5 Steps to Pick the Best Interior Paint Colors

Kathryn Marsh
Written by Kathryn Marsh
Updated August 11, 2014
A bedroom decorated in French Country style with blue and yellow accents.
Walls are not usually the focal point of a room, but they do play an important part in bringing the color scheme together, says Marsh (Photo courtesy of Angi member Laura G. of Hilliard, Ohio)

Follow these tips to help you choose the best wall paint color for your dream room.

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Trying to pick a color for the walls in your home can be intimidating and stressful, especially with so many paint color options. There is no need to stress over it, however, when you follow these five easy steps for picking a wall color:

1. Find your interior design inspiration

Look for something that has colors that you like. It could be a piece of fabric, art work or a rug. Make sure they have a minimum of three colors in them, not including neutrals (black, white, gray, beige and brown).

The items you pick will be your inspiration pieces. You will pick colors for your room directly from this. It’s as easy as that. There is no need to start from scratch. Take advantage of a professionally designed color scheme.

2. Decide which walls to place the colors

Use your inspiration piece to decide what color will go where. Walls are not usually the focal point of a room, but they do play an important part in bringing the color scheme together. The colors on your wall will have the greatest impact on the room. One way to go is to use the 60-30-10 rule.

Sixty percent of the color in the room will be on your walls. This can be the background, or lightest color in the inspiration piece. Thirty percent of the color will be on the furniture or window coverings, and should be the medium or neutral colors. The remaining ten percent will be your accessories, and can be in the brightest hues. 

When you are picking paint colors, follow this Designer’s rule of thumb: “Paint is the last thing to pick, but the first thing you apply.” Rather than picking a paint color, and then trying to match every item in the room to that color, designers know it is always easier to find a paint color for the walls that will coordinate and complement the furniture and accessories. Always choose your fabric, tile and other furnishings first, and then your paint color. After you pick your colors, head to the paint shop carrying your inspiration piece.

3. Pick your paint color scheme at home

Most people pick their wall colors at the paint shop. This is a big no-no. Never choose your wall color at the paint shop, as the conditions will be different from your home. For example, lighting will not be the same, and the store will probably have fluorescent lights. Collect a number of paint chips, paying close attention to make sure that they match the colors in the inspiration piece.

Your final selection will be made at home, in the room in which the color will be used. Direction of light will affect how the color is seen, so look at the paint samples, and the way they will be installed. If the paint is going on the walls, hold it vertically, and if on the floor, hold and view it horizontally. You could easily make a number of trips to the paint shop to pin down just the right color.

4. Pick your paint finish

Picking the right finish for your paint is important. There are a variety of finishes for paint, and each one changes the appearance of the paint color. I like using a flat finish for walls, as the color will appear deeper and richer. A matt finish is great for textured walls. If your walls are not perfect, using a glossy finish will highlight the imperfections, so go for the matt.

On wood and trim, use a satin or semi-gloss. A satin finish gives a soft elegant sheen without the glossy glare. Don’t forget your ceiling. There is no rule that ceilings have to be white. Making your ceilings a pale tint of your wall color will help to expand the room by making it seem higher.

5. Test your paint color

Many homeowners fail to test their paint colors. Even when you think you have found the perfect color, you should still test it to make sure it is a color you can live with. I suggest you purchase one of each of the colors you plan to evaluate. Using white foam core board, apply two coats of paint. The boards are lightweight and easy to move.

Place them in different areas of the room and view them from different angles and at different times of the day. As you can see, picking a color for walls is a process. Take as much time as necessary to evaluate your choice; don’t rush. This method is one that many designers use to create beautiful spaces. Now you can too.

As of Aug. 11, 2014, this service provider was highly rated on Angi. Ratings are subject to change based on consumer feedback, so check Angi for the most up-to-date reviews. The views expressed by this author do not necessarily reflect those of Angi.

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