I hear all the time about how people have a hard time picking out a color or, once they do pick one they don’t like it on their walls. Today, I’m going to share some things I think about while I’m picking paint colors for a space – We’ll call it “Paint Colors 101”.
Let’s start at the beginning. Every color has undertones. Cooler undertones meaning purples, blues or greens. Warmer undertones are reds, oranges and yellows. This means when you go to pick ‘white paint’, so many of the options will have one of those undertones. If you want to be able to decide what undertones your colors should have, just look at the decor in your home already. If you decorate with a lot of grays and blues, you guessed it, cool undertones. Our decor has warm undertones.
Gray became a thing right after we bought this sofa and stained our concrete floors brown. Don’t get me wrong, I love the floors and I like the beige-y, greige-y warmth of our space. Side note: gray is beautiful and can easily be warmed up with some neutral, linen, beige tones and wooden accents if you want a warmer look in your home. I just did it with our new sofa from The Novogratz.
Once you’ve decided what undertones run through your house OR what undertones you want to run through your house, you can more easily pick a color.
Picking Light Paint
This is a tip that I shared a long time ago on my insta-stories (if you don’t follow me on Instagram, I’d love it if you would.) When I’m picking a very light color I use the whole color card to my benefit. (I’m using a Sherwin Williams deck because I have one at home.)
If you look at ‘conservative gray’ and ‘sedate gray’ right in the middle, you can move down on the color chart and see that conservative gray ends up being dark green. It has green undertones and sedate gray ends up looking more brown at the bottom. You can also use the names as a clue too. 3 colors under conservative gray is a color that starts with the word ‘evergreen’. Problem solved. Both of those colors are really pretty, it just depends on what you want.
When you’re looking at the color swatches in the store they are usually lined up so that the lightest shade of a certain color is at the top.
If I were to like the tones of sedate gray, I could jump up the the color card above it and choose an ever lighter shade with the same undertones.
Picking White-ish Paint
Ah, white paint (and even black) with it’s one BILLION choices. I have a few tips for this process. Number one, lay your swatches down on white paper. This way you can see how they relate to the bright white of the paper.
Also, put them up against each other. The other day in the store I had a Behr color picked out that I really liked. It looked white enough to me and I could tell by the color (can’t remember what it was) that it had some silvery gray undertones. Sure enough, I grabbed another color that seemed promising and right away the one I was first holding turned out looking gray and not white anymore. I put the original one back and started comparing more colors to my new favorite. In case you’re wondering, I ended up with ‘polar bear’ by Behr and that’s what I’m using in our laundry room makeover I talked about last week. See the plans here if you missed it.
The other thing that’s very helpful: companies create brochures with groupings of different popular colors. Like a grouping of whites for example.
I have this particular brochure and when it’s open you can tell pretty easily what whites lean to yellow or blue, for example.
If you want to use a color but don’t necessarily want bright and bold, here’s what you can do. Take aqua for example: that’s Nickerbean 1’s color these days. She would say she would want this color for her walls:
|Behr Island Aqua|
for a happy medium, I would choose something lighter and with more gray in it. Like this:
|Behr Ice Mist|
You can pull in the bold tones with art and accessories.
Warm Tones of Cool Colors
When I picked the paint colors for the One Room Challenge playroom I made over last spring, purple was the Nickerbean color of the month.
Since our whole house leans more warm, there IS a way to choose a warm-cool color for your walls or vice-versa.
I used Behr ‘queen’s violet’ for the ceiling in here. I mean, look at what I found when I searched just the name ‘violet’:
See ‘queens violet’ in the middle? See how much more pink/ red it looks than some of the other bluer ones? I labeled a few more to give you an idea. That’s what I mean by choosing a warmer looking cool color. So if your whole house consists of cool colors and there’s a certain room that you want a warmer tone, there are ways of picking so that your house still feels cohesive.
Use Pinterest for help
When I think I’ve picked a color that I like, I’ll search it on pinterest to see what pictures pop up. I feel like this is especially helpful with cabinets. Having cabinets painted is a commitment, so it’s nice to be able to look a few examples up first. For example, when designing my parents’ house, I looked up Sherwin Williams ‘alabaster’ kitchens to make sure we liked the way the color looked. We ended up loving it and using it.
You can see more pictures of their farmhouse here.
If all else fails, let me pick
I hope this was helpful and I hope I shared a few things that might give you a little more confidence in picking paint colors. If you still feel overwhelmed or unable to pick, there’s good news! Picking paint colors is one of my FAVORITE THINGS! I’m not shouting… If you need help, it’s a service I offer in my design consultations. Check out more details here or feel free to reach out at email@example.com.
Also if you have any questions comment below to ask! Your question could help someone else.
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3 thoughts on “Helpful Tips for picking paint colors”
Choosing paint colours is so hard for me and this article was so helpful. Too bad you are in the US or I would have you over to help me pick!
Hi Alisa. I'm so glad it may have helped! send me color names any time and I'm happy to vote. : )