Has this ever happened to you? You can’t put off your paint project any longer, so you head down to the big home improvement store where you’re confronted with a WALL of paint samples. You take home a fistful of those little cards with color chips the size of your fingernail, and with much agonizing, narrow down your options to 15 or 23 shades of greige.
And now you’re paralyzed.
How do you know which one is The Right Color? How can you tell if that little sliver of color called “Drop Dead Gorgeous” is going to look gorgeous or just “drop dead” on a huge wall? What if you paint the whole room and hate it? Eeek! (Here's Drop Dead Gorgeous in case you were wondering!)
Picking a paint color can be scary for a lot of people, so before you throw your hands in the air and buy another gallon of default white, I’ve got a few tips that are guaranteed to make it easier.
Pick your paint color last
What artwork is hanging in your room? What color is your comfy chair or your backsplash tile or your area rug? Use decor items or fabrics that are already in the room as your inspiration when picking paint colors. The paint color will help tie everything together, plus it’s so much easier to find a paint color that matches your fabric than vice versa. By picking your paint color first, you limit your options for fabric and accessories that will match.
P.S. You can take just about anything to the paint store and ask to have it color matched. (I just wasted an hour on YouTube trying to find a hilarious TV commercial from the 90’s where a woman takes cat fur to the paint store. You would have laughed.)
Samples, samples, samples
Here's what I do for my clients and you can do the same thing: after you’ve found a few colors that look good with Aunt Edna’s afghan or whatever, take your swatches to Home Depot and have them make up some handy 8 oz sample-sized jars - - much less expensive than buying a whole quart. Grab several of those disposable foam brushes, and then some big sheets of inexpensive poster board from the dollar store and paint yourself some giant paint cards.
Instead of painting little splotches of color on the wall (such a pain to paint over!), these giant paint cards make it so much easier to see what your color is actually going to look like in large doses.
Move your card around the room: tack it up with blue painters tape next to the trim, in the lightest and darkest parts of the room, and next to furniture, carpet, or artwork you’ll need to match. Leave your paint card up on the wall and live with it for a few days. If it’s not right, you're only out a few bucks, and you can easily try other colors. If you love it, you're ready to spring for a few gallons at your favorite store!
If you live in the northwest, you're probably not far from a Miller Paint store. They have large 8.5 x 11" paint cards of all their Color Evolution paints for $1.99 each - - even easier than making your own.
There’s an app for that
Both Sherwin Williams and Miller Paint (among others) have color tools you can find online or apps for your phone or tablet that will allow you to upload photos of your room or use one of their room photos and paint them whatever color you’re interested in. A painless way to try before you buy.
Don’t choose colors in a paint store
Finalize your colors where they’ll actually be used. Colors change drastically depending on the light, so what looks fabulous under fluorescent lighting at the store will look very different in your own home or out in the light of day.
If the color looks totally wrong when you open the can, just know that paint will be lighter when it’s wet and then dry darker. Also, wait until everything’s put back in the room before you decide you hate a color - - it will calm down when there are other things to look at and you can see everything pulled together. Give it a little time. You might even decide you love it!
When custom matching a color, DO get the formula for next time because you KNOW the one on the can is going to be covered in paint. Ask the store to print out an extra label and save it in a file folder or notebook. Or take a picture of the label before you open the can.
What about the sheen?
I get asked a lot about what sheen is best. Although some paint brands have their own names for their finishes, here's a little run down on the most common ones:
Flat finish: This is the least shiny option and can have a soft look. It's used frequently on ceilings. However it doesn’t clean well AT ALL and you'll see every fingerprint and water spot, so avoid it in high traffic areas like hallways or in kitchens and bathrooms. Or if you have kids. Because jam hands.
Egg shell finish: This is low luster and one of the more popular options.
Satin finish: This is much easier to clean and is a little more obvious when it comes to reflecting light. Also a popular choice for kitchens and baths.
Semi-gloss finish: You'll definitely notice a shine, plus it's fairly easily cleaned. It works well in kitchens and baths and is the best choice for trim and painted furniture. I've heard it's slightly harder to paint over on walls, so ask about this at the paint store if you're considering that.
High-gloss finish: This is most often used on painted furniture because it's incredibly shiny and easily cleaned. Beware of painting it on walls though since it will highlight every flaw in the drywall.
If you’re still in doubt, call in an expert.
It’s worth the investment to get it done right the first time rather than having to fix mistakes or live with a bad decision. (My number’s down below in the footer. Wink, wink!)
I hope this helps you feel more confident when you get home with all your paint chips the next time you need to pick a paint color! Leave me a comment if you have a question or a tip of your own.