10 Tips for Picking Paint Colors

Take your interior from drab to fab with help from an expert.
By: Barbara Jacobs
Decal Headboard Outline

Decal Headboard Outline

This headboard is so easy to make it doesn't need instructions. Designer Vanessa De Vargas placed a stark white decal to contrast with the bold pink wall in this playful dorm room. The decal's pattern is carried through to the geometric bed pillows for a cohesive look.

Why do we find one place appealing and are uneasy in another? Why are we attracted to one product over another? Color—whether architectural or in products—accounts for 60 percent of our response to an object or a place.

The "buzz" about color is usually called "color psychology." But the effects of color are subtle and significant; physical and psychological. Color use is not something that results in a definitive equation between "color and our moods," as is a currently popular expression. Wherever we go we respond to color, but the importance of color is often underestimated. Color use is important to us personally in our homes and in the places where we work.

Popular Videos: Picking Paint Colors 7 Videos

How to Choose Paint Colors 03:02

Shannon Kaye explains how color schemes help in choosing paint colors.

Related To:

HGTV's Top Color Picks

See All Photos
Check out our favorite "color of the month" ideas from the past few years.

Plum Jam

This warm, rich hue practically made us drool. Glam up any space by pairing this juicy purple with gold or add vibrant, unexpected color to a modern kitchen — however you use it, it's bound to look good enough to eat!

Carnival Red

Bright red may strike you as more of a fall color, but trust us — it works for summer, especially when paired with deep blue, crisp white or light gray.

Caribbean Blue

This tropical hue will instantly transport you to the beach. Try it as a bold accent against neutral palettes or use a softer shade to fill your walls with color that will stand the test of time.

From: Barry Dixon

Photo By: Photo Credit: Edward Addeo © Gibbs Smith, Barry Dixon Interiors, Brian D Coleman, Edward Addeo (photographer)

Wedding Mint

From retro glassware to bridesmaid dresses to delicate French macarons, this color is everywhere. Unlike classic mint, Wedding Mint is softer with gray undertones; think of the soft green of succulent petals or a vintage jadeite platter.

Weathered Brass

Check your feelings on '80s polished brass — we're talking about the lovely, brushed version that's currently having a moment in the design world. Just look at how the brass accents steal the show in this transitional kitchen.

Blue Paisley

"In winter everyone wants a little Caribbean waters in their life! At least I DO," says blog reader Donna. We agree!


Though lavender is typically thought of as a spring color, it has lots to offer year-round, like this unexpected ombre wall installation.

Earl Grey

Earl Grey is the design equivalent of a cozy blanket: A dose of this color lends warmth to everything from headboards to walls to bedding. A neutral with an edge, this purple-grey color plays well with fall hues, like rich burgundy, soft orange, blush pink and deep lavender.

From: BAMO


The watercolor technique has been bubbling up through the design world for several seasons, in both more structured ombre-inspired wall treatments and totally organic designs. These dreamy, drippy patterns would be an unexpected (but totally amazing) element in a traditional beach house, or a natural in a colorful, bohemian bedroom. Not ready for walls? Try a bright, swirled bedspread instead.

From: Jane Richardson Mack


Stripes are practically synonymous with summer: Think crisp, preppy rooms and nautically-inspired decor. The wonder of stripes is their versatility. Depending on the color combinations, they can be everything from playful to classically preppy.

Burnt Coral

Modern burnt coral takes the classic peachy pink shade and turns up the color value a few notches — think something a little more cinnabar or vermillion. This darker, orange-red coral is au courant and looks great with other spring and summer colors.


After three months of pastel hues — Grapefruit in February, Orchid in March and Magnolia in April — our color team was ready for something new ... and blue! Fixer Upper's Joanna Gaines says, "Maybe I'm biased to the indigo because it's the color that is currently blooming in my garden!"

©Rustic White Photography


This dusty pink inspired by the tree of the same name's light pink blossoms captures both the burgeoning pastel trend and spring's essence.


A vivid purple with pink undertones, this statement-making hue is Pantone's 2014 Color of the Year. We love how just a touch of this vibrant purple can completely invigorate a space.

Photo By: Diana Parriah © York Wallcoverings; 2013


We love how this color bridges the gap between winter and spring. "I like that it's a winter fruit, but the color feels fresh and springy," says HGTV.com stylist Marianne, who pitched the winning hue.

Lemon Zest

This sunny yellow hue won our hearts with its mood-lifting qualities. Slightly more subtle than Pantone's spring 2014 yellow choice, Freesia, it's still bright enough to bring life to post-holiday interiors. Take down the tinsel and bring on the lemony accents!


