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How to Pick the Perfect Paint Color

Take your furniture and light into consideration. 

Contributing Writer
woman choosing paint color
Photography by: Hero Images/Getty

Picking the right color(s) for your home can be an overwhelming task—there are so many swatches and color chips to choose from!

 

To help you keep your sanity, and find the perfect hue for your home, we sought out advice from various color experts on how to pick the perfect shade.

 

Hone In on What You Like

To start, snip shots from magazines and fill a new Pinterest board to the brim. “Grab anything that appeals to you—anything that makes you stop for more than a couple seconds—and you’ll start to see patterns emerge,” says Benjamin Moore Color & Design Expert, Andrea Magno. “You’ll realize your eye is always drawn to dark greens, perhaps, or you find pastels fresh and appealing. When you’ve got a general idea of where to start, it’s time to begin looking at swatches.” 

 

Another factor to consider is what vibe you want the room to have. “Think about how you want the room to feel,” says Erika Woelfel, Vice President of Color and Creative Services at Behr.  Then you can narrow down colors based on the mood and feelings they evoke.”

 

[LEARN: How to Paint a Room The Right Way]

 

Don’t Just Focus On Trends

While trends are an inspiration, and a way to look at colors that you already like, Sue Wadden, Director of Color Marketing at Sherwin Williams says also consider some of your favorite objects or heirlooms. “Your own color preferences transcend time,” she says.

 

Take Your Furniture into Account

If you aren't starting with a blank slate, be sure to take the hard materials that already exist in your living space into account. “People are usually starting with a sofa, cabinets, hardwood flooring, tile or carpet—the pieces that aren’t going to change,” Woelfel says. “Consider those first. If you have cherry colored cabinets, then your paint options are different [than if you had white oak].”

 

Magno agrees. “The colors in these items like hardwood floors, countertops and furniture, will be a huge help in determining which color families will work best in the room, and will really help to narrow down the color options.”

 

However, if you’re decorating a room from scratch, select furniture and curtains first, then choose a paint color that brings the room together says Ashley Banbury, Senior Designer for Pratt & Lambert Paints.  “A great paint color will complete a room.”

 

[LEARN: How to Choose the Perfect Color Palette]
woman looking at various paint colors
Photography by: Juice Images Ltd/GettyImages

Make Sure to Check Your Light

Light and color go hand in hand. “Assess the lighting in the space,” Magno says. “Light—both natural and artificial—affects color, so understanding the conditions in the room you are painting is an important factor in the color decision. You may love how a color looks on the walls of an image but that same color may look vastly different within your home.”

 

Need a quick cheat-sheet: “A northern exposure is cooler, so a warmer color choice might be appropriate to compensate for the lack of sunlight,” Wadden says. “Southern exposures, on the other hand, get the most light all day long, so neutral tones may be better in that case.” Also keep in mind the light from your lamps can make color appear differently, too.

 

Test Out the Color

When finalizing your color choice, Banbury advises to: “See if your local paint store offers small paint samples you can take home to paint on your wall. Tape off and paint small sections of your room to see your color in place. “Lighting can shift a color, so it’s always best to see the color in the room you're painting,” she says.  Magno agrees. “By painting out a sample on a piece of poster board you now have a large sample that provides a great representation of the color, and it will also help in understanding how a color reacts to the natural and artificial lighting in the home.” Plus, adds Banbury,“living with the color on your walls before you commit can help you make your final decision with confidence.”