How to Pick a Paint Color You Will Love

How to Pick a Paint Color You Will Love

How to Pick a Paint Color You Will Love

You’ll live with it for years, so don’t rush the decision

When the time comes to paint, too many homeowners dash off to the store, grab some tiny samples and spend just a few minutes selecting a color. And sometimes that works out just fine. Other times, it leads to years of regret. Here’s how to avoid those regrets.

Hang up samples

It’s difficult to tell what a color is going to look like on your wall from a small paint sample chip, so many manufacturers offer sample containers of their colors. Depending on the manufacturer, you can buy sample containers in quarts, pints or even smaller sizes. They’re a wise investment that will prevent you from wasting money on a color that isn’t right.

Because colors can change dramatically under different lighting conditions, roll the sample onto a white tagboard instead of onto the wall. That way, you’ll be able to move the sample to other walls and view it under all the different lighting conditions in the room.

Consider the neighbors

You may think a purple house with red trim would be really groovy, but your neighbors will hate you. And no color choice is as important as good relations with your neighbors.

Work with your permanent colors

Base your color choice on the permanent furnishings in the room or the features on the exterior of your home. Inside, the flooring, rugs, artwork, blinds and upholstery will suggest a color direction. Outside, factory-finished materials like the roof, gutters, fascia, soffits and brickwork are existing elements whose colors rarely change but should play a role in determining your paint colors. The landscaping is another important factor. Select colors that fit in with the surrounding palette. If you have brilliant-colored spring blooming trees or a sea of green foundation plantings, choose colors that will complement them.

Use color collections

Paint companies carefully assemble colors into “families” or “collections.” Basically, these are combinations of complementary colors that may not occur to you until you see how well they work together. Take advantage of all this research already done for you by color experts. Find brochures at paint stores or go online to paint manufacturer Web sites.

Lighten the ceiling color

Because ceilings are seen in shadow, the color often appears darker than the same paint on walls. If you want the ceiling to match the wall color, buy ceiling paint one or two shades lighter than the wall color. Or instead of buying another gallon of a lighter shade, save money by diluting the wall color with 50 percent white paint.

Pick other decor first

Paint is available in any color you can imagine. So it will be easy to find a color that works with your new curtains or furniture. But if you choose a paint color first, your search for matching curtains won’t be so easy.
Store leftovers upside down

Virtually paint your house

Many manufacturers offer opportunities to “paint” your home virtually—you upload a photo of your home or a room and try out different colors and painting schemes. You can also search for homes similar to your own and try “painting” with various combinations and products. There are also apps that allow you to take a photo of a color you like and have it matched with a manufacturer’s color or suggested palette. Just be aware that your computer monitor, phone or iPad screen will affect the color of the paint you see.

Sheen matters as much as color

When you choose a color, you have to choose its sheen, too. Most paint companies offer flat, eggshell, satin, semigloss and gloss as options. Glossier finishes offer greater durability and are easier to clean, but they emphasize any wall imperfections. Flat paint will do a much better job of hiding imperfections, but it’s easier to damage than gloss. Flat finishes are generally best for ceilings and low-traffic areas like living and dining rooms where all you’ll need to do is wipe them down with a damp sponge. If they do get scuffed, they’re easy to touch up. Glossier finishes—including satin and semigloss—can withstand moisture and grease so they’re good for trim and cabinets and high-traffic areas like kitchens and bathrooms.

Repair bad walls

Your walls may look fine with their existing coat of flat, white paint. But with glossier paint or a dark color, every little bump and crater will show up. So if you’re set on using a dark color or a glossy sheen, inspect your walls first. Most walls can be smoothed out with a combination of filling holes and sanding down rough spots. Really bad walls may require “skim coating,” a thin coat of joint compound covering the entire wall.

Don’t paint the walls only

Just as paint accentuates features, you can use it to hide unappealing elements too. Paint exposed plumbing, radiators, gutters and other components the same color as the walls to make them blend in. You can also do that with light fixtures, switches, outlets and just about anything else.

Vivid colors fade faster

The more intense or dark a color is, the more likely it is to fade and show dirt. After a few years, vivid blues and deep reds will become subdued, and you may see streaks and splotches of dirt more readily. Dark colors can also absorb heat and sustain more moisture problems than lighter shades. And because dark paint fades, it can be difficult to match exactly when you do small touch-ups. On the plus side, dark colors can give your house an air of dignity or drama. Generally, organic colors like red, blue, green and yellow tend to fade more quickly than earth tones like beiges, tans and browns, which are more stable.

Beware of dark colors in bathrooms

Extremely dark colors don’t handle the moisture in a bathroom very well; they can become blotchy or chalky.

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