This color can be warm and homey during the winter without the chill that its silver and gold cousins sometimes carry.

© 2013, DIY Network/Scripps Networks, LLC. All Rights Reserved.


This bold red-orange hue is a richer version of spring coral. Paint a wall, add a pillow — both a little or a lot will warm up your space.


While the dark, plummy hue of Italian eggplant lends itself well to late fall decor and tabletops, we’re loving the brighter hue that long, skinny Japanese eggplant varieties bring to the table. See how the vibrant color pops on this upholstered desk chair?

Apple Green

It was fall's favorite fruit and the back-to-school season that our prompted us to choose this hue. Forget classic red apples — we're all about modern green.


This almost-neon color is the ideal hue to add some personality to a dorm room or first apartment. The ultra-summery shade can easily transition into fall when paired with soft gray, dark green or mustard yellow.


When you think "peach decor," your mind might wander back to the peach-and-teal spaces that were so prevalent in the '80s. But it can look wholly modern when used as an accent color or alongside today's trendy colors, like rich emerald green.

Paradise Blue

This blue-green hue brings to mind the best parts of summer, like sticking your toes in the sand and walking across delightfully-weathered boardwalks.

Whisper Gray

This soft, silvery gray is the perfect hue to help ease into warmer weather. It's the perfect foil to more saturated shades.


Fuchsia's more delicate cousin, this deliciously fresh hue makes a juicy spring accent. Try raspberry-hued flowers for a small touch, or go big with patterned floor-to-ceiling drapes. Photo courtesy of Romo.


Reminiscent of the nectarine hue in Pantone's spring forecast, this versatile, fresh color can add brightness everywhere from an appetite-creating dining room wall to a floral-and-citrus centerpiece.

Robin's Egg Blue

This color won the team over with its classic-cool tone and its ability to pass easily from vintage to traditional to modern with a deftness that not many colors can manage.


Fight the winter doldrums that January brings with trendy gold accents, like this vintage bar cart and gold floral wallpaper.

Chestnut Brown

This rich brown with its red undertones feels just right in November, when we're bundling up for winter months ahead. This cozy, cozy color warms everything from hair to sweaters to armchairs.

Bright Red

This high-gloss red is at once trendy and classic, and is reminiscent of a fall-perfect candy apple.

Emerald Green

This moody, deep green with a hint of blue undertones makes an amazing impact when used in decorating, so it's no surprise that color authority Pantone named this hue its 2013 color of the year. Though it's trendy, the jewel tone also brings a timeless look when paired with metallics and other rich colors.


Bright white is cool and crisp and feels effortlessly classic and perfectly modern all at once. Whether you add accents or create an all-white space, this icy shade creates cool respite from mid-summer heat.

Photo By: Design by Buckingham Interiors and Design, LLC

Driftwood Gray

Picture the weather-beaten, sun-warmed gray of boardwalks and beach houses. This warm gray pairs well with bright, summery hues, but it looks equally chic set off by neutrals.


We love how a coat of any trendy neon hue can breathe new life into a room.

Photo By: Caitlin & Caitlin


Coral is so beachy (literally) that we can't help but think of warm, sunny weather whenever we see it. Pair it with deeper palettes of gray or bronze to take your summer accent color right into the cooler months.


This isn't your grandma's verdigris — this modern, super-shiny copper glows. This trendy metallic makes an impact when paired with crisp white, natural wood and pops of jewel tones or pastels.

Mint Green

Both frosty and fresh, mint is an ideal hue for those months in between winter and spring. This sweet hue evokes the romance of yesteryear, especially when paired with other pastels. Or try it in place of traditional neutral hues, like Coddington Design did in this contemporary bathroom.

Pink Champagne

No longer relegated to baby nurseries, champagne pink is fast-becoming a new neutral. Especially rich when paired with black, camel or metallic, the bubbly shade can add a refined, feminine touch to any room in the house.

See more of this home transformation in HGTV Magazine.

Electric Grape

Glossy, saturated grape is masculine and just a touch royal. It lends itself well to textures, from velvet to satin, and depending on how you style it, it can be sophisticated or edgy. The only thing it can't ever be, is ignored.


Marigold is reminiscent of bicolored mums and goldenrod and pairs just as well with juicy jewel tones as it does with rich slate grays. Its rich, orange undertones add instant warmth to a space.


Teal is a great "ease into fall" color, bridging the gap between bold, sun-infused summer colors and moody, dark winter hues. It pairs perfectly with aubergine, harvest gold, coffee and other autumnal shades.

