Choosing Wall Paint You Won't Regret

What is it about choosing wall paint that somehow ends up seeming like a deep, painful decision akin to Kennedy's pressures in Cuban Missile Crisis? I mean, it's just paint after all. Color. Something to slap on the walls, right?

And yet anyone who decorates knows it's so much more than that. It's an atmosphere. A mood. It surrounds you. And most of all... it's a commitment.

Oh sure, it's not like deciding to get married, or to move across the country. But these days paint isn't exactly cheap. So when you invest in your half gallon of the stuff, you want it to work.

So how do you choose paint that will really work for your space?

Well, I may not have all the answers. But I've learned a few things over the years that have made choosing a good color easier. And I'm happy to share them with you today.

  • Don't try to decide on a paint right there in the store. Get paint swatches... and lots of them. The lighting in the paint store is not like your home. And it's the light that makes the difference in how a color appears. So make sure your take some paint swatches home and see what it looks like held up to the wall you'll be painting. This leads to the next point...
  • See what those swatches look like in all different times of day. A paint swatch that can look terrific in morning light might look washed out at midday and take on a strange glow toward evening. Live with the colors a bit and see how they look and change. This can help you narrow down your choices.
  • Remember that what looks very pale on the swatch card might look much bolder as paint on your wall. How does it compare to the furnishings you plan to have in the room? Remember the darker the color, the closer a room will feel.
  • You can get test pots of paint made up in the colors you like. Spreading a sample of the actual paint can help you get a better sense of what it will be like on a grander scale. This won't necessarily tell you how dark or light a room will get from painting. But it will give you a feel for how the paint will look at different times of day.
  • Think about the color itself. Does it lean toward cooler or warmer tones? For instance, you might say my Baby's Breath Pink above is just pink, right? But it's actually a cooler pink-- a purple pink-- as opposed to a more orange pink. The fact that it's a little more toward the blue spectrum of things instead of the hotter orange reds means it will go better with the eggplant and raspberry rugs I have in the room. By knowing whether your color leans toward cooler or hotter tones, you will have an easier time coordinating it to other colors.
  • Once you paint, live with the color a few days before passing final judgment. A change of color -- especially if it's drastic-- can take getting used to. The room may seem cozier (or more claustrophobic!) or the color may feel like it's really opened up the room. So give yourself time to get used to the change, and really experience the color in situ itself.
The world's a bright beautiful place-- too beautiful to live without color. So don't be afraid. We all get a little nervous when it comes to making a paint selection. (You can click here to check out the tale of paint panic I had the first time I tried to paint a room!)

Just take your time. Think about your colors...

And then carpé paintbrush!

Wishing you good fortune and great color for all your future painting endeavors.


Linda B said...

Your paint tips are right on, but really, I almost don't care what it looks like, a paint color called "Sweet Baby's Breath"? If I have to paint a closet in it, I shall! Further tip: Don't fall into the poetic paint name trap!

down comforter said...

Really great tips - especially getting the paint samples home to look at them with the lighting.

Jenn Thorson said...

Linda- Hopefully I'll have pics of the finished room in the Sweet Baby's Breath on Wednesday.

And you're quite right about the "Ignore the Name" tip and not to let it influence your choice. It's a marketing trap-- I would have gotten sucked in, too, as there was an "Edwardian Rose" that I loved but was too dark for the room.

DP- It makes a difference for sure. Nothing is foolproof when it comes to choosing paint, but at least this gives you more to work with.

chuwie said...

nice blog. very informative..keep up the good work..:)

Jenn Thorson said...

Chuwie- Thanks!

TJ Lubrano said...

Ooh I totally forgot you had a second blog! I was so focused on Cabbages and Kings ^_^.

Really good tips! Wish I had new this before we moved three years ago! It was such a hassle with the paint colors! My dad always went in a zen mode when he walked into the shop to get paint, he always left with more questions and ideas than that he made a decision hehehe. In the end my mom and dad choose for an African line...with names as Kenya White, Camel Caramel...erhmm something like that. Earthy colors. It turned out pretty good though haha!

Jenn Thorson said...

TJ- Heh, it sneaks up on people kