10 Tips For Choosing The Right Paint Color

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Happy Monday! I hope you had a great weekend! We enjoyed a lazy Saturday with a trip to the farmer’s market Watermelon Festival and grocery shopping. And then I got away for a few minutes to TJ Maxx – my happy place. I found some treasures that will be making an appearance on the blog this Fall. They are so cool.

Anyway, on to today’s post – 10 Tips For Choosing the Right Paint Color! I have loved color for a long time…as long as I can remember, in fact. Two of my favorite classes in design school were on color theory. I cried in frustration, I laughed when I finally got a project just right and I learned the “whys” behind colors. Even though I’m home with my boys most of the time, I do run out on paint consultations every so often. I love it!

Choosing Paint Colors
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Today, I’m sharing the tips and tricks that I’ve learned and practiced over the last several years. Knowing how to choose the right paint color will also be easy on your budget if you get it right the first time. 🙂

10 Awesome Tips For Choosing The Right Paint Color

1. For the love of all things beautiful, DO NOT go straight to your local home improvement store, choose a color under those horrific lights, buy two gallons and tote it home. Please.  Your walls thank you in advance.

Trust me.

2. What looks good in my house might look awful in yours. And vice versa.

This actually happened to me a few months ago. I loved the look of Sherwin William’s Comfort Gray in several rooms that I had seen online. Without doing much research I painted my dining room and it was wayyy too blue. Not what I was going for at all. I should have followed my own advice and gotten a few sample pots.

3. Find your inspiration piece.

Your inspiration may be something you already have – a piece of fabric, a chair, a pillow, a piece of art. Go old school and look through magazines or use Pinterest. Either way, decide what colors you are drawn to.

4. Take advantage of paint sample strips.

Again, trust me. If you can get your hands on a paint deck {see the photo above} that would be even better. If you don’t have a paint deck and you don’t know anyone who does, you can usually get them on loan from your local paint store. If these aren’t options, then take paint samples liberally enough so you can go on to the next step.

5. Look for color undertones and compare samples. This is not rocket science. You don’t have to freak out. I will show you what I mean.

Understanding Color Undertones

It is very helpful to compare paint samples to white. It is the easiest way to determine what undertone a color has. See the above picture. If you look carefully, you can see that each paint sample strip has an undertone – green, blue, red, yellow. The neutral strip is pretty much just that – neutral.

6. Tape the paint samples to the wall and look at them during different times of day.

It is very important that you look at the paint samples in different light {both natural and manmade}. Give the samples a good stare  – morning, noon and night – and you’ll be well on your way to step #7.

7. Use process of elimination. Also…squint.

As you look at the paint samples color undertones and see them in different lighting, you will begin to determine which ones you love and which ones you don’t  This is the beautiful process of elimination. It rocks. If a color makes you hesitate, scratch it. You might think that squinting sounds funny, but if you squint your eyes, often colors are easier to figure out.

8. Get sample pots of a few paint samples that you like best.

Please do not skip this step. Especially if you are painting a large area. Get sample pots of 2-3 {or 10, I’m kidding!} and paint them on the wall in a few different places. I like using el cheapo foam brushes that I can just throw away when I’m done. This is the final step in the paint sample elimination process. Either you love a color or you don’t.

9. It will end up darker than you think.

I realize that when looking at a paint strip of colors from light to dark, it’s very tempting to be all dramatic and go super dark. Once a color is on all four walls, it’s going to be more dramatic {dark or need-your-sunglasses-bright} than it looks on that innocent little paint strip.

Sunglasses Needed

10. Less saturation is more.

I just touched on this point, but a slightly grayed paint color is going to be more subtle and classic than a color that requires sunglasses. My recommendation is to go for less saturation rather than more. I can’t tell you how many times a client has tried to find that perfect yellow color and unfortunately it looks like “the Man With The Yellow Hat” came for a visit. A soft, buttery yellow is much more pleasing, even though it looks more pale on a paint strip.

