How to Choose the Best Paint Colors

Paint is the most inexpensive way to transform a room from drab to fabulous, but for many homeowners selecting the right colors seems an intimidating task not easily achieved by amateurs.

The best way to begin is to let fabric lead the way. Choose furniture and drapery that you love from the start and then go from there. Fabric provides inspiration for a room’s color scheme, but it’s also a more prudent starting point because paint is much easier to change than furniture and window treatments.

The journey begins when you take a fabric swatch to the paint store and try to find paint chips that coordinate with the colors present in your fabric sample. You don’t have to find a perfect match – choosing a wall color that is slightly lighter or darker than the color in the fabric can make a room flow.

For instance, a darker wall color makes lighter fabric stand out in a room, resulting in a dramatic-looking room. Similarly, darker walls contrasted against light curtains make the windows of a room more noticeable. A perfect match has a different effect – it creates a consistent harmony of color that makes a sofa or other piece of furniture more striking.

If you really want to find a perfect match, new technology has made it possible to identify the exact colors in a piece of fabric and reproduce them in a paint color. This is all done with a spectrometer, but it only works on solid fabric.

When shopping at a paint store, however, realize that paint chips don’t show you exactly how the color will appear on the walls. Before deciding on any one color, test it on a small section of the wall and view it in both daylight and at night.

Perhaps you plan to paint in neutral tones? In this case, test a shade that’s a few shades darker than the one you prefer. In large spaces particularly, stronger neutrals will give a room more of the impact you’re looking for.

When selecting a paint color, it’s also important to take into account the texture of your walls. Stucco and brick surfaces, for example, are very rough and reflect less light than smooth walls – it’s important to remember that colors painted on rough walls appear darker than when they are painted on a smooth surface.

COLOR Frequently asked questions

How do colors effect room size?

Generally, warm colors like reds, oranges, and yellows close in a space. Blues, greens, and violets tend to make a room look larger. Dark colors have a diminishing effect. Whites are always a good choice for making a room look larger.

My room has a chair rail and I am using two colors….?

This depends on the look you want to achieve. If you want an open, airy look, always paint the portion of the wall below the chair rail darker allowing the lighter color to dominate.

Should trim work be painted the same color as the walls…?

Use the same color to hide trim work, use a lighter or darker color to bring out the trim work and add highlights.

Will the paint I choose look lighter or darker on the wall?

Larger surfaces make the paint appear darker. As a general rule, always choose colors that are a shade or two lighter than what you want. Do keep in mind that colors can also appear lighter or darker depending on surrounding colors and lighting.

What is the best way to decide which color is best for my room?

Take color chips home to determine the color of your room. A nice technique is to hold the color chips in the daylight and at night so you will see how lighting will effect your color choices.

What color should I paint my ceiling?

White or off-white colors will create the illusion of having a higher ceiling and more open space. Whereas medium to dark colors will create the illusion of lowering the ceiling. Customarily, white or off-white tend to be used.

Will the paint actually match the color chip?

As a general rule, paint on a color chip will appear slightly lighter than when applied in a room. Always take into account the sheen of the paint, the lighting in the room, and other colors that are in the room.