There’s nothing better than a crisp new coat of paint in a beautiful space. But there’s nothing more overwhelming than trying to choose that perfect shade, right? I’ll admit, choosing paint colors can be tricky, but today, I’m here to offer all my tips and tricks for how to choose a paint color for your interior refresh without getting stuck comparing endless options and swatches.
My No-Stress Guide to Selecting Interior Paint Colors
Follow these four steps for a no-fuss paint selection!
Step 1: Gather inspiration before choosing paint colors.
If you’re reading this as you’re heading into a paint store, stop! It will be nearly impossible to pick out the right paint color if you’re not sure what you’re looking for yet. Instead, take stock of the space you have and search for inspiration that will turn it into the space you want.
Whether you’re painting a new home or starting a remodeling project, it’s important to get inspired and create a design plan before you even glance at paint samples. First, determine the mood and color family for the space. Want the room to feel airy and refreshing? A lighter and brighter wall color is the way to go. Looking for a relaxed, cozy, moody vibe? A darker paint may be the answer.
As you scroll through Instagram or Pinterest, or flip through the latest design magazine, save spaces that catch your eye and offer the mood you’re going for in your own home. You can even shop my home to find all of my personal paint selections! Chances are, you’ll begin to see similar colors and tones in the photos you save – and that’s a great place to start with your own room design.
Step 2: Decide what shades to sample.
If you’re painting a space that’s already furnished, build on what you already have! Determine which pieces you’re keeping, and make sure the paint you choose complements the colors of what’s already in the room, from furniture to rugs to artwork you really love. Don’t forget to factor in the “permanent” features, too – if the flooring, stone fireplaces, and light fixtures are staying, let them serve as anchor points for your color scheme.
Once you have a general color selection in your mind, it’s finally time to search for sample shades. Search online for the names of paint colors from your inspiration board, or head directly to the store to look at paint chip cards. If you’re using a contractor for your project, make sure to ask them if they have a preferred vendor. Paint stores can color match other brands using a sample or color codes stored in their computer, but it’s not an exact science.
I always recommend sampling paint colors in the brand you plan to use as “Plan A.” I’m not against color-matching at all – I do it often! But remember, this is your stress-free guide, so I’m trying to make things as simple as possible. If you do need to color match, do so during the sampling process. Nobody likes a mismatched surprise once the color is on the walls!
You might be thinking…
“How many samples should I select, anyway?”
It’s a great question, and there’s no perfect answer! I usually sample 6 shades when choosing a paint color, which is definitely more than the average.
I would always suggest sampling at least 3 colors, expecting to pay about $5 per sample can. (And yes, I’m a huge advocate for true paint samples from the can, because they’re more reliable. In a pinch, though, you can typically get paint swatch stickers online.)
Step 3: Sample your swatches.
The only way to find the perfect paint for your space is by swatching, swatching, and swatching again. I’ve found that it’s typically easy to name your favorites as soon as the paint has dried (which, by the way, is 2+ hours after the second coat has been applied), but my best practice recommendation is to live with it for a day or two before making a final decision. See how the paint looks during different times of the day – it’s amazing how much light can change a color sometimes!
If your house is mid construction and you can’t sample the paint directly on the wall, try to get your hands on some sheetrock. Your contractor can usually provide you with a piece. In a pinch, some coated poster board will do, but paint absorbs into paper a little differently than walls.
Bonus: samples painted on sheetrock scraps or poster board can be helpful when choosing paint for an entire home, since you can move your samples around to see the paint color in different spaces.
Step 4: Pick a paint color.
You did it! You made it to the best part of the process – selecting your favorite sample and watching it transform your space. As you’re making your final selection, here are a few tips to keep in mind.
Make your selection based on your home’s light.
It may sound obvious, but it’s easy to overlook the way light can change the look of a paint. Make a note of directional light – natural southern light will bring out the warm tones in a space, while northern light is bright and cool. This is why you need at least a full 24 hours with your samples.
How do they look in the morning? At noon? At sunset? What about after dark, with just a few lamps to illuminate the space?
Don’t forget about undertones.
This is true with all paint colors, but it’s especially important if you’re choosing a white shade for your home. There are a few pure and clean whites on the market, but most white paints lean warm (yellow, pink, or beige undertones) or cool (blue and gray undertones). Pure, warm, and cool whites are all wonderful options – but which option is best for you?
Remember: Warm whites work great for rooms without a lot of natural light, and they also make large spaces feel cozier. Cool tones work well in modern spaces with an abundance of natural light. If you need help selecting a shade, subscribe to my newsletter to get your FREE white paint guide! It’s a great place to start.
And there you have it – our no-stress guide for how to choose interior paint colors you’ll actually love. I can’t wait to see what you pick for your next project!