Tips for Picking Paint Colors

Tips for Picking Paint Colors

Picking a paint color for a room can often be an overwhelming and daunting task… 

Take it from me, I can somehow pick a paint color easily for other people, but when it came to my own basement this past summer, which lacked natural lighting (there was only one small window in the entire basement), I wound up purchasing over 10 paint samples. After awhile of painting each sample on different walls, and staring at each color forever, I felt like I was going crazy. (And I actually ended up spending more money in paint samples that I did in the actual paint for the room once I decided upon a color.)

Therefore this post will be dedicated to some tips regarding choosing paint colors as well as my favorite go-to neutral colors. 


Tip #1: STAY NEUTRAL 

Grey, beige, or “Greige”is all the rage right now and for good reason. Light greys and beige colors are chameleon –like in that painting your rooms in these colors open you up to a lot more choices in the way of furniture, accent pieces, and accent colors. You should never have to ask yourself when buying a rug or couch, “Will this go with the paint color?”, I like to think of a paint color like dressing in an outfit. The paint color is your jeans. Hardly ever when picking out a shirt, do you have to ask yourself “Will this shirt go with my jeans?”In that way, your paint color should be an afterthought and neutral enough so that you can introduce any other color in the room and it will go. The best part about staying neutral, is that if your taste changes down the road, you can easily swap out home décor pieces and you won’t have to repaint the room. 


Tip #2: When picking a whole house color scheme: START WITH YOUR MAIN LIVING AREAS: the Living Room, Dining Room, and Entryway First 

Stay neutral in these areas, and build the rest of your house’s color scheme off of these spaces. Should you want to be bold and make a statement- do so in a room that you don’t frequent as much, such as a sitting room. When picking a whole-house color scheme, it’s best to use colors that compliment one another, and the paint chip fan is your best bet for determining like-colors. For example, Revere Pewter is one of my favorite paint colors by Benjamin Moore and it’s part of the “Historical Collection”. My other favorite paint colors: Coventry Gray, Stonington Gray, & Wickham Gray, happen to all be on the same paint deck chip. 

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Tip #3: BUY SAMPLES! 

I know I mentioned above how crazy I got with samples in the basement- but samples really do help to see the actual color in the room. Sometimes a color looks great on the paint chip, but once on your wall it might look completely different. This happened in the case of many blues in my basement that ended up looking more purple on the wall. Paint the color on different walls and look at the color during different times of the day so you can see it in all lighting. Beware that google images sometimes give false impressions of how a paint color actually looks. Google images is a great way to search to see how a paint color looks in a room, but due to computer screen lighting or filters on pictures, colors might look different once painted in your home.


Tip #4: INVEST IN A QUALITY PAINT

Although some paint lines cost a lot more- the quality really makes a difference. For example in the first coat of my basement, I had to cover a dark merlot red that was chosen by the previous owners. One can of Benjamin Moore paint was able to not only cover all walls in the entire basement, but also a second coat on almost half of the basement.  By comparison I used some cheap left over paint from our garage project in the stairwell going downstairs and it took one and a half cans for a space not even a quarter of the size of our basement. Please also beware that many paint colors can be matched in a cheaper paint- but if it’s not the same brand, it might not match the color you were looking for. 


Tip #5: Follow the 60-30-10 rule. 

Have you ever read a tip or trick that seemed so small but changed your life for the better? I know it sounds ridiculous but there’s been two instances of this in my life: I once read a book by financial guru Suzy Orman that said you should budget your money based on the 50/30/20 plan. She recommended that no more than 50% of your money should go towards bills a month, 30% spending, and 20% savings. I read this in my early 20’s and Shad and I have lived comfortably by it to a T ever since. The same goes for the 60-30-10 rule in decorating. I picked it up from an HGTV book that I was reading in the checkout aisle of Marshalls three years ago when the line was over 25 people deep. 60/30/10 stands for the ratio of a perfect balance of color in your room. 60% of your room should be based on your dominant neutral color, which would be your walls. 30% should be your secondary color that compliments your dominant color, and this can be found in items like your couch, coffee table and rug. 10% should be your accent color done in pillows or small accessories. This is where you can introduce a bold pop of color. For example in my living room picture below: 60% would be my walls: beige, 30% would be my light couch, chairs, and rug that compliment the wall color, and 10% is my accent color: yellow, which is seen in my pillows, blanket, and coffee table flowers. Following this ratio will help strike a balance of color within any room. 

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Now for my go-to neutral colors:

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My rule of thumb when choosing whole-house color schemes is to have at least three of the colors above- and then you can go off from there in shades of light blue or green if you want to be bolder in smaller rooms.


By the way: Did You Know? What is the correct spelling of grey? Is it spelled Gray or Grey?

I was asked this question in my classroom last year and whenever I don’t know the answer to a question I write it on a board called “Random Unanswered Questions”. At the end of the year I look up the answers and on one of the last days of school we go over all of the answers. For example, I’ve been asked “Why is Rhode Island called an island if it’s not an island?”, and the answer is it was named after the Greek Island of Rhodes, because the red-ish sand there reminded early explorers of this island. Anyways- the gray/grey question answer is: both spellings are correct, it just depends upon where you live. Gray is the most widely used spelling for the United States. Grey is used in other English-speaking countries like Great Britain.

And there you have it… Thanks for stopping by and reading. If you enjoyed this post please feel free to share my blog with a friend! Happy Sunday friends!

:) Barbra


Other posts you might enjoy:

^ Includes examples of “White Dove” & “Decorator’s White” on shiplap

^ After choosing your paint, tips for shopping for accents for the room


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