How To Chose Terrific Paint Colors You Will Love

Did you find choosing paint color so confusing that you defaulted to white?

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When it comes to home design, as well as maintenance, it’s a given that a fresh coat of paint does wonders to give a new lease on looks in the most cost effective way possible. In addition, the right paint color can raise your spirits considerably every time you walk through your front door.

Still we hesitate to repaint our rooms, in spite of the “Every day living soot” that has obscured the original color.

Why? Because we know from experience that even if professional painters are hired for the work, painting even just one room can be a life disrupting hassle, bracketed by questions and indecision. Is it time for a new paint color scheme? What color? What color goes where? Which finish?

Don’t think that the color of your favorite shirt is necessarily going to be the answer just because you really like it.

Watch Your Tone. Just as inspiration, maybe the color of your favorite shirt will work after all. Just remember that while the small scale of a shirt allows for a bright, wild and crazy color, the same color on your eight foot-by-whatever long walls could eventually  give you a headache.

However, if the same color is “browned or grayed down” to create its own neutral and then lightened or darkened to taste, you may have found the win/win solution.

Natural Selection: Nature’s colors are perfect. If the Hearth and Home Gods have blessed your space with lots of big windows with views of trees and other greenery, your rooms can become one with the great outdoors. Try selecting colors that match those found just outside your window. A full-scale paint color fan deck is invaluable and well worth the investment.  Discover the perfect leaf greens, bark browns and a plethora of stone tones and shades of the good earth itself.

Are deep, dark and/or bold colors an idea you have always wanted to try? Go for it, but overload is easy.  Be sure to limit the rest of the color selections to varying tones of that color, maybe one other color for accent and the rest  a good mix of light, medium and dark neutrals in your furnishings for that room. It’s also a good idea to carry that bold wall color on smaller objects like pillows, or picked up in a fabric pattern so that the color choice relates as a whole.

This is by no means a rule, but a suggestion that always works: Favor neutrals or at least muted colors for walls and large pieces of upholstered furniture and rugs. Save bright/strong colors for pillows, artwork, towels, pottery etc. If you want your choices to have a “considered” look, pull a color from patterned drapery, upholstery or even a patterned rug if you love those colors.

paint chips showing countless paint color options

The range in shades of any one color is vast. You know, a rose by any other name, etc. This means you can mull over the right hue until your eyes are so feeble, it will no longer matter.

Even so,  you can still pick a color that will look like a rotting vegetable on your walls. This is why you test your paint colors…..

A single color is influenced by every other color in its immediate vicinity. Always test your paint color in the room where it will live. Don’t think that if you select a “pink” at the paint store with the loud chartreuse walls that it will look just the same when you check it out at home. Another consideration is light and time of day. Both can radically change your opinion of a paint color.

Color Check. Generally, one starts the color selection process with a chip. Look for colors that most appeal to you and pick a favorite or two. Then choose a lighter and a darker version of each. Colors look brighter on the walls than they do on a tiny chip.

Half measures avail you not much. Don’t stop at acquiring only a few measly chips. Many of the best paint companies offer their paint color selection in small sample sizes. Otherwise, buy quarts of the colors of interest. This is not the time to quibble about the expense.

Test drive. If you are going to test your color(s) directly on the wall, make sure to paint big samples on your walls. You want to see the color in real life scale.

Orange on a paint chip seems harmless; all over a twelve by fifteen foot room, not so much.open can odf coral can with brush co.ho.md.us

The most accurate sample will be two coats (allowed to dry) over primer. Some color professionals go so far as to suggest painting a swath from floor to ceiling, at least six feet wide. Though the notion of a huge swath of paint color is spot on for being perfectly clear about how a particular color will look, this “Big Swath Solution” could get very unwieldy if you want to test a few different colors.

The best method for color testing is to paint your samples onto white foam core boards. These are available at any art supply store and cost no more than a couple of dollars for an 18″ by 20″ sheet. Paint two coats all the way to the edges of the boards. You can then move the samples around the room to see how light affects your selection at various times and in various locations. You’ll also be able to see more readily how the color works with the rest of the proposed scheme and with your furnishings.

Not done yet. You would think that armed with a little guidance and knowledge, your choices will no doubt be perfect and perfectly beautiful.