One last note – If you’re cheap like me, color match. I primarily use Benjamin Moore and Sherwin Williams in my design work. I don’t really have a preference, so either is fine. However, I’m a tightwad and pretty much always have their paint color matched. It’s not always a “perfect” match, but it’s a good-enough-for-me-match. 😉

10 Awesome Tips For Choosing The Right Paint Color
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If you’re preparing to make paint selections for a new house or a room remodel, I hope you will use these tips for choosing just the right paint color! If you have questions, hit me up in the comments!

Have you ever had a paint color fail? Has it sometimes taken a while to get the color just right?



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  1. Excellent post!!!!! Thanks for sharing. 🙂 I am color and decorating challenged so these tips are super helpful.

    1. oh, i so agree! i can look @ something & tell you if i like it or not, but i’ve found it’s difficult for me to visualize the end result. we’ve been in the process of painting our kitchen for a few yrs. now ( =/ ), & when we 1st were trying to find a lt. beige color, the colors we were getting were all wrong…pinkish, too dark, etc. Now we have what we want, although i’d still go for a bit lighter in a perfect world. however, i’m pleased w/ end result esp. since the trim is white. if the walls were any lighter, i think it wouldn’t be enough contrast. so, thank you for the tips for future reference when we just can’t find THE color! =)

  2. Yes I have had to re paint several walls because the color just looked wrong in my house( And this was after trying samples!! It was yellow.) You are right about it being hard to find a perfect buttery yellow. I have found out that I am a more blue and green girl!! I have several colors that I absolutely love and one of them is Nantucket Gray by Benjamin Moore. It is a greeny gray and I think it is such a wonderful calming background for my living room.
    Arlene Grimm@ Nanaland´s last blog post ..A Fun Saturday

      1. Hi Myra,
        I am finally brave enough to paint my wood paneling in my den. My husband thinks it is “cozy” I think it is really dark! I am going to paint the walls BM Nantucket Gray but I have built in bookcases do you know a good trim color that would work with Nantucket Gray? I have looked at Dover White and Alabaster White. Thanks!

  3. Thanks for the insight on picking paint colors. I am currently trying to pick out a color for my girls bedroom. I am leaning towards Ben Moore Pebble Beach. Have you had an experience with this color? Or seen it in person? I want a very subtle gray – and this one seems to be the answer. Just wondered if you had an opinion on it??

    1. Pebble Beach is a pretty color. It has a blue undertone, so if that’s what you are going for…perfect! 🙂 If you want something a tad more gray then Graytint – 1611 is another nice option. Either way would be quite lovely.

  4. That’s funny that you mentioned Comfort Gray being too blue! I actually painted my master bedroom that color and it’s a soothing, green-gray in there! Each room has it’s own personality for sure!
    Meg Parker´s last blog post ..Paint Brush Cubby

  5. Thanks for the tips! Where do you get the colors matched?? We just moved into a new home and every room was painted a horrible color so I’m desperate to change them right away!!

  6. These are fantastic tips! I like the idea on figuring out undertones. The hardest for me to pick out is yellow. I once painted my bathroom 3 times and finally ended up mixing colors to find the perfect shade. Good thing it’s a small bathroom! 🙂
    Kelley´s last blog post ..Selecting a New Sofa

  7. I just went through this process for an accent wall. I took my time deciding, had lots of paint chips then narrowed it down to two,then got the samples, painted those on a piece of foam board then made my decision. I also added about a teaspoon of Wild Orange Essential Oil to the gallon of paint. When adding the oil you won’t smell the paint, and since the emotional or energetic “part” of Wild Orange Oil is abundance, for life , health, family…sounds kind of strange, but everything has energy!

  8. I always tell people to pick the greyer version of the colour they THINK they like on the store. ESPECIALLY yellow because it is the one colour that will actually intensify itself as it reflects on to each wall. Our main room is a gorgeous buttery yellow that I LOVE (compatible cream by Sherwin Williams) but when I show people the chip they never believe it is the same colour because it looks like a tan.

    janet @ ordinary mom´s last blog post ..refreshed

      1. Hi Myra, I’m not decorating challenged just so long as the colors are in place. We have a very open floor plan. We’ve used Templeton grey in our kitchen(❤️) and Coventry Grey(❤️). We’ve also primarily used China white etc.
        let’s talk about my hallway and into my laundry room. My foyer too! Foyer is open to rest of plan. Need help with colors. Break it up or not? At the risk of getting greyed out……..My pictures of my interior are on my Pinterest page Around Our Home and about halfway down my pin board. My name is swankstacy. Your help choosing addt’l colors is appreciated. Like I said, I think I need to break it up or I could be wrong. Thank you for your time!