Chrome Yellow

This glossy, intense yellow is the perfect color stands up to August's scorching sun and is just as appropriate as cooler fall temperatures hit. This happy color steals the spotlight in this contemporary kitchen design.

From: Anthony Carrino and John Colaneri

Lime Green

You know how a hint of lime makes everything – from salsa to a cocktail – just a bit better? The color can have the same effect on a room. Just look how it freshens this white bookcase!


This juicy, saturated pink is at once both searing hot and exhilaratingly cool. Sound like an oxymoron? Add a cerise accent pillow in your living room and you'll see what we mean.

Regatta Blue

This stress-reducing blue hue is pure, hopeful and energizing. It's rich enough to stand up to other saturated colors, but easy enough on the eyes to fill all four walls.


The vibrant, royal shade of violet looks especially beautiful alongside other purples, grays, greens or even its color-wheel opposite, orange.


It's no wonder that this watery, always-a-favorite hue was the hands-down winner when we let the readers choose our Color of the Month. It's a favorite for kitchens and baths, like this easy-on-the-eyes master suite.


Tangerine is an ideal late-winter shade because of its unparalleled ability to brighten a room. Simultaneously masculine and feminine, this underused hue looks divine with gray and alongside cool, deep blues and greens.

Pantone's Silver Peony

Silver peony is a misleading color at first: Is it rose? Is it beige? Is that a slight undertone of gray? Alone, it seems tame, almost invisible. But pair it with friends like rose gold and kelly green and watch it stand out.

From: Erinn Valencich


Navy is a good color friend, pairing well with just about everything. It's neutral and timeless enough that you can outfit a main piece, like this upholstered chair, in the deep blue shade. Photo courtesy of Thibaut.


This festive, rich hue is perfect for the holiday season, pairing well with metallics. It also surprises, looking edgy and sophisticated when paired with a red or a blue that matches its intensity.

Peacock Blue

This color is at once trendy and classic, so why not go big? Upholster a chair or sofa with it and trust it’ll look fresh for years to come. For an easy color fix, add peacock blue pillows on a bed done in trendy, neutral gray.


Persimmon captures the excitement we feel at the first glimpse of orange, red and gold leaves. The hue blends well with cool grays, or stands strong alongside black and crisp white.


Our inaugural hue can go from young to sophisticated with a spin of the color wheel. We love its glowing, acid nature paired with aqua, chocolate and all tones of pink. But don't go overboard: With chartreuse, less is usually more.

Start Small

If you're not sure where to begin with color, experiment in a powder room or bathroom, a small hall or area between rooms, or an accent wall. If you're doing your own painting, pick an area that's quick to do so you can see your results sooner, and be happy with it or change it. Look at the process as an adventure.

To get started, select a favorite color drawn from artwork, a rug, dishes and an accessory or furniture piece as a main color or accent.

Brown Contemporary Living Room With White Sofa

Brown Contemporary Living Room With White Sofa

Troy Beasley designed this cozy yellow and brown living room. This space is open for relaxing or dining.

From: Troy Beasley

Think About Your Mood

When selecting a color, consider the mood of a room. In a bedroom do you want the feeling to be restful and soothing or dramatic and intimate? Soft, cool colors and neutrals usually create a quieter feeling while stronger colors are for drama.

Do you want a dining area to feel sociable and stimulating or appear formal and quiet? Warmer, contrasting and somewhat brighter colors add to a sociable atmosphere; deeper blue-greens and neutrals will give a more formal ambiance.

Do you want kid's rooms to create an active and exciting energy or an orderly and restful feeling? Be careful not to overstimulate your children with intensely bright hues. You may not know it, but some brighter colors can lead to unrest and irritability.

Pay Attention to Lighting

The reason why paint stores have light boxes for you to test paint chips:

  • Natural daylight shows the truest color;
  • Incandescent lighting brings out warm tones and yellows;
  • Fluorescent lighting casts a sharp blue tone.

So, a strong color might be too bright and overpowering when used on all walls or next to a large window, but it might be effective when used as an accent wall with indirect light.

Modern Asian Living Room With Beige Sectional and Red Wall

Modern Asian Living Room With Beige Sectional and Red Wall

Design by Andreas Charalambous

Design by Andreas Charalambous

Learn the Color Terms

It helps to understand the terminology used to describe color.

  • Hue is what we call a color. Red is the hue; blue is the hue.
  • The value of the hue is how light or dark it is.
  • Saturation refers to how dominant the hue is. As we go from red to pink, the red hue becomes less dominant.
  • Intensity is the brilliance of the color. The pure colors such as red are more intense than the combined colors such as yellow-green. A stronger intense color usually has a more dominant hue.

