Expert Tips for Choosing the Perfect Paint Color

Nothing transforms a room like paint, so we've gathered our top tips to help you select paint colors like a pro.

  • Opt for Test Sizes

    Before committing to a full gallon, first try out a few samples to really nail down which shade of a particular color you want. Available at most paint stores for less than $5 each, these little testers are just enough to cover a large wall area or sample board with paint.

  • View Swatches in Natural Light

    It's common to fall in love with a paint swatch in the store then find the color looks drastically different once it's painted on your walls. This is caused, in part, because paint looks different under artificial light versus natural light. For a better idea of the finished color, always look at paint chips near a window.

  • Compare Paint Chips to White

    Similar to using a quarter to show the scale of an object in a photograph, comparing any color against white will ensure its tonal values really clearly. When looking over paint chips at home, try laying them out on a white surface.

  • Opt for Inexpensive Foam Brushes

    To save time when painting test swatches, use disposable foam brushes rather than a standard paintbrush you'll have to wash clean between colors.

  • Live With the Colors

    With so many options to choose from, nailing down just the right hue can be tough. To make the selection process easier, it's smart to test out several paint colors along one wall and live with them for a few days, noting how they look both day and night. Label the painted swatches with painter's tape so you'll remember which color you liked best.

  • Consider Spraying Instead of Rolling

    Something that's often overlooked when painting walls is the difference between spraying versus rolling. While rolling is the most popular method, it's also the most time-consuming and requires the most touchup. Sprayed finishes not only ensure a more professional end result, they also cut the amount of time required to paint a room in half. HVLP (high-volume, low-pressure) sprayers can be rented by the day through most home improvement stores. Spraying paint can be a messy business so always be sure to thoroughly cover all doors and windows with painter's plastic to ensure paint dust doesn't drift into other rooms.

  • Customize Your Colors

    Designers often create custom colors by having paint stores mix extra black or white into existing colors to darken or lighten them. While this is a great way to achieve a custom finish, custom tints make it difficult to match up the paint color for any future touchups.

  • Forget Matchy-Matchy

    While many paint stores offer a computerized service that can precisely match any color, designers often stay away from exact matches and instead choose a shade that's a bit lighter or darker. When using rugs or upholstery fabrics as inspiration, choose a hue that's very close in tone without matching exactly.

  • Color the Ceiling

    Rather than leave the ceilings white, designers often choose to paint them. The old rule of thumb that white ceilings make a room feel brighter and larger doesn't always hold true; just have the paint store mix paint for the ceiling which is 50 percent lighter than the wall color. Once applied to the ceiling, the walls and ceiling will feel cohesive rather than dark and cavernous.

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