  9. Hi! Very helpful article! On the last photo in the post there is a paint sample strip of some blue green? Do you happen to have those color names? I am looking for a subtle and attractive blue green for my back door. Any thoughts or suggestions? I have done all your suggestions however I always end up with a smurf blue or baby blue – frustrating.

    1. That color is Island Green by Benjamin Moore. It’s actually pretty green. Check out Key Largo Green, Copper Patina and Robin’s Nest. All Benjamin Moore. 🙂

  10. I’m sad to admit that when my husband and I moved into our current place a few years ago, budget trumped design and our bedroom, kitchen, and guest bathroom were “oops” paint from Lowe’s. I chose decorations accordingly. It was like a game… What will this look like dry? Oh, pea green. Now nice. Not so much. Our kitchen is the “man with the yellow hat” that you referred to. I want to paint it gray, but we’re moving within the year and I can’t bring myself to spend the $$ on new paint.

    1. I totally know what you mean! Oops paint is a great budget friendly option! There’s a beauty in making do. 😉

    2. You’re better to paint your kitchen a neutral colour when it is going on the market to sell. A lot of people may be turned off by the bright yellow kitchen and this could cost you time and money.

  11. We’ve had ‘fails’ 🙂

    When we were in our last house, we decided to make the Lounge a ‘cozy’ colour … went for Terracotta types – a darker colour above the picture rail. I was with the kids at my parents and when I came home to my dear husband having done it, I gawked (and almost puked!). It was HORRID.
    The following day, HE was leaving to go to his parents with the kids, so as soon as he left, I nipped out, bought cans of white paint and painted the whole lot white. That gave me time. And sanity. Before he returned, a week later, I’d painted it in a much ‘safer’ and much more relaxing tones.

    Oh, and I was almost 9 months pregnant at the time 😉

    Some things just can’t wait … 🙂

  12. Oh this was wonderful. We’ve just moved into a house with nothing but white primed walls and I’m happy to say that I’ve used nearly all your tips so far. Oh but what to paint a 15 x 24 living room with 7 beautiful windows with loads of east facing windows. And did I forget to mention the 15 ft ceiling. Not looking forward to painting that. 😉

    1. We are in escrow on a new home….our living room is the same way! tons of huge windows and a cathedral ceiling. As much as I am looking forward to putting my own touches on the place painting is going to be a chore!

  13. Hi. I was wondering. I want to paint a dining room – with the color theme of grey, brown, neutrals, with pops of purple and sort of a ‘grass’ green. I keep going back and forth as to whether to do grey walls, or do a grey that has just a hint of lavender in it. I’m kind of torn cause I love the pale lavender color, but I wonder if for a dining room that might get a little old. Plus, you might want to change out decor in their for holidays and such, so maybe that wouldn’t work? Any suggestions?

  14. Have I ever had a paint color fail you ask……….ALL THE TIME in the living room. We get morning sun and ever since we put a porch on the front of the house, the light that comes in through the bow window is glarey. It drives me crazy! All four walls look different – the latest color is yellow – I had picked a buttery yellow but when I asked the paint man to mix 2 gallons, I asked for the wrong color cause I was going from memory. Unfortunately I didn’t realize until I got to the end! I just finished telling my husband I was going to paint the living room again (just did it 3 months ago). This will be the 8th color since we moved in 20 years ago – Thanks for the tips – we use those same techniques in painting class – why did I not remember them? Trisha

  15. Thanks for the helpful tips. What do you mean color match and where do you do it? I`m a tightwad too.

  16. Great post! I always tell people to not forget about undertones and when painting it will always dry off darker than they think. Some of them don’t listen and wonder why the color doesn’t match their curtains exactly.

