Secret to Success: 3 Steps to the Perfect Paint Color

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I can tell you without a doubt that picking a paint color is WAY harder than most people plan. In fact 9 times out of 10 that is THE decision most people just cannot decide. I can also tell you that I completely understand, and yes you are normal. No one can claim to be able to determine the best color for their space off a tiny printed (not painted) rectangle that is surrounded by hundreds of other colors to throw you off.

Here are 3 steps to the perfect paint color:

1. Never start your paint selection with the paint deck. Start with other decor in your home, fabric, nature, or any object that you can use as your reference point.

– The paint deck is very overwhelming and can easily pull you in a million directions other than your original thought. Starting with a piece of fabric will help you stay consistent with your original vision for the space, as well as quickly narrow your selection from over thousands of options to maybe three.

-You can start with a wall color you see in another room on Pinterest or Houzz..etc., but ***those pictures are usually edited*** consider that your warning. The trend these days is a lot of light so most of those rooms get edited quite a bit and don’t really give an accurate representation of the color.

2. Compare your top 3 selections to a color you know and have used before.

– Getting a reference point for how strong the color is or how soft it is can be very helpful. For example, I know the trim in my house is “Pure White” by Sherwin Williams so when I am selecting a color I usually hold it up to “Pure White” so that I can get a reference point. Even the second color from the top of the color card has quite a bit of color in them, more than they appear to have on the color card. Having that reference point may help you narrow your color down to two options.

3. Getting the dreaded paint samples.

– At this point you should ONLY be getting 2 samples. Guys this is the biggest issue and keeps people from moving forward all the time. When you have 10 samples on the wall, not to mention the existing paint color THERE IS NO WAY YOU CAN MAKE A GOOD DECISION. Greens next to blues look more blue, blues next to grays go more gray, yellows next to brown look more beige. It’s confusing and only causes frustration and less decision-making. Usually, when I have stepped into the picture my client has 10 different paint samples on the walls and I cannot even begin to tell you what their original thought was for the space.

– The other side is those paint samples can get very expensive…especially from Sherwin Williams (about $7/ sample!). If for some reason you have narrowed it to 2 colors and you don’t like either go back to step 1 – it’s okay! But whatever you do avoid adding a million samples and guessing over and over again.

– Lastly, paint a LARGE area of the samples in multiple corners of the room. This will give you a better idea of what the color will look like in the day time, evening, and night. It will also give you a better over all idea of what the color will be like when it’s all over the walls. Keep in mind your eye will be competing with the existing wall color and other colors in the room so the larger the sample the better idea you will get.

Other notable tips I’ve learned along the way:

– The “Fundamentally Neutrals” have a lot of color in them so look at the bottom color on the swatch to determine the undertones.

– Beiges often look pink, make sure you check that bottom color. If its burgundy then avoid that beige color. Look for a good solid brown base color.

– Listen to your designer- He or She has used a lot of these colors before and made many mistakes before.

– Custom colors ARE an option. I would do this very carefully because if you ask for too much of an alter it will completely alter the color and then you have to buy the gallon anyways. But just something to keep in the back of your mind if you simply cannot find THE color you are looking for. I have used “Antique White” by Sherwin Williams at 35% often. I am still wanting that buttery goodness, just with less butter.

– Think “less is more” with paint. Even if you just love color  – going a bit more neutral on the walls gives you the opportunity to pull more color in your decor without overwhelming you.

– Avoid “Rainy day grays”! This is what I have affectionately called them. Gray is all the rage, and for good reason, but be careful when selecting a gray. Consider the size of your space, the amount of natural light, and maybe go for a warmer gray. What I mean by that is if you look at the bottom color on the swatch it may have some beige or brown in it. This will keep your space trendy, but also homey.

I could probably go on for another 20 points, but if you do have questions or you are looking for some good recommendations feel free to ask.

2 Comments

  1. These are SUCH helpful tips!!! I’ve just been doing smaller things lately (cabinets, furniture) but am starting to dream about the living room paint color changing-it’s so DARK right now but it feels like such a big decision. These are great points! Thanks!! You’re so wise! 🙂

  2. Songbird, THANK YOU! Great tips for me, with the samples I have stuck on my wall… (But only three!). ;). Will use your advice moving forward. Appreciate your knowledge, love!

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