How to Choose a Paint Color You Can Live With
See 8 tips and tricks that can help you commit to a color you’ll love
While many homeowners are attracted to bright colors, I often find my clients are most concerned with making sure the palette in their home feels “livable.” After all, a color you love in a stunning photo may not be a color you will love to see on your walls every day. With that in mind, here are some tips for choosing a paint color you’ll enjoy in real life.
1. Don’t buy paint on the spot. It’s important when you begin the process of selecting a paint color to start with a wide palette of options.
When you go to a paint store, don’t worry about choosing the best possible color while you’re in the shop. Your goal should be to arm yourself with a variety of options so you can make the best possible choice later. This usually means pulling more swatches than you think you need — and even colors you don’t think you will want.
Choosing subtle colors, as opposed to bold and saturated hues, can be the trickiest, as the more subdued the tones in the paint, the harder they will be to see in a paint chip. For this reason it is wise to grab some paint chips that are similar to the color you think you want, but a bit off. Grab the paint chip that appeals to you at first glance, but also take two swatches on either side of it for variety.
When you look at these paint chips again at home, you may find that one you didn’t think you liked is actually the right one for your home.
Bringing something pure white — and also pure black if you have it (like a leather jacket or a jet black shirt) — will give you something to contrast against the paint swatches in the store to help you see the undertones more clearly.
For example, a “light” blue may seem lighter than the other blue shades on the same paint chip, but compared with a stark white it might suddenly look a lot more saturated.
3. Try some space experiments. Once you’ve taken many paint swatches home, that is when you can truly decide which colors will work. As you may know, colors can look quite different in your real-life lighting than in the bright fluorescent lighting of a store.
It’s also important to consider that colors will look different relative to other hues in the room, different positions (on a wall versus on the ceiling, for example) and at different times of the day.
5. Take your time. To some, painting a room, and then painting it again later to change the shade, isn’t a big deal. After all, paint is one of the relatively easier elements of a space to fix if you make a mistake.
For others, the effort and expense of repainting is a major pain. If this is you, it’s worth taking the time beforehand to really sit with a color option before taking the plunge. The more time you take to sit with the choice, the less likely you are to get swept up in a passing fad or sudden impulse.
It’s truly wisest not to judge the color at all until at least the next day, and to give yourself some time to adjust to the change in your space before jumping to any conclusions.
This is especially true with darker shades, which will visually shrink the space in a way you will need a little time to get used to.
Another option is to choose a time-tested signature color of one of your favorite designers. While a color shown in a single photo may look different in real life, if you try a designer’s go-to hue, you can rest assured that this color looks great in many spaces.
For example, I have used Benjamin Moore’s Classic Gray in a multitude of projects, because it’s sumptuous but subtle, and it always just works.
8. Don’t think about it. Any artist can tell you that the more you stare at something, the harder it becomes to truly see it. Sometimes the best thing you can do while trying to choose a color is to take a break for several days and come back to your options with a fresh perspective.
When you come back, look at your selections and go with your gut. Ultimately, if you really love a color — light, dark, soft or bright — it will feel livable, so there’s no reason to choose any hue but the one that feels right to you.