  17. Glad I am not the only person with yellow issues somedays. We are building a little log home out of seconds and shorts, and for this reason have decided to paint all walls. I have settled on Behr’s dessert lily, which is a yellow for three walls and Glidden French country blue to go on a fourth cathedral ceiling wall. The dessert lily is very pale. My question is I want to do white trim to pull it all together and was thinking of something with a very slight blue undertones like Behr’s glacial tint. Will that bring out the yellow or am I better off going with just bright white? Thanks!

  18. Some of the best advice on paint color I’ve read. I have one room that has odd light & really hard to choose correctly for. Just re-did from blue to grey, and it STILL looks blue! I pride myself on picking colors without having to paint swatches first, but this time, I “blue” it. I need a mid-tone grey, on the cooler end, but neutral too, if that makes sense. Having a terrible time with it. I want to use it in other places too. As the room is open to other areas. Now I’m procrastinating choosing again!

  19. I always do a test spot (or two or three if I think the light is really varied on the walls of room), but I learned that I need to do the test on either a white primer wall or on a large piece of white posterboard. When I first painted my house, I never made a mistake in choosing just the right color because all the walls were builder beige. Eight years later, as I was starting to make changes, my success rate dropped dramatically because the color of the surrounding wall really affected my ability to read the undertones properly. This was never more true than in my largest room — a combined eat-in kitchen, living room and hall/entryway. The existing color was a soft maize / wheat gold and I wanted a green undertoned grey. Despite painting 24″ squares of three different shades on the wall, the final choice ended up being a lot bluer once it didn’t have the gold surrounding it. Once I switched to the posterboard or white primer method, I went back to my old success with the right color.

  20. I’ve had this happen too many times in the past. Now I do exactly what your tips said. When choosing my living color, I had paint swatches all over it. Then, I moved on to several samples of the best colors we liked. We finally chose a color and I’m happy to say the whole family loves it and we have had it for 3 years now. Yay!!

  21. It is hard to find a good color for my walls when all the trim in my house is pine (yellow-base) and the carpet is baby blue. I desperately want to paint a neutral color but can’t find a good color—they look better in pictures where all the trim is white. The ugly carpet also reflects onto the walls. Any grays end up looking blue. Thinking of removing old carpet to expose oak floors. But then again I will have a lot of wood (yellow/brown). Should I keep walls lighter than trim/wood or darker? And now do I nuetralize the surrounding yellow hues in the wood?

  22. my kitchen walls are aqua colored, I want to change the color to a blueish with a little gray or lavender , when I painted a sample over the aqua it looks dark lavender, is it because it was painted over green? I tried the blue sample paint on a white paper and it was blue so I’m assuming the dark lavender color resulted since the under color was aqua, therefore before having the kitchen painted with bluish tone should I first paint over the aqua with white? thanks for your help

    1. Did you try Palladian Blue at 75% strength? We have it in our kitchen and reads light pool or aqua really well. We have a north facing kitchen with large windows.

  23. Great tips! I usually end up darker than I’d like, something about the lighting in the store vs. when it’s on my walls. Less saturated is more.

  24. .
    While designing the interiors of the room color and theme plays the most important role in designing. While selecting a color in the living room keep in mind that you select the light color as it brings in more light and brings happiness for the people living in room. A study room must have darker shades so as to create a serious atmosphere that would be lovely for studies. Get more tips at : http://www.inauguralhomes.com/how-to-choose-the-right-color-and-theme-for-home/
    Janice´s last blog post ..Faucet: How to fix a dripping?

  25. Thanks for your post – so helpful. I’d love to know what the code numbers/paint names are on the second swatch (blue undertone greys). Thanks!!

  26. Color matching to a lower quality of paint is never a good idea. I have been in the design business for 30 years and quality of the paint reflects on the finished product. Finish, durability and depth of color are often compromised in a color match. Benjamin Moore color consultants in the store are knowledgable on paint undertones with all colors in their fan decks. Their paint is worth the price.

  27. I am planning on doing some painting this fall. I have a large kitchen and want to do rustic red,white and blue. I am thinking on painting an off white then accent with the other colors. What would be your choice of psi t fir the walls.

