8 Tips for Choosing the Right Paint Color

Inside: I’ve learned the hard way so that you don’t have to make color mistakes. These are my best 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.


8 easy tips to choose right paint

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.

coffee cup wall color inspiration

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.

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.

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?

Pick perfect color paint confidently


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.

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

  1. Katrina says:

    I have a bathroom with the shower done in strawberry shake pink with a few mint green tiles along the top. I don’t want to go all retro, but was hoping shades of grey would tie it all together? I really don’t want to highlight the green too much. Help?

    1. Corey Willis says:

      I can’t recommend specific colors since I can’t see your bathroom in person, Katrina. Color is definitely tricky which is why I always advise getting samples and painting large squares on each wall because the undertone of a color can definitely read different depending on your lighting situation. I’m hoping that you’ve found my color resource page with the free downloadable paint guide. And if you want to do a deeper dive into choosing and using color, my online color course will give you the confidence to make the right choices!

  2. Leslie says:

    I am having a hard time picking a color that will go with my kitchen cabinets. The stain is call Tangerine I believe and it has a rusty, orangish look to it, so it isn’t a traditional cherry stain and it definitely isn’t in the brown tones.
    My family room and kitchen are all one area and I want to keep both areas light and neutral. Any suggestions?

    1. Corey Willis says:

      Hey Leslie! I would definitely go with a neutral that doesn’t have too much yellow or orange in it so you don’t end up with too warm of a space with your cabinet color. We do a deep dive into all decisions like this in my color course, Color Made Clear. It walks you through all the steps to work with existing colors and come up with a color palette that will give you the exact look and feel you’re going for.

  3. Sabrina Addams says:

    I found it very enlightening when you described the difference a sheen makes in paint color on a wall. My husband and I are remodeling our home to give it a more modern-industrial look. I think I want to hire a professional to paint our walls with a flat enamel finish to get the matte look but with easier clean-up than a flat finish.

    1. Corey Willis says:

      Glad you found it helpful Sabrina! Let me know how your paint project goes 🙂

  4. Lori says:

    So what is your Grey color that matches your polka dot mug??

    1. Corey Willis says:

      Hey Lori, it’s Requisite Gray by Sherwin Williams. My 3 neutral paint colors are revealed in this post!

  5. Carol B. says:

    Hi, we will be putting down a wood floor in living and kitchen, it’s an open area. I thought about a shade of yellow on walls and white trim. I seen a picture of a room. It brings out the wood. Also wanted to do foe beams on ceiling, stain wood same as floors. It’s a mobile home. What do you think?

    1. Corey Willis says:

      Hey Carol, since I can’t see your room in person, it’s hard for me to visualize whether that would work – although it sounds great! I suggest googling on mobile home decorating and also using Pinterest to collect ideas. You can also buy inexpensive paint samples from Home Depot to “try out” a paint color before actually committing to it. Hope this helps!

  6. nicki says:

    So I just painted my open concept Kitchen/ family room space a light gray/greige that appears very lavender. ( Read your advice too late ) I am repainting the entire space. Do I need to use a primer before going to a lighter ,warmer, creamier?

    1. Corey Willis says:

      You could use a primer, Nicki, but I’d just plan on doing 2 coats. Even with a primer you typically have to do 2 coats to get a good end result. Good luck on your repaint!

  7. Easton Memmott says:

    I really like that you mentioned that the first thing you shouldn’t do is choose your paint color. I am looking to paint the exterior of my home; I didn’t know that you should avoid choosing the paint color first thing. I will be sure to consider all of the options and do all prior work before I finalize on which color I will use.

  8. Rachel says:

    I see you recommend a warm tone of paint to accompany wood flooring. And our wood flooring is a warm orange/red tone. But I read somewhere else that colors in the cool hues make a room seem bigger – and we have a small house with small rooms. I’m nervous to choose a warm shade and have the rooms seem small – especially when my finance is continually telling me we should go lighter (instead of some of the greiges I like, like Behr Park Avenue).
    Thoughts? Thank you!

    1. Corey Willis says:

      I think the undertones you pick will either enhance the wood tones or go against them (bringing less attention to them.) I don’t necessarily think that warm tones make a space feel smaller but they do make a space feel cozier which may be what people associate with small. Either way (warm or cool) you can go very light to bring a lot of light into a space and that will make it feel larger. Hope this helps, Rachel!

