Choosing Paint Colors

Choosing paint colors can be an overwhelming task, whether you’re a do-it-yourselfer or a professional designer.

There are so many different colors available…one only has to step into the paint section of their local home improvement store to be assaulted by the sheer number of color choices available.

Where to even begin?

Color is a difficult subject to tackle. There are so many factors that go into choosing paint colors.

Firstly, each person has their own unique taste and style. Victorian or modern style? Creative person or relaxed?

Then there is the room or space to be painted. Each room has its own unique uses…sleeping, playing, reading, cooking. Paint colors help to set the mood for a room. Colors can make a room appear larger or smaller. Create a warm, interesting space out of an uninviting one. Accent a room’s strengths or hide its faults.

To put it simply, color is an important decision.

There are the other important issues that factor into choosing paint color. How does the room blend with adjoining rooms? How does this color work with my current furnishings and décor?


Ok, now that I have succeeded in making you more confused and frustrated than ever, take a deep breath. Don’t worry. Choosing paint colors is not as confusing as it seems.

The first thing you must do is narrow down your choices. Ten thousand paint colors are too many to choose from…but narrow your selection down to 3 or 4 and things become much simpler.

Here goes.


Beginning the Selection Process

The easiest way to begin choosing paint colors is to buy several home decorating magazines, usually those that appeal to your taste or style. Take your time and go through them, clipping pictures of rooms and paint colors that appeal to your taste.

This will give you a better grasp of your style and what paint colors or color combinations appeal to you.

Thinking of using a red tone paint? Click here for helpful pointers and tips for using red paint.

Selecting color combinations can be the most difficult part of choosing paint colors, and magazine photos can help you visualize different color combinations and how they work together.

Now you at least have a start…a jumping-off point, let’s say. Let’s move onto the next step in the process of choosing paint colors.


Selecting a Mood

One of the largest factors that goes into choosing paint colors is the mood, or atmosphere, you are attempting to create. Color has a powerful effect on how we feel. Colors can make you feel hot, cold, thoughtful, relaxed, happy, energetic, or any host of other strong emotions.

Likewise, each room or space has its own, unique use. A bedroom may be used for sleeping, for relaxation, perhaps for meditation and thought. Hence, red is probably a poor color choice for a bedroom.

Now, I’m certainly not saying that if you have your heart set on a red bedroom, you can’t have one. You, of course, hold the final decision on what color paint you use.

My point is, however, that a room’s paint color should be at least loosely matched to its use. A more tranquil color, such as green, or perhaps a cool blue, might be a better fit for the uses of a bedroom.

Start this step by pondering the uses of your space, and what moods or emotions fit those uses.

A home office? Perhaps a sunny, energetic yellow or a vibrant, thought-provoking red.

For more in-depth information on how certain colors relate to mood, check out Mood and Color .


Use Your Current Furnishings/Décor for Inspiration

One of the easiest ways to further narrow down your color choices is to use your current furnishings or décor as inspiration.

A bit mystified to what your decorating style is (or should be)? Check out Home Decorating Room By Room , a great site offering free, step-by-step decorating advice.

If you’ve completed Steps 1 and 2 you’ve already begun to narrow down your paint color selections.

Let us say, for example’s sake, that you’ve already decided on using a green in your space. You like green, the sense of freshness and tranquility it brings.

Okay, but as anybody who has ever walked down the paint aisle in a local home improvement store can tell you, you’ve only narrowed your choices down to oh…a thousand or so. Yes, there really are that many different shades and hues of green.

For further help, you may need to look into your current décor or furnishings. Are there any shades of green in your curtains, your couch, your bedspread, a favorite piece of artwork?

I like to tell this story, because it may help you overcome some doubt on your part. My husband and I lived for many years in a very old Victorian-style house, which we attempted to decorate with traditional Victorian décor, minus some of the more gaudy details.

One of the house’s biggest problems was that it had old plaster walls that were not in very good shape, particularly in certain rooms. The living room was one of those rooms.

The previous owner had put up a very neutral wallpaper that helped to hide the walls’ imperfections, and we were rather fearful of what we would find if we took the wallpaper down.

However, we dearly thought the room needed some punch. A splash of color, a bit of life. My husband and I discussed our options and decided to paint the ceiling instead.

The furniture in the room was a traditional Victorian set that we had been very happy to find, a floral print of burgundy and orange flowers set against a cream background. Now, I’m not much for floral prints, but this set went well with the house and the room itself.

Looking at the furniture, I knew I didn’t want a burgundy or orange ceiling. Neither of them struck my fancy, and I thought they would look too gaudy.

That was when I noticed the tiny blue cornflowers set amongst the clusters of burgundy and orange. They were rather small…so small in fact that I had scarcely noticed them before. But I thought the color would work perfectly for the ceiling.

So I brought out a deck of paint color swatches (you can get these, usually free of charge, at any major home improvement or paint store) and found several blues that were very close to matching the blue in the furniture.

Contrary to what the blue flowers looked to the naked eye, they were not actually cornflower blue…they were much closer to a slightly-green-tinged blue color called “Peacock Blue”. I had second thoughts. After all, I am not a big fan of greenish-blues. And it was not exactly a “traditional” color for my traditionally decorated house.

After much thought and discussion, we decided to try it anyway. After all, paint is easily changeable. We could always paint over it again with a different color. So we purchased the color and painted the ceiling a bright, “Peacock Blue”.

In truth, I was flabbergasted by the difference, by the life it brought to the room. The room was suddenly so much more inviting. The ceiling color also brought out the blue cornflowers in the furniture, making the room’s entire décor “pop”. We received more compliments on the color scheme of that room than any other room in the house.

I suppose this story has a couple of morals.

Number one, look in your existing décor or furnishings for inspiration when choosing paint colors.

Number two, don’t ever be afraid to experiment. Paint is easily changeable. Nothing is permanent.

When finalizing your paint color selection, there are several other factors that you should take into consideration.

One of the most important factors is the size of the room or space that you are painting. Darker colors, such as reds, darker blues and greens, purples, blacks and grays, will make a space seem or appear smaller. These paint colors absorb, rather than reflect, available light.

This is something that deserves some attention when choosing paint colors, particularly if a space is already rather small. This is not to say that darker paint colors can’t be used in small spaces, but it is usually best to steer away from them.

Since these colors absorb rather than reflect light, lighting is the other major factor to take into account. If the room receives a goodly amount of natural light, and has a sufficient source of artificial light, this can help to counter the effects of dark colors.

One great way to incorporate darker, vibrant colors into your decorating scheme without making a room appear too small or dark is to paint an accent wall.

An accent wall does exactly as the name suggests…it accents the room. You might, for instance, choose a single wall to paint a dark, lively red, while leaving the other three walls in the room a lighter, neutral color.

This will allow you to add a punch of dark color to a space without sucking up all of the available light. This “accent wall” then makes a great backdrop for a piece of artwork or other décor.

One last factors to take into account choosing paint colors of a darker hue is the ability of a faux technique (such as color washing or ragging) to lighten or “liven-up” a particularly dark color.

Step-by-step instructions for creating these “faux effects” can be found on the Faux Techniques page.

I hope these pointers have helped you with choosing paint colors. Remember…choosing paint colors does not have to be a chore. Experiment, create, and most of all, have fun!

Thanks for visiting our page on Choosing Paint Colors. Click here to return to the How To Faux Finish home page.