  28. Wonderful post! So difficult for me to choose paint – I am looking for a warm neautral gray for my ivingroom. Any ideas so I can go buy some various samples? Any adivce is appreciated.

  29. Love this post, so helpful! We’re currently building a house and picked our paint colors yesterday. I wanted our accent rooms(dining room, downstairs bath, master bath, bonus) to be Warm Stone SW and we picked Mega Greige SW for the main walls. The designer suggested going with Anew Grey SW for the main walls instead for more of a contrast.. The strip is looks light which I don’t want. Out floors are dark hardwood so I do want the contrast. Have you had any experience with these in rooms? I’ve been looking all over Pinterest for 2 weeks for these colors in rooms. In our last house we went too light with a beige(being cautious) and it looked yellow.. Definitely what we didn’t want. Thanks for any advice! 🙂

  30. I really love your advice on trying to choose a paint color!!! I am in the process of painting my kitchen and open living room and I am trying to make sure my colors flow well together since everything is open. The color that I love for the kitchen is Ben Moores Palladian Blue!! Do you have a color that you think would coordinate with it in the living room? I have dark colored sofas and lighter cream and oak coffee table and entertainment center. I trying to make sure that the color of the entertainment center doesn’t fade into the wall color since it is a cream color. Any thoughts and help I would greatly appreciate it!!!

  31. Thank yo uso much for the post! I am still confused and undecided and can use some of your amazing expertise.
    I am painting a two level home, lots of windows, from dark green and orange tones into brighter and relaxing tones. I painted the living room revere pewter (color matched and 25% lighter) it looks great, I was not brave enough to go for the original revere pewter colour and now I am debating carrying on the same lighter tone for the rest of the house or going on a original richer colour for kitchen/family room and hall. Are we supposed to keep family rooms in a lighter tone than a living room? What about hall/stairs? Are they better lighter or darker that family rooms? The kitchen’s cabinets is white with beautiful grays and greens beachy pebbles tile. I would like a nice flow and love the grays. Thank you!!

  32. I so wish I had seen your post before we painted the main living areas of our home. We live in a wee Arctic town, so we have one paint supplier here. We had oodles of paint strips and looked at them under all kinds of lights and thought we had picked a really pretty adobe’ish colour. And then we out the first coat on. We had looked at the colour in the living room, we had looked at it in the hall, we looked at it by the big beautiful windows in the kitchen, so we thought we were good. No, oh just no.

    We put the first coat up in all the areas designated and then we saw our big mistake. At no point did we look at the colour beside our kitchen’s maple cabinets! The colour morphed right before our very eyes from this beautiful adobe to looking like some kind of organ meat. My hubby made one crack about our “living womb” and it was back to the paint store! Luckily, my eye was a LOT better the second time, and we brought home BM Everlasting, which is an incredible morphing neutral, but in ALL the right ways, and makes the cabinets glow and look rich. This is NOT a step I will skip in the future, as I have three (yes, 3!) gallons of organ meat paint sitting in my crawl space, and at Arctic prices ($95 per gallon), that gets pretty spendy!

  33. Hey, these were great ideas! As a rental property owner, I have had lots of experience with color matches. Living in a rural area, it is a time-waster to drive 2 hr round trip to a paint store. However, I have had horrible luck at the paint counter, so please let me add some tips: 1. Do not color match into a cheaper paint. 2. Make sure they thoroughly MIX the tint into the paint. I just spent $35 on a gallon and paint colors vary on the wall because it was not mixed long enough. (Not sure if I will remove bathroom lights and cabinets just to repaint a 3rd time). 3. Match to a color already in the room, like the drop ceiling or the cabinet or the floor. 4. Always do 2 coats of paint. Tint the primer if using one. Color runs truer and patched areas don’t show through. Hope this saves money and time for someone.

