room can be super-dramatic with black walls and a silver ceiling.
  10. Enjoy the experimentation. At the end of the day, it’s only paint. Trying something new could result in a more dramatic, exciting, or satisfying room than you’d hoped for – and if it doesn’t work, well, it only takes a can of paint to fix it!