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Paint Color Advice: How to choose a paint color.

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Do you need to paint a room and don’t know where to start? There are some simple ways to get started and narrow down your color choices. Today I’m sharing a few tips on how to choose a paint color that I’ve learned over the past 30+ years of helping clients.

how to choose a paint color

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How to choose a paint color

1. Find a starting point or inspiration

cans of paint with fabric sample and brush

Matching paint to existing items

Most of the time when you’re looking for a paint color you’re trying to match an existing item or surface. It might be a sofa, area rug, backsplash, or a cherished piece of art. This is your starting point.

Bring your fabric samples, tiles, counter samples, pictures, etc. with you when you go to the paint store. It’s impossible to remember the exact shade of your favorite pillow or your backsplash tile. So to be safe, bring what you can when looking for paint color options.

remodeling samples

Starting from scratch with a paint color

If you’re building a home, moving into your first home, or painting a vacation home then you might be starting with a blank slate. This can be overwhelming and tough to figure out where to start. But here are some great places to look for inspiration:

  • Pinterest or instagram – Do a search for a particular style or for home decor in general. You’ll probably find a style that appeals to you pretty quickly.
  • Home magazines and blogs – There are always beautiful and inspiring homes in magazines and on home decor blogs.
  • Your wardrobe – This actually works. Look in your closet and drawers and see if you notice more of a particular color or palette. Do you wear lots of neutrals? Are there lots of blue clothes in your closet? If you love to wear a color then you’ll likely be happy with it on your walls too!

There are a gazillion paint colors to choose from, but you don’t usually have as many choices for other design elements. You should first decide on the things that won’t be changed for a long time and then choose your paint color last.

Now that you have something specific that you need to match or coordinate with, then you’re ready to start the process of choosing a color.  Don’t cringe.  It’s not that bad!

2. Narrow your choices

paint color swatches

Once you’ve decided on the direction you want to go, narrow your choices down to 5 or less paint colors, ideally. Keep in mind that paint colors will look more intense on your walls than they do on paint color strips with multiple shades. This means light colors will look lighter and dark colors will look darker.

Testing the paint color

You’ll want to test the color either by painting areas of the room (next to the trim) or by using a peel and stick paint samples. You can get them here: Samplize Peel and Stick Paint Samples. They’re reusable, affordable, and you don’t even have to wash out a brush.

peel and stick paint samples

If nothing else, take home paint strips and cut off all the colors except the one you are considering. If it’s not the right one, there are LOTS of other choices.

The right place

Look at the color you’re considering in the room that you will be painting, not outside in the bright sun. Colors look washed out in the sunlight and appear much different than they do inside.

Timing is everything

See how the paint color looks in the room you’re painting during different lighting situations…on a sunny day, on a cloudy day, with and without the lights on, and at night. Colors look different throughout the day.

paint cans with brush and mixing stick

Don’t stress out. Remember that there’s not a “perfect” color. There are likely a few good choices that will look beautiful in your room.

Tip: Buy quality paint

As far as brands go, I have always sold and worked with Benjamin Moore colors and highly recommend their colors and products.  (They don’t pay me to say this). But all brands have “premium” paints and mid-priced paints that should be fine.

Just please don’t buy cheap paint. You’ll actually save money because you don’t have to buy as much paint as you would if you bought “cheaper” paint.  You get what you pay for.

REMEMBER: It’s only paint.  I don’t want to trivialize the whole process, but what’s the worst that could happen?  You choose the wrong color. You have to repaint, or live with a color that’s not “perfect”.

If you end up hating the color, it’s usually the least expensive and easiest part of the project to change.  Unlike cabinets, flooring, curtains, etc, it’s an easy fix if you don’t like it.

Paint Color Inspiration

Browse through my paint color archives for dozens of posts filled with inspiration.


    1. You're welcome! I hope you found some of the information helpful. Thanks so much for visiting!

  1. Great advice! I agree with your #4 so much, and that's what I have to tell my husband all the time – it's only paint! I have this linked to my paint colours post too today!

    1. You're right! It's pretty easy to change if you don't like it. Thanks for the mention! I enjoy your blog and all the great ideas you share. ~ Angie

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