If you want a more active space, consider introducing stronger, more intense color. Even if you want a light-colored room, choose colors that are slightly more saturated than off-white or light pastel. Very light color can feel bright and stark when it appears on all surfaces in a room. However, two or more medium-light, closely related pastel colors can create a luminous effect when used in the same room.

Chartreuse Living Room With Traditional Charm

Chartreuse Living Room With Traditional Charm

Design by Shelly Riehl David

From: Shelly Riehl David

Design by Shelly Riehl David

Test Your Color Choice

Boost your confidence by testing colors on poster board or large areas of a wall. Don't be afraid to go beyond your comfort zone: Consider strong, vivid colors or soft, deep neutrals like chocolate brown or olive green as main or accent colors. Or add drama with a stronger color on the ceiling. Tinted ceilings can dramatically change the whole look of a room.

Deep Green Glaze

Deep Green Glaze

Design by Sherrill Canet

Design by Sherrill Canet

Add Depth With Decorative Finishes

Transform flat, dull walls into interesting and personal spaces with subtle or dramatic visual texture and broken color. Burnished mineral/metal finishes and layered colored glazes add depth. Some examples of softly reflective metals are mica, copper, pewter, bronze and, of course, antiqued silver and gold.

Eclectic Living Room With White Sectional

Eclectic Living Room With White Sectional

Design by Payton Addison

Design by Payton Addison

Walk Into Another Room

Consider walls as planes of color, and see how they interact when viewing one next to the other in adjacent rooms. Approach it like a composition: You're in one room, but you're going to see a piece of another room through it. So as you're choosing colors, consider how they will flow from room to room to create your picture.

Open Green Living Room

Open Green Living Room

Design by Amy Bubier

Design by Amy Bubier

Follow the Color Wheel

A small color wheel is a great reference tool for modifying and intensifying two or more colors. For example, red and green, which are complementary (opposite) colors, are most intense when used together. You may be surprised at how many combinations function beautifully together, and you may even become attracted to entirely new color palettes. The color wheel also illustrates the visual temperature of a color. Draw a line from the yellow-green mark on the color wheel all the way down to the red-violet; you'll see that all the colors on the left are warm and the colors on the right are cool.

Color Rules for Small Spaces

Color Rules for Small Spaces

Number one color rule for a small space? There are no rules! Mixing colors can help bring a personal touch to your space.

Number one color rule for a small space? There are no rules! Mixing colors can help bring a personal touch to your space.

Play Up Monochromatic Schemes

Think one color is boring? Create bold or subtle variations within one color group with contrasting paint finishes. For example, use closely related colors, or try a single color in different finishes, for walls and trim in one space.

For an accent color, select a warmer (more toward reds) or cooler (more toward blues) color to complement your main color group. For a quieter ambience, make sure your colors are not extremely bright. White or an off-white tint can be a striking accent when used as trim with a monochromatic color group.

An Off-White Tint

An Off-White Tint

Design by Nicole Sassaman

Design by Nicole Sassaman

Choose Different Paint Finishes

A single color used on walls and trim takes on new significance when applied in different finishes. For example, wall and trim colors can remain the same hue, but use an eggshell (matte and less reflective) finish on walls and a satin or semigloss on trim. The color will appear slightly different on each surface. It's a good way to create a cohesive look in rooms with many windows and doors, and relatively little wall area.

Choose Different Paint Finishes

Choose Different Paint Finishes

Design by Lori Dennis

Design by Lori Dennis

Keep Reading

Next Up

Choosing Wall Colors and Wall Paint Tips

Find tips for choosing the right wall colors and wall paint from the experts at HGTV.com.

Paint Color and Decorating Tips

Quick changes with paint make your home sparkle during the holidays and every day.

Interior-Painting Basics

Follow these tips for surface prep through top coat.

Paint Glossary: All About Paint, Color and Tools

Learn what type of paint to use, which tools will work best and the basics for picking color schemes.

Choosing Low- or No-VOC Paints

Innovations provide environmentally beneficial and cost-effective alternatives.

Decorative Paint Techniques: Wall Preparation Instructions

From our online exclusive Decorative Paint Techniques with Danielle Hirsch of Color Splash. These simple wall-preparation tips will help ensure professional results.

How To Pick Your Perfect Colors

Answer these five questions to find a color scheme right for you.

The Psychology of Color

Use color as a mood-lifting design tool that evokes calm, drama, cheer or comfort.

Color Trends: What's New, What's Next?

Which colors will dominate decor in the coming year? Experts share the latest research.

10 Tips for Green Living

Lessen your environmental impact with these easy suggestions from an LEED-certified auditor.


Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.