top of page

How to Select Paint Colors for Your Home

paint color selection

I’ve spoken with friends and clients who are using their extra free during the coronavirus shut down to do some home improvement projects. If you are feeling the urge to freshen up a room or two, one of the most impactful changes you can make is to change the paint color. But selecting the right color can be an overwhelming task. Paint chips that look good in the store can look completely different at home, and envisioning an entire room based on those tiny 1-inch swatches is impossible. So how do you pick the right color? Here is the process I use when working with clients:

1. Get a bigger swatch - Many stores now stock larger paint chips, and some can be ordered (or, if you’re working with a designer, they can get you large swatches). The bigger the sample, the easier it will be to figure out if it works in your space. If you can’t access large swatches, purchase small tester cans of the colors you are considering.

2. View swatches against a white backdrop - Do not simply tape swatches up on your current wall color (or, if you are using tester jars, do not paint the color directly on the wall). Here’s why that doesn’t work:

color comparison

The Xs on the two sides of this image are exactly the same color! They appear different to our eye because of the background they are viewed against. If you view paint swatches against your current wall color, your eye will perceive it in comparison to the background and you will not get an accurate view. To remedy this, I tape up a piece of white posterboard to my client’s wall and then tape the swatches onto that. This allows us to see the true color in the room. If you are using tester jars of paint, paint them onto sheets of posterboard leaving a border of white.

3. Consider colors under different lighting conditions - The other factor that impacts how colors look is the amount and type of light hitting it. How many times have you painted a room and loved it during the day, but at night it turned muddy or looked like a completely different shade? Take your posterboard with the samples on it and tape it up in the brightest spot in the room and also the darkest spot. Leave it hanging up and check it throughout the day and evening to see how it changes. Make sure you like the way it looks under all lighting conditions.

4. Consider all the other stuff in the room - Take into account the permanent fixtures of the space, like the flooring and trim, as well as the fabrics and furnishings you plan to keep. Even neutral colors like grey or beige have an undertone that needs to work with everything in the space. (The discussion of undertones is complex, and if you are interested there is a great deal of useful information at Take your swatches and hold them up directly to all the furnishings and finishes in the space to see if they compliment one another or if they feel “off”.

This process may seem like a lot of work, but it’s well worth it to save you from having to repaint after selecting the wrong color!

If you found these tips helpful be sure to subscribe to the Pretty Neat weekly email! You'll get a short and sweet message each week with my best advice for a more beautiful and functional home. Click here to sign up, and you'll also receive my FREE guide: How to Get Rid of Stuff!

Make it fab!


bottom of page