8 Tips for Choosing the Right Paint Color

Today I’m continuing my quest to making choosing the right paint color easier for all of you.  Last week we talked about neutral paint colors and how to choose the right one, but you will probably still end up with a few different colors or shades that you need to decide between and that is where today’s post will help you.   So here are the 8 tips for choosing the right paint color that have helped me avoid many color mistakes.

Tips for choosing the right paint color - Great series to understand color and knowledge to choose the right one with confidence!

1- Don’t pick your paint color first.

I know it seems natural to get the biggest things done first, but it is much easier to choose a paint color that goes with your furniture and decor than it is to choose decor to go with a paint color.

2-Start with an inspiration.

Pinterest is a great place to start when deciding on paint colors.  Make a board for each room and start pinning rooms that catch your eye.  Once you have about 10 you’ll get a feel for what you are drawn to color and style wise.

Would you believe that the inspiration for the wall color that is in 90% of my home came from a Starbucks coffee mug?  Yep!

I love grey but  I didn’t want my house to feel cold (or like a prison cell) so I went for a greige that had just enough warmth that my slate grey furniture and accessories go with it, but would still feel warm.

wall color inspiration from a coffee mug

And in my son’s room the inspiration came from a baby blanket I had received when I was pregnant with him.  I used it as a starting point to select fabrics in blues and greens and then chose a really light, but bright green for the walls.  Even thought it is green, it still plays as a neutral because everything else in the room is the star, not the walls.

modern boy nursery

which leads me to my next point…

3- Stick with neutrals.

Now I’m not saying avoid color all together.  Color is good, but you have to first decide where you want the attention in a room to go.  If your answer is the walls, then heck, go bold.  And if you go bold on the walls everything else in the room should be pretty neutral so that you don’t end up with too many things competing.  This is why bold color in a bathroom can work so well because most everything else in a bathroom is already neutral (white.) I shared 12 neutral paint colors to get you started in this post.

best neutral paint colors

4-Use testers.

Buy testers in a few colors/ shades and paint a large enough area on a few different walls so that you can see how the light hits it at different times of the day.  Try your best not to test your paint against white walls cause it will throw the color off.  If you have to, just do a larger test area to get a better feel.

Almost all of the brands now have testers available for a few bucks.  It is well worth spending the money to buy a few to test in your space before purchasing gallons of the color.  Plus the leftover samples are great for touch up and other small painting projects.

how to pick the right paint color for your home

Leave the test areas up for about a week so that you can see what the color will look at different times of day and in different light.

*Tip: Instead of painting an entire (open concept) living space all one color, break it up by painting some rooms or accent walls a few shades lighter or darker on the same color strip.  This will add some depth to a space. (Also mentioned in tip 8.)

5- Test your paint colors against furniture and fabrics.

Don’t only test your colors on the wall. Instead, paint a piece of poster board and hold it up against your sofa, table or other items that will be in the room to see if goes.  You don’t necessarily want to match, but you do want the undertones to go nicely.

6- Pick the right sheen.

Any sheen in a paint will accent flaws, so if you are trying to mask flaws go with as little sheen as possible.

Here are some general guidelines for the different finish choices:

  • Flat (Matte): No shine at all. Perfect for for low traffic areas like living rooms and bedrooms, as well as ceilings.
  • Flat Enamel: Has almost no shine but is a bit easier to clean than flat paint. This is also perfect for low traffic areas but may be a better choice if you have kids or pets.
  • Eggshell Enamel: Has a tiny bit of shine and is a good choice for moderate traffic areas such as living rooms.  In my experience most scuffs can be wiped off of this surface with a damp cloth.
  • Satin Enamel: Has a bit more shine and works well in high traffic areas or areas that have moisture.  It is also super wipeable which is why it is perfect for kitchens and bathrooms.
  • Semi-Gloss Enamel: Shiny but not glass-like.  This is what you should use on cabinets and trim, or in really high moisture areas.
  • Hi-Gloss Enamel:  Shiny! This gives an almost glass-like finish and is perfect for high use surfaces (like a railing) or furniture.

