Choosing the Right Paint Color for your Home

The color of paint used for the interiors creates a huge impact on the overall appearance of a room. This explains why we sometimes find one space comfortable and appealing and feel uneasy in another. Truly, colors have effects that are subtle but significant – it can even affect moods and thoughts – so it is important to pick the right paint color for your home.

There is no single, correct formula in determining whether a paint color or palette is suitable for a given space. Choosing is always subjective and dependent on taste, location, climate, culture and a lot of other factors. For starters, you should choose the colors you love. Go for your favorite color and create a color scheme around it. However, if your tastes change like the trends, then you should opt for colors which you know you can stick to for at least a few years.

Because you have a vast range of color choices, here are some tips to help you get started:

1. Don’t pick a color first

If you already have existing furnishings and décors, it would be easier if you would choose paint colors that would match them. A lot of new homeowners make the mistake of getting the bigger thing done first, which is painting the walls and the ceilings, and end up becoming limited to their furniture and décor choices. Remember, paint is easier to buy – there are thousands of shades and colors in the market – than to find a couch or a credenza you would really love.

2. Get inspired

Before heading to the paint store, gather inspiration first. Buying catalogs and magazines are your way to go, but thanks to the Internet, we can browse in Pinterest for free. Create boards for every room in your house and start pinning ideas that catch your eye. Then you will have a feel for what colors and styles you are drawn to. However, you must always consider your existing home items (unless you are planning to renovate or redecorate big time).

One way to choose paint colors is to look at print fabrics. Look at the bedsheets, pillowcases, throw pillows and even the table linens you have at home. These can provide you with paint color ideas that will suit your rooms. Take a fabric swatch to the paint store to choose paint strips to view at home.

Or perhaps you can pull color from your favorite piece of art in your home. Choose complementary colors from the artwork to create a color scheme.

3. Consider light sources

Light, whether natural or artificial, casts an effect on the color of paint. Most people don’t usually consider light. You may happen to pick a color that looks perfect pleasing to your eyes, but when you painted it in a room, it’s nothing like you expected. One secret to picking the right paint color is thinking of how the lights would strike it.

Natural daylight shows the real color of the paint. But since the amount of sunlight and the angle of the sun changes throughout the day, so does how you perceive the colors of your room. So, if your room faces the:

  • North – the light adds a touch of blue. Lighter colors may look subdued, and bolder hues will look darker.
  • South – the light would naturally flatter cool and warm colors. Light paint will glow, while dark paint would look brighter. If you would paint in white, the room can look washed out.
  • East – the light is warmer in the morning and turns bluer in the afternoon. This can bring out the best in warm colors like yellows, oranges, and reds.
  • West – the light produces shadows in the morning, making colors look dull, but creates warm light in the evening. It makes warm tones like yellows, oranges and reds saturated.

Artificial light, which are the bulbs you use, also has an effect on the colors of a room.

  • Fluorescent lighting brings out cool and bluish tones that enriches cool colors like blues and greens.
  • Incandescent lighting casts warm tones, making yellows, oranges, and reds more vivid and intense. Cool colors like blues and greens will be muted and dulled a bit.
  • Halogen bulbs are closest to natural light; it can make all colors look vivid. It is usually white and bright and doesn’t change the look of the colors as much as other artificial light sources.

4. Refer to the color wheel

Remember the color wheel? It’s a great reference tool for pairing up, modifying and intensifying two or more colors. Most probably, you know that the primary colors are red, yellow and blue; while combining any of them would create secondary colors such as orange, violet, and green. The six remaining colors in the color wheel are the tertiary colors.

Here are the most common color schemes that rely on the color wheel:

  • Analogous colors are colors adjacent to each other. Choosing two to six analogous colors blend well and allows one to stand out more.
  • Complementary colors are colors opposite each other on the color wheel, like red and green, blue and orange, and yellow and violet. This color scheme is high-contrast but colors nicely complement each other (that’s why they are called complementary).
  • Triad scheme consists of any three colors that form a triangle in the center of the wheel. It is a bold color combination, but it balances each color out.
  • The monochromatic scheme relies on one color, with varying intensities from light to dark.

5. Think about the mood you intend to create

As we said earlier, colors affect the mood. So think of how you want to feel when you are inside the room or space you want to paint. Soft, subtle and cool colors usually create a calmer and quieter feeling while stronger, bolder colors evokes a dramatic effect.

For an elegant look, nothing beats neutral shades. White, beige, gray and brown colors can easily blend with any item and other colors in the room. Neutrals are flexible and allow you to change the vibe of a room by using different colored accessories and putting accent walls of different colors. The lighter the color, the more spacious the room will look. If you want to make it earthy and rich, combine shades of rust, garnet, mahogany or metallics.

For a calm and balanced look, pick shades of green that are light, sage or moss colored. Green is the most restful color for the eyes and suits any room in the house. Choose the color you love and overlap the shades.