Maybe…but the right color in the wrong place will still look wrong.

Think Big Picture. It’s important that all of your paint color choices play well together even if they are in different rooms. Don’t think of a color for just the room(s) to be repainted, think also how your color selection will relate to the rest of your home. The goal is to give your rooms a cohesive look as a unified environment.

The impression that your rooms are actually different countries in search of a continent to call their own is not optimum.

Where Does This Go? One method of establishing continuity is to limit your color palette overall and reference only one or two of the colors used in the fabrics and/or rugs. Use these same colors, or shades of these colors more than once by moving them around to different rooms. An example of this might be to use only four colors and a unifying trim/molding color through out a two bedroom, two bath residence.

Here are some other ideas:
  • The wall color of one room could be the ceiling color of another room.
  • The ceiling color could be a pale tint of the wall color in that room or the accent color. Be sure that the accent color is referenced in other rooms too.
  • While you might opt for different colors in several rooms, your hallways can tie the rooms together if you use the same neutral shade in each.
  • Another method is to use only one color family. Choose the lighter tones for the public spaces and the darker shades as you move back into the private areas. There is some wisdom in the notion of using light colors in light spaces and darker ones in darker rooms. You won’t be fighting with the existing natural lighting.
  • If you are painting the entire residence; choose a trim and door color that works well with the color palette so the same color can be used throughout. This is the easiest way to ensure that every room “ties” together elegantly.

New rules for old assumptions: A white ceiling doesn’t make a room look taller as much as it draws attention to itself. It’s very stark. If nothing else, use a little of the wall color mixed into deep ivory to give it the same hue or even a light cafe au lait tone.

modern bath with wood walls and white ceiling
This isn’t to say a white ceiling never has its place.

A white ceiling in a room with modern architecture and minimal moldings has its advantages. In this instance, If you want to use a strong paint color for your walls, a white ceiling with white door and window trims will be look crisp and fresh, as well as play up the graphic lines of the architecture.

A great thing to do in a room without crown molding, is to paint the walls and ceiling the same color. Choose a pale to medium tone of a neutral or otherwise muted color for this purpose. Without the distraction of a color shift, the walls will seem higher. It’s a seamless room without borders.

By the way, stop thinking a small room is a bad thing you have to disguise.

It’s a losing battle anyway. White paint will not make a room look bigger. It will just make it look brighter. Whereas a dark  and rich paint color could be the foundation for creating a fascinating “destination” within your home. Use a paint finish with sheen to keep the dark color from looking “murky”.

Moldings, Trims And Doors: As with ceilings, toss out the notion that trims, moldings and doors always have to be white. Granted, if you have great moldings and doors, a creamy white is often a wonderful choice. However, remember that white will draw attention in a graphic way. Don’t hesitate to paint the doors and wall trims the same color as the walls, if you don’t want the extra detail or the doors and trims aren’t great.  Use a satin finish for the trim, and washable matte for the walls.  Another good idea is to paint the trims and doors a few shades lighter or darker than your wall color. The effect is sophisticated, without being jarring

Paint color is a major player is creating the ambience you most want to live with. To that end, even choosing white must be a deliberate decision and is no longer the safe refuge of a default position.

Do the deed. Once the perfect paint color has been determined, don’t take any short cuts on labor. Generally two or three coats is adequate for maximum color depth as well as coverage, depending on the condition of the surface . You will need two coats in any case to see the color accurately.

Don’t cheap out.  A good primer is a must, especially if painting a lighter color over a darker or brighter one. Without a primer coat first, you could get an “echo” of the old color as a subtle bleed though.

This could be an exceptionally icky color combo, by accident. Even if the old color paint color was as pale as the new, there are still very good reasons to prep your walls with primer first.

Primer will:
  • Adhere to the old paint better than the new paint . This enhances the durability of the fresh coat.
  •  Ensure true colors. You will get the color you spent hours deliberating over, without the undertone of the color previously painted (as noted, see section above).
  • The paint job itself will just look better and more finished.

The Pros know. If you have ever re-finished furniture yourself, you know from experience that the more thin coats you apply, the more the finish and color are enhanced and deepened.

There’s a hack for that:  tint the primer with a small amount of the top coat color.

Make sure that the top coat and primer are either latex-based or oil based. Mixing dissimilar solutions does not work!

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