Painting 101: how to choose wall color

We do so much painting around here, we’ve been asked a few times to share painting tips and tricks. When we sat down to brainstorm ideas, we realized we have a lot to say on the subject! So we’re doing a series of posts broken down into several different “lessons.” Today’s lesson: choosing wall colors.

painting 101: how to choose wall color

Every painting project starts with the basic question: what the heck color do we want this room to be? This is my favorite part! I loooove color more than anything else, but even for me choosing colors is sometimes daunting and stressful. Sometimes you’re just not sure where to even start when there’s so many beautiful colors to choose from.

1.  Find inspiration. I like to start with Pinterest. Even if you don’t have your own account, you can browse my Pinterest boards @BurritosBubbly or check out the general home decor category for ideas. Look at rooms you like and you’ll get a better idea of what colors work well together and what kind of feeling you want for your room. If you love blue, do a search in Pinterest for “blue living room” and see what you come up with. You may even find suggestions for specific paint colors that you’ll want to check out, but remember, what works in someone else’s home may not work in yours.

painting 101: how to choose wall color

2.  Pick up paint chips. Hit the streets and head to your favorite paint stores to look at all the colors (aka, my happy place). The key is to pick up a bunch of paint chips. Pick up some that may be outside your comfort zone, because you may be surprised by how different colors can look in your own house and not in fluorescent lighting. Look at the darkest color on a strip to get an idea of whether the lighter colors will lean more warm or cool. Keep in mind, though, the colors on a paint strip are technically NOT lighter/darker versions of the exact same shade. Each color is independent of each other and just complementary lighter/darker colors. (Did that blow your mind like it did mine the first time I heard it??) If I’m having trouble finding a paint chip that is exactly what I’m looking for, I’ll go to multiple stores — Lowe’s, Sherwin-Williams, Home Depot, Ace Hardware are all good places to start — so sometimes I have A LOT of paint chips to choose from.

painting 101: how to choose wall color

3. Put the paint chips on your wall. I like to tape mine to a piece of white foam board, so I’m not distracted as much by the current color of the wall. Prop the foam board up in your room and plan on living with it for a few days. Move it around the room and see how the colors react to different lighting conditions throughout the day. You’ll notice that colors will look different in natural light vs. under a lamp, so think about how you use a space. If you throw a lot of dinner parties, look at your dining room paint chips at night. Is it a bathroom? Pick a color that looks good on you so you’ll feel good about yourself when you look in the mirror!

4.  More research. At this point, when I think I may have a favorite or two, I like to do a google image search of that color name. This may be complete overkill, but I find it helpful to see how that specific color looks in someone else’s room, how they decorated with it, whether it photographs well, and maybe you’ll luck out and someone will have written a helpful blog post that says it’s the brightest neon green, and you can go, ugh, gross. Or not. Maybe neon green is exactly what you wanted.

painting 101: how to choose wall color

5.  Buy paint samples. I would never, ever buy a gallon of paint without buying a sample first. Real paint always looks different from the paint chip, and it happens all the time that I’ll love a paint chip and hate the paint sample. Buying a sample for a few dollars is a whole lot better than buying a whole $30+ gallon of paint only to discover that it’s not what you wanted.

Paint the samples either directly onto your wall or onto a piece of paper or foam board. If you paint directly on the wall, make big swatches in a few places — in the shadows, next to the window — and make sure you remember which swatch is which color! Just like the paint chips, live with the samples for a couple of days so you can see them in all lighting conditions before you make you final decision.

After all of this, THEN I finally commit to a gallon of paint.

painting 101: how to choose wall color

Every time I open up a can it’s exciting, a little scary and so much fun. I like to do my research (sometimes a lot of it) to make sure I’m picking the color I like most at the time, but you know what the absolute best part of painting is? If you change your mind or if you realize neon green looks horrible with your purple couch, you can just try again! Nothing is permanent! So go a little more bold. Have fun with colors. Banish beige. What’s the worst that’ll happen??!!

I hope this was helpful! Let us know if you have any questions or if there’s anything specific you’d like us to address in this series and we’ll do our best. Next week we’ll talk about supplies.

— Kerry

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