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Choosing a Paint Color: How to Pick the Perfect Shade

Male sales rep helps a woman choose the right paint color
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When choosing a paint color for your home, getting the shade right is key. Color has the power to make a small room feel bigger or a large room feel cozy, so it pays to be intentional about shade and finish.

With so many options and brands to choose from, it can be challenging to figure out where to start when picking a color for your home. To help make it easier, we look at how to choose paint colors with ease.

What to consider when choosing a paint color and shade:

Lighting

Natural light plays a vital role in how we perceive paint colors on walls. The direction your windows face (north, west, etc.) will affect the color on your walls. Different strengths of light will pull out a color undertone, which is why colors can look vastly different throughout the day.

In general, if your room is north facing, it will let in soft light, creating a warming effect. Dark paints will look darker, and light paint colors will be more subdued. West-facing rooms let in the beautiful evening light, but the morning sun can produce shadows and make colors look muted and dull. East-facing rooms can create a warm and yellow light before noon, turning bluer as the day goes on. South-facing rooms have more intense light, meaning dark colors will appear brighter and lighter colors will make the room look washed out.

You also need to consider artificial light when picking a color. Do you have incandescent, fluorescent, halogen, or LED lights? Each will change the way your walls look.

Paint finish

Your paint finish also affects how a color looks in your home. Sheen can have a significant impact on how a color is perceived, particularly when it comes to how light bounces off the finish as it can create a greater depth of color. Glossy-finish colors can look significantly darker than the same color in a matte finish as the light bounces off the gloss. From satin to silk and eggshell to sheen, it can be challenging to pick which finish will work well for your room.

Click here for more information about paint sheen and finish!

The room’s purpose

Before you focus on color, think about how you plan to use the room, and who will be using it. Do you want to add warmth to make it cozy? Or do you want to make it look larger?

For instance, bedrooms are usually places of calm and tranquillity, so bedroom color schemes tend to reflect this. That’s why soft blues, pastels, and calming neutrals are popular for this room.

White or cream walls tend to be a popular choice for kitchens for a crisp and clean look. But kitchens can be great for playing with color; it’s a sociable space, so don’t be afraid to add a little warmth if you want!

In smaller bathrooms, neutral walls can make them look more spacious and clean. You can easily accessorize with colored towels, bath mats, and plants.

Overall decor style

You should also take the style and current decor of your home into account.

If you live in a rustic farmhouse, modern palettes with bold colors may not mesh with the aesthetic. Older houses tend to have less natural light than newer builds, so lighter colors work well to open up the room.

Take a look around at your furniture and layout as well. In addition to testing colors on the wall, paint a piece of plasterboard and hold it up against your couch, kitchen cabinets, or other items in the room to see if they go well together.

Understand undertones

Every color has its own personality, some more subtle than others, and some the human eye does not pick up. When picking a paint color, don’t make a decision based on the first look of a color. Often a color’s qualities remain concealed until you take a closer look.

Color undertones are not natural for most people to see, but you can learn how to look for it. Every color has a mass tone, which is the color you perceive, and an undertone, which is a lot more subtle. Different undertones will have different effects on a room — they can add depth, warmth, space, and more, depending on the color. So make sure you understand the undertone of your paint, and how this will work in your room.

How to pick the perfect shade, step by step:

Step 1: Determine the room’s purpose

What’s the goal for the room? Do you want a calm and relaxing haven or a vibrant, fun area? Do you want to create the illusion of space, or you need an uncluttered office? Once you figure this out, start narrowing down specific color palettes that compliment your purpose.

Step 2: Take everything into account

You need to decide on how you want your room to look and feel, and what you want the color to achieve. Once you decide on this, it will give you a clear goal of what you want from your color. When choosing a paint color, it’s easy to just focus on walls and ceilings, but don’t forget your flooring, features, and furnishings.

Step 3: Narrow down your options

Once you have some contenders, try a tool that lets you preview the paint colors and shades without any commitment. For example, Amazon’s virtual paint finder allows you to sample what different colors look like when applied to the wall in a living room, bedroom, or bathroom. Use this to narrow down your options to the perfect shade!

Frequently asked questions

How do I pick a paint color for my wall?

The best way to pick the perfect color is by determining the goal of the room and then doing a little bit of research into colors, finishes, and the overall aesthetic you want to achieve. Test a few small color patches or chips on the wall in different lights.

Can paint shades look different in different lighting?

Most definitely. Natural light can intensify or mute a color, depending on the amount of light and time of day. Beyond natural light, different bulbs will cast different lights in your room and can change how a color is perceived.

How do I color match paint?

If the thing you want to color match is portable, take it to your local hardware store. They can advise on what color matches best. If they don’t have an existing color, they can mix one up for you.

To color match a current wall, you can test paint in an inconspicuous area to make sure it is a good match. Just be sure to clean the wall beforehand to remove any dirt or grease and to allow the swatch to dry. Hardware stores can color match your walls if you take in a picture or a chip of paint — just make sure to take a few photos through the day so they can get an accurate visual.

You can also use a color scanner for a more precise match — these scan the color on your wall and give you the closest match available.

Is paint sheen different from paint shade?

Yes. Paint sheen relates to the finish of the paint once it has dried on your walls. Sheen reflects light and can change the overall look of a color. Paint shade is the color of the paint itself.


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