7- Understand undertones:

Use the darkest color on the strip to discover the true color.  This will save you from ending up with paint that is too pink, too blue, too yellow, etc.

I wrote an entire post on how to use the darkest color on the strip to ensure choosing the right color of greige, but the idea is the same for any color you are choosing. If you haven’t read it yet, I’m positive it will help you choose color confidently.

8-Have a color theme throughout your home. (more on this in the next post in the series 🙂 )

I don’t mean you have to paint your entire house the same color, but especially in rooms that open into one another consider what each room will look like when standing in another.  If you are going to play it safe and go with one color, I would suggest that you at least go a few shades lighter or darker in one room or even on one focal wall.  It is a great way to add depth and interest to a space.

Model homes are a perfect example of having a color theme throughout a home.  They typically keep the main living space wall color neutral and use fabrics and accessories to add color.  Then in the bedrooms they may have the accent colors from the living space on the walls and keep the bedding neutral.  Of course kid bedrooms don’t always follow this rule, but they shouldn’t have to right?

steps to take to pick the right paint color

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I know, a much more wordy post than normal, but these tips are crucial to getting to the right paint color.  The last thing you want to do is paint an entire room, only to realize that it just isn’t working for you.

In two weeks I’ll be back to talk about color pallets and creating a color theme throughout your home.

Are you feeling more color confident yet?


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About Corey

Corey is the creative behind Hey There, Home where she shares easy-to-follow and beautiful home decor and entertaining ideas. Her mission? To make home decor accessible to everyone, even if you don’t consider yourself crafty, and to empower people to decorate their homes in a way that they can actually be lived in, not just looked at.

15 thoughts on “8 Tips for Choosing the Right Paint Color

  1. We will be hiring someone to come paint our home soon and we want to make sure that we pick the perfect color. I really liked your suggestion of testing a bunch of different colors on the wall first. We know that we want a light blue color, but there are so many different shades that testing it will be the only way to truly know which one is perfect.

    1. Corey Willis says:

      Glad you found help here, Bethel! Best wishes on your paint project!

  2. This gave me a new perspective that was really helpful. It makes a lot of sense why it’s better to choose a paint color after you know what furniture and decor the room will have. I had the order of those mixed up.

    1. Corey Willis says:

      I’m so glad you’re finding inspiration here, Becca! Thanks for the comment.

  3. I love the yellow nursery with the “paper airplane” graphics. The colors seem to work perfectly here!

    1. Corey Willis says:

      Thanks, Thomas!

  4. Sukh says:

    Hey I need expert advice picking right colour to match brown cabinets and grey tiles

    1. Corey Willis says:

      Hey Sukh, Unfortunately I can’t give you specific color advice since I can’t see the colors that will go with it in person, but you can sign up for my free mini decor course, and the first lesson gives that much needed clarity about color! Click here to get three free lessons delivered to your inbox. Best wishes!

  5. You advised getting testers, and seeing how the color would look in different lighting in your room you plan on painting. I had heard in the past that when painting, you wanted to make sure you knew exactly what the color would look like before you made a final decision. The testers is a great idea, as you could get a perfect idea of what the final result would look like. Next time I am painting, I’ll be sure to find a paint store that has these kind of supplies, thanks.

    1. Corey Willis says:

      I’ve had good luck with Home Depot for the testers, Rachel. A small container is usually $3-$4 and well worth the investment!

  6. At first, I didn’t understand the idea behind having mostly neutral colors. Then the article said that you don’t want the features competing for attention. I think it would be especially bad to have a few large surfaces competing with each other, like the carpet against the walls.

    1. Corey Willis says:

      You are so right, Jasper! When color is used more sparingly, then it really pops!

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  8. These are great tips! Hoping to paint my office soon, so this is really helpful! Thank you!

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  10. I want to paint my living room grey so this article came just on time.

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