  34. I am having difficulty choosing a medium tan/ beige wall paint to complement my SW Dover White trim. I do not like pink tones. Got Khaki samples, and they pulled green tones. Any suggestions? Looked at BM Manchester Tan and Bleeker Beige, but one seemed light and one dark. Someone suggested SW Kilim beige, but it seemed to pull pink in our house we are renovating. The floors have darkened with age and have red tones, so I am wondering if that is why the Kilim looked pink. We are going to have the floors sanded and refinished, so they will probably be a light color with yellow/ brown tones. I am literally on my 11th sample jar of paint and thoroughly confused! Thanks you!

  35. I’ve been wanting to repaint my living room, so I really needed this advice. I’ve found some really pretty teal pillows, so perhaps those can be my inspiration piece. I’ll be sure to pick out several color options, as well as remember that it’ll be darker. Thank you so much for these tips, I feel a lot more prepared now!

  36. I’m glad that you pointed out the importance of testing paint colors on your walls. Like you said, a color which looks good in the department store or in someone else’s house may look awful in yours. Choosing a few favorite colors and then painting a small area to test them out will lead to much better results. Thanks for the tips.

  37. Hii..!!!
    I was looking for some suggestions to plan the interiors for my new project. Glad that I came across your’s post. I got some fresh ideas. Thank you for this great post buddy..!!!
    Thumbs up..!!

  38. In the image above with the paint strips showing undertones, can you please tell me the color numbers or names on the “green” strip? What are the undertones for Benjamin Moore “Natural Cream” and “Baby Fawn”?

  39. What are your recommendation on wall color if you have wood trim. We purchased a stone cottage built in the thirties. I loved that the original wood trim was intact but now I am struggling to find colors that coordinate with it. The wood trim has a yellow undertone that is throwing me off!

  40. Hi there,

    What would you recommend as a complementary color in the entranceway/hallway to an old character home with a centre hall plan (hardwood floors, wide white baseboards and trim)? Monroe bisque is in the living room and templeton gray is planned for the open office off the living room.
    Thanks for any direction you can provide!


  41. Hi!!
    I love reading your blogs. I’ve been struggling for a long time choosing right color for my living room.I totally agree with what looks good in your house might look awful in mine.You really helped me pick the right color.
    Thank you so much for informative post.

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  43. I know it has been many years since this helpful post was published, but I’m in need of advice that wasn’t quite touched on here – we are building a new home and won’t have an opportunity to test colors on the bare walls prior to picking a color. Worse, the home is in a completely different state, so I can’t just pop in there with some paint sample for the afternoon either.

    Are there any “can’t miss” colors for this type of situation? We are looking for a basic white for all the trim and cabinets and a barely there gray for the walls. The “gray” could also just be a white that contrasts enough to show off the trim and cabinets.

    Failing the “can’t miss” colors is there another way of picking the paint? We have lots of samples and have picked out two we really like, but if there are any rules of thumb for this situation I’d love to hear them!

  44. Do you have suggestions for what undertone of a white would help diminish the yellowness of my being ceilings? I want an off white wall, but the house came with being ceilings that have yellow undertones and I am not a fan, but also am not up to painting a ceiling. So am looking for the wall to help neutralize the yellowness.

  45. I am looking to sell my condo with high ceilings. I need a paint color for my 10 X 14 ft. foyer that has Jerusalem stone on the floor. I would describe the color of the stone as “Crème brulee with splashes of raspberry sauce.”

    Any ideas??

    Thank you!

  46. Hi – I have a rental that has honey oak (orangey – yellow wood trim) – I would like to paint my hallway a color that would not make the wood stand out / kind of melds together – a soft white/off white – also i have 3 bedrooms I would like colors for – but not too dark of colors – any suggestions ?

  47. I’ve been wanting to have my home’s exterior painted with White and Blue, that’s why I’m currently looking for painting service. I guess you’re right about the importance of comparing the paint samples to White so I’ll be able to determine whether those paint colors contain undertones. I’ll also keep in mind to check the paint samples in a different light.

  48. Thanks for suggesting that I check magazines and Pinterest first before choosing colors for our house. We’re planning to sell the property soon and do minor improvements that would make it more presentable. I’ll follow your advice and choose a color palette first before reaching out to a residential painting company.

  49. Wow!! This is something I was searching for many days. My thirst has been quenched now after reading your article.I am highly thankful to you for writing this article.

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