  9. Millie Hue says:

    It really helped when you said that it would be best to go at least one shade darker or lighter when you want to use one paint color for the whole house. I think that is just right to prevent feeling bored about the house. This is really useful for us because my husband doesn’t like seeing the same thing over and over again. Just like with our meals, he doesn’t want to eat the same food as the ones we had yesterday.

    1. Corey Willis says:

      Exactly and your husband has a great point! Thanks for sharing Millie and I’m glad it helped!

  10. Heidi Bookenstock says:

    I’m about to move into a new house so I have to opportunity to repaint and redecorate! I’m trying to find a paint color, but I’m having trouble. I love the advice to choosing furniture first, since it’s a lot easier to match paint to furniture than furniture to paint.

  11. Amanda Drew says:

    Thanks for pointing out that matte paints will have no shine and are perfect for places like bedrooms and living rooms. I want to repaint my whole house, and I think that I’d like a light grey color throughout would be nice with a few feature walls. I like your tips, but I think that I’ll find someone who could paint the interior of my home for me.

  12. David says:

    Great Post. Thanks for sharing this informative Post.:)

    1. Corey Willis says:

      You’re so welcome David! Thanks for stopping by.

  13. Levticus Bennett says:

    The idea of having a color theme sounds like a smart idea for continuity. My living room opens into my kitchen so I want to have a theme for the two of them. I am thinking of getting them painted a light orange and a baby blue since they are complementary colors.

  14. Sutton Turner says:

    I like how you suggested looking at pictures of painted homes to get inspiration. I am helping my friend paint her home exterior this spring and she wants it a light green color. Thanks for the tips on choosing the right paint color for your home.

    1. Corey Willis says:

      You’re so welcome, Sutton!

  15. Kim Stone says:

    I’ve just finished painting the interior of our entryway door in Silver Pointe from Sherwin Williams. At less than thirty dollars it was a super easy update that makes me smile every time I catch a glimpse.

  16. Brenda hicks says:

    I have a small home with all rooms painted in different colors . I want to repaint to make it look larger and thinking of going through with one color . I have dark wood work . My living room suite is wine color . My kitchen countertops are blue . Bathrooms tubs and countertops white . Help

    1. Corey Willis says:

      Hey Brenda, I can’t give specific color recommendations since I can’t see your colors in person. Check out my post about choosing neutral paint colors; you’re sure to find it helpful! Thanks for stopping by.

  17. Corey Willis says:

    Thanks for the great tips!

  18. Sue says:

    Help! Open layout with a couch that’s medium shade of jade that’s more warm…southwestern jade. The accent pillows and ottoman are a loose paisley with different colors-goldfish tan, jade, teal, deep coral. The last homeowner painted the entire house peach peach, and I’m having a very hard time visualizing anything at all in the room because of the existing peach! Thinking of pulling out a shade of tan that’s complimentary to the accent pillows and ottomans and completely different than the coach. Am I better off going completely soft neutral, or can I go with a bolder goldfish tan in a warm shade? This is awful! The painter is coming in a week!! Color swatches all over! HELP1 I stil have the bedroom to work on, whic has taupe/driftwood Furniture.m

  19. Kairi Gainsborough says:

    I really like what you said about sticking to neutral colors in your house unless you want the walls themselves to be the center of attention. Of course, you make a good point about using a brighter color in the bathroom. My husband and I are planning on having our house painted soon, so these are some great things to keep in mind when picking out the colors. After reading this, I think a medium gray would look good for the bedrooms, while a bright teal would make the whites in the bathroom pop.

  20. Mel says:

    Thank you for putting together this simple list for homeowners to read. I will be sharing this link with my clients.

  21. I have learned so much from you in the few short weeks when I discovered you, thank you! I have a bold red couch in my living room. I will be painting my walls a griege color. I wanted to use a navy color as an accent wall behind the couch but after reading your post I’m wondering if that’s too much competition between the couch and accent wall. What is your opinion?

    1. Corey Willis says:

      I do think that having the darker color of the sofa against the dark blue wall will be too much competition between those two colors — so yes! you are learning and on the right track.

      Instead of doing an accent wall, work the darker blue in in a different way. Maybe an accent chair, as a color within a print on your sofa’s pillows (make sure there are some light colors with it to make the navy pop within the pillows) and even in your curtains or rug choice would all be great places to infuse the blue.

      Hope that helps Cathy!

  22. 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!

  23. 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.

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

    1. Corey Willis says:

      Thanks, Thomas!

  25. 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!

  26. 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!

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

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

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