For a restful and relaxing look, choose shades of blue like turquoise, periwinkle and cerulean. Blue is a serene color that is said to bring down blood pressure and heart rate, that’s why it’s often recommended for bedrooms and bathrooms. If you would choose it as a primary color in a room, balance it with warm hues and neutrals for fabrics and furniture. Using too much blue or darker blues might evoke feelings of sadness.

For a romantic look, select shades of lavenders and pinks. Raspberry pink is perfect for couple’s bedrooms. Deep reds also give off that feel. It’s up to you if you want intense colors or muted tones. Just make sure that if you’re using intense shades, pair them up with whites to keep the palette crisp and clean. Warm metal hues like copper, bronze, and gold combine well with these shades.

For a vibrant look, pick bold shades of reds, dark purples, oranges, and gold. Pair them with their analogous colors and complementary color. Black also stands out in contrast with reds and other warm tones.

For a homey and comforting look, choose light shades of yellows. Buttery yellow shades in the kitchen give you the vibe reminiscent of the baked goodies your mom bakes during your childhood.

6. Have a single color theme throughout your home

We’re not telling you to paint your entire house with the same color – just pick a theme or a color scheme and stick with it all throughout your home to create a relaxing vibe. Consider your chosen color or color palette as a signature hue for your home. This is especially important when decorating a small house because it gives the illusion of a bigger space.

You can use different accent colors but the same backdrop for every room or you can choose to use the same accent colors in different amounts for each room. For instance, if you would choose gray as the primary color of your living room and use yellow as an accent color, you may opt to choose yellow as the main color in the kitchen and use grays in little details.

When choosing colors, consider how these will flow from one room to another so as to avoid visual stress and having a space looking left out. If you would want a deep ruby red living room and an emerald green hallway, don’t pick pastel lavenders for your powder room. Even if you want to color your home with a jungle of hues, use those of the same intensity and keep them closely related. Also, keep your moldings, trims, and flooring similar, at least for every type of room.

If you want a uniform-looking and less-fuss home, play up monochromatic schemes. Create both subtle and bold variations of a hue, and choose different paint finishes (to be discussed on no. 7). Make use of your chosen color’s undertones, which are the colors lurking beneath them. For instance, a beige paint variant may have green undertones, so you can choose beigey-greens to complement it.

However, the safest bet would always be neutrals. Choosing neutrals doesn’t mean avoiding colors all together – you can get creative with how you would choose, combine and pair up colors. Anyway, neutrals are used in a lot of design styles and can go with any type of furnishings, fixtures, and ornaments. If you have no intention to bring attention to the walls, and if you already have striking pieces to use as focal points in your rooms, then go neutral.

7. Choose the right paint sheen for every room

Putting on paint with different finishes would also create different effects on each surface, creating variation – especially if you’re going monochrome. So, if you’re choosing a single color for your walls and trim, selecting paint in different finishes or sheen would make a difference.

Paint sheen is also significant because this determines durability. The basic idea to understand sheen is this: the higher the sheen, the higher the shine; and the higher the shine, the more durable the paint is. Here’s the tip for choosing the right paint sheen:

  • Flat/Matte – a paint with no shine. It’s great for covering up walls with imperfections. It soaks up rather than reflects light. Matte paint provides the most coverage and looks great even with just one coat of paint, saving time and money. The disadvantage of flat paint is it’s hard to clean without taking some paint off, and it makes dirt more visible. It’s best to apply this paint in adults’ bedrooms, ceilings and other low traffic areas that will not get lots of dirt, fingerprints and kids’ drawings. Flat enamel paint is an alternative – it has almost no shine and a little easier to clean than matte.
  • Eggshell – has a flat finish with a little luster, just like a chicken egg’s shell. It also works for walls that have something to hide and is easier to clean than flat paint. Eggshell is the most popular sheen since it has both the benefits of flat and glossy alternatives. This is a good choice for rooms with moderate traffic like living rooms and dining areas.
  • Satin – has a bit more shine that is a bit velvety (despite the satin name). It is easy to clean and wipe, making it perfect for kitchens, bathrooms, kid’s bedrooms, and other high traffic areas like family rooms and hallways. However, it can reveal application flaws like roller or brush strokes.
  • Semi-gloss – has a shiny finish. Its durability can tolerate drips, grease, and moisture so it would be perfect for bathrooms, kitchens, and trim.
  • High gloss – has an ultra-shiny and light-reflecting finish. It’s the most durable and easiest to clean of all sheens. It works best for surfaces of items that are used a lot like cabinets and doors, as well as on metallic surfaces like window trims. It might be very shiny for interior walls, so you may use it for accents only. High gloss paint also shows imperfections on the application, so don’t skip preparation.

8. Test your chosen colors first

Once you have discovered the colors that you like, don’t forget to test them first. It’s a rule that shouldn’t be ignored. Before you purchase gallons, buy paint cans that are large enough to try only for a few different walls. By doing so, you can easily try other colors if you didn’t achieve the desired results. Don’t be one of those people who return stacks of cans of paint to the store because they didn’t try it on their walls first.

Besides the economical reason, testing also allows you to observe how lights hit the colors at different times of the day and in a different light source. Leave the paint for a week before you decide if it’s the perfect color or not.