Questions to Ask Yourself Before Choosing a Paint Color
Staring down a fistful of paint chips and wishing one of the colors would just pick themselves? Skip the eeny-meeny-miny-moe approach to choosing a paint color -- just ask yourself these 10 questions, and you'll be on your way to the color that's truly right for your walls and room.
Everything In This Slideshow
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Where Am I in the Decorating Process?
"I am in the camp of paint being the last thing to implement, yet it should be part of the process from the beginning," says designer Jonathan Rachman. "Paint is a simple thing to change," he says. "After you invest in reupholstering a sofa or in that expensive custom window treatment you committed to, paint should be the last thing you apply, as you can repaint at any time (in most cases)." So if you're starting from scratch, have an idea of what color you want the walls to be, but wait until the big components are in place before you pick a specific hue.
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How Do I Know if This Is a Color I'll Love?
It can be difficult to really know whether you are going to love a color until it's actually on your walls. The best advice I can give is to steer clear of fear and trust yourself. Don't let anyone else bully you into going whiter, brighter, softer, less muted, more muted, etcetera. A color looks good if you like it. Trust your relationships with colors.
And, there's always the option of hiring a color consultant. It's our job to help you find the colors you love.
-- Kelly Berg, color consultant
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Am I Rushing Into This?
Slow down. Take your time selecting colors. Sit in your space and really think about how you want the room to feel. Then look toward colors that support the mood you are trying to create. In slowing down, you also allow yourself time to test colors.
-- Kelly Berg
Have I Looked at Paint Chips?
A wall of paint chips or an entire deck of color cards can be a little intimidating, but these tools are essential to finding the right color. Learn how to use them right in this video, which demystifies paint chips once and for all.
But don't stop at swatches. Go to the next slide to learn about samples.
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Have I Tried Any Samples?
Don't rely on a little chip. Instead, after you have really thought about the mood you want to create, pull your favorite two or three paint colors and buy a quart or pint at the paint store. Paint swatches on your walls or on a board so you can get a good feel for how the colors will look in your space. Never decide on a color in the paint store!
-- Kelly Berg
Kelly's Color Sample Tip: It's important to note that when you are looking at a new swatch of color on your walls, your brain will inevitably compare it to the old (existing) wall color -- the one that will be painted over. Sometimes this can be very distracting and can make a color feel much different than it will actually look when painted on your walls. Try your best to see the color for what it is, not its relationship to the old color.
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Have I Looked at the Sample More Than Once?
Lighting can dramatically affect a paint color, as can the time of day. Once you have your painted sample, be sure to study it at different times of the day and in various lighting scenarios. Pick a color that looks best at the time that you are most likely to be in the room and with the lighting you will use most often.
What Intensity Do I Want?
Light, dark, or somewhere in between? BHG Editor Eddie Ross tells you how to get it right.
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What Other Colors Am I Using?
Likely, your paint color isn't the only hue in your space. Be sure it's one that can live in harmony with your existing elements or the furniture and finishes you'll be adding. Consider your paint color in relationship to your furniture, fabrics, and accessories, as well as trimwork, flooring, and other surfaces such as brick, countertops, and fixtures.
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Have I Considered the Room?
Before choosing a paint color, consider which direction your room faces and how high your ceilings are. Color reads true in south-facing rooms, but the color on the walls will look different than the color on a paint card in north-facing rooms. Test paint swatches on opposite walls, and see how the color changes throughout the day. In east-facing rooms, be aware that the color reads a little blue.
-- Nicole Gibbons, interior designer
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What's My Sheen of Choice?
Considering the sheen of a paint is almost as important as picking out the color itself. The sheen level will change how the color looks on the wall. The sheen will affect how light is either absorbed or reflected by the wall color. A higher sheen like a semigloss or gloss finish will reflect more light from the surface, creating richness and depth in a color. Trim, doors, chair rails, and even furniture can be highlighted by using a higher-sheen paint.
A flat or eggshell finish will absorb light, creating a color that looks more dry. Flat finishes are great when there are surface imperfections on a wall that you want to hide.
-- Erika Woelfel, color marketing director for Behr
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Am I Too Hesitant?
Yes, painting a room takes a weekend out of your schedule, but compared to other projects, it's pretty straightforward and less cost-restrictive. "You can repaint anytime, in most cases," says Jonathan Rachman. "It's not as pricey as the fabric you have committed to and the labor you paid someone to reupholster a sofa, or buying a new sofa for that matter."