5 Tips for Choosing a Paint Color

Paint Swatches

Changing the paint color in a room is one of the most affordable changes you can make with the most impact. But, have you ever chosen a paint color and then once the room or accent wall is painted you realized that you've made a mistake? I'm going to tell you five ways you can avoid paint color remorse. 

1. Take featured paint colors with a grain of salt

I get catalogs with featured paint colors all the time—I read them, but I don't make a point of remembering them. To me, the name of the particular paint color in that room doesn't matter. Why? Colors often look completely different in other spaces. The perception of color is influenced by natural lighting, artificial lighting, sheen and even the age of the person or people using the space. I mostly save some of these catalogs for the ideas of color—moody dark dining rooms, bright high-gloss built-ins, a warm tone of crisp white...

2. Change light fixtures first

If you are doing a redesign that involves upgrading the light fixtures or changing from incandescent to LED or fluorescent bulbs I suggest doing this before pulling swatches. Or if you already have swatches pulled, revisit after the new lighting has been installed. Artificial lighting has a huge impact on color. Generally, cooler toned lighting like fluorescents and LEDs will enhance cooler colors like blue or green. On the other hand, they may dull warm colors like reds, oranges and yellows. The opposite is true for warm incandescent bulbs, they tend to enhance warmer colors and dull cool colors. Fortunately, all light bulbs have a color rendering index graphic on the packaging that tells you the temperature of a color.

3. Larger samples are best

With my full-service clients I always order larger 8.5" x 11" samples of paint swatches (yes, they exist and it's wonderful). It's better to look at a larger swatch on all of the walls in the room. Colors can look different from wall to wall—the light changes and there are sometimes reflections of other colors in the room or outside of a window. Often I still have the painter get a quart of several different colors and paint them on the wall for final approval.

4. It's an All Day Affair

I always suggest looking at test paint samples on the wall at several different times of day. Keep in mind that the influence of natural light is similar to the influence of artificial light (see #2). Morning and evening light tend to be warmer. On a clear day, midday light tends to be a bit blue in tone. 

5. Don't Overlook Sheen

There are many things to consider when it comes to sheen, but in regards to color there are a few rules of thumb. Although color in any sheen whether it be flat, eggshell, satin, gloss or high-gloss is essentially the same hue, the perception may be different. The higher the gloss the more light that's reflected and the darker the color will appear to be. If you choose a sheen like eggshell (that is in the middle) the most true hue will be perceived since this finish doesn't necessarily reflect or absorb light.

Still feeling like you have no idea which hue would work best? Schedule a free 30 minute design strategy session!

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