Follow this simple three step process to choose the perfect paint color for your room every time. Take the guess work out of your paint color! (Bonus FREE eBook!)
If you know me, you know I love color. Not like it. LOVE IT. I love the drama and excitement in a room that is painted the perfectly perfect color. I love when my rooms have personality.
But this leads to one big giant question and one I get A LOT. How to choose a paint color? With all the colors in the world, how do you pick the perfect one?
I see color as a very intuitive decision. I almost feel around through the colors until I land on the right one. So I dug around in my brain a bit until I came up with a system that describes how I choose colors.
Today I want to give you a simple, three step process for figuring out what color you paint your room. I hope this helps you figure out the perfect color for your room.
Before we get in to the nitty gritty of how to choose a paint color, I need to give three disclaimers. And they are absolutely non-negotiable. Ready? You sure? Ok. Let’s go.
Disclaimer 1: Every color looks different in every space.
I don’t want to blatantly say there are NO universal colors or NO “go to” colors. BUT. Color is the result of all the light sources and reflective surfaces in a space coming together.
Therefore, no two rooms will show the same color the exact same way. This is especially true with neutral colors. I hear a lot about finding a “true neutral” color for a room meaning there are no undertones of pinks or blues or greens.
But a true neutral is just a color that happens to look truly neutral under certain conditions. So understand that what works in someone else’s room may not necessarily work in your space, and that’s ok!
The goal instead is to identify a range of possible colors that could work in a space. Which brings us to…
Disclaimer 2: Get. Samples.
Yes. You will. Do NOT argue with me. I don’t want to hear it. I say this out of the utmost love and adoration for your rooms and home. DO NOT BUY YOUR GALLONS OF PAINT OFF THE CHIP.
My mother once had a paint chip that looked medium brown. She bought a sample, tested it, and it looked legitimately purple on the wall.
Paint chips are great. They are a great ball park. But they are NOT the way to buy a gallon of paint. Samples are your best friend and will really help you identify the color you want.
Disclaimer 3: Color is a personal choice.
At the end of the day, choosing a paint color is not about having nicely styled photographs for Instagram. It is not about keeping up with the latest design trends.
Color is about creating a feeling in your home. It is about creating a mood for yourself when you walk in a room.
If neon orange wall stripes do it for you, than that is what you should have. Ultimately this is YOUR choice. It’s just paint. You can always repaint. And with every room you paint, you learn a little more about your color style.
OK. I think I’m done yammering with disclaimers. Let’s get on to actually how to choose a paint color!
Step 1: Build Your Base Palette
Before I get in to what color I want a room to be, I spend some time thinking about the constants in that room. Constants are pieces and features whose color you already know. Things like rugs, couches, carpets, hardwood flooring, and tile are all examples of constants.
In our house, one of the biggest constants is the trim. I love white trim. To me it is crisp, clean, and classic. So I always use the same paint (Behr Ultra in Ultra Pure White, straight from the can). Therefore this color is my first constant.
Our floors are old growth Douglas Fir original to the house. We finish them with semi-gloss polyurethane which really brings out the yellow-orange in the wood. Since the floors are such a strong color, I know that is my second constant.
Ideally you want to pick out color chips that match with these constant colors so you have a reference for what they are. For items like rugs, couches, and carpets, lay different color chips on top until you come up with a color that is cloes.
Note: it doesn’t have to be exact. Just close enough because remember, we’re going to get samples.
One trick especially for trim is to get a small piece of wood and paint it with your actual trim paint. Then you have a reference for both the color and sheen of your trim.
Step 2: Get Inspiration
If you already have an idea for a paint color, that’s great. But if you don’t that is ok! The next step is to figure out some inspiration pictures. And to do that, we are going to go to Pinterest.
We are going to go to Pinterest because it thrives off of pretty pictures. Which means the pictures have color schemes that probably look good together and that you can use as inspiration.
To start off with this we need to do a search. Let’s pretend I want to paint my bedroom. First I think of a word that describes how I want my bedroom to feel (calm, dark, bright, clean, airy, etc). I like dramatic colors. So the first thing I will search is “dramatic bedroom paint.”
Next look for pictures that you think are pretty and that have your constant colors in them. Once you find your constant colors in the picture, then find another color in the picture that you also like to maybe be your wall color.
Example: This pictures has white and orange in it which match my two constants. It also has a beautiful bright green on the cabinets. I found a paint chip in my collection that looks similar to that green, so this will be my first option.
It’s ok if the colors aren’t exact matches. We just want something that is close to help us build a color palette. The goal of this step is to have a lot of different options that can all work for your room.
Note: It REALLY helps to have a lot of paint chips on hand. You can just buy a color fan deck if that’s easier. Or you can be like me and stand in the hardware store for 20 minutes getting one of each color.
Step 3: Choose a Paint Color Sample – or five.
Once you have gone through your inspiration pictures and chosen color options, take those paint chips to the space you are painting. You want to hold each chip up in the room and see what you think.
Some paint chips will be an absolute no from the start. Put it down. Definitely not. However some paint chips won’t be a definite no. And some will be outright yes.
My advice: get samples of anything that isn’t an outright no. You honestly have NO idea which color is going to be best.
I buy paint samples like it’s my job. It took me ten different samples to get the mudroom color, seven to get the study colors, and who knows how many it will take to get the kitchen color. A LOT.
But that is ok! Picking colors is really hard and you don’t want to paint a whole room the wrong color.
Once you get your samples, paint them in different places all over the room. In corners, by baseboards, and on flat walls are all great places to see how the color looks.
Lastly let yourself think about it for a few days, weeks, or months. If nothing jumps out to you, go find more inspiration pictures. Keep going and eventually, you will land on the perfect color.
How to Choose a Paint Color: A Process
First you have to know that picking great paint colors is a learning process. It takes time and trial and error. But if you keep going with it, you will figure it out.
So to help you pick colors, I created a FREE eBook with 15 color schemes from picture I’ve taken of historic homes.
This book will help you learn how to identify beautiful color palettes from inspiration pictures you like. Enter your email below to grab it!
I hope this post has helped shed a little more light on how to choose a paint color. It’s a combination of training your eye, trial and error, and flat out luck. But if you keep plugging away, you’ll land on a great paint color eventually!
So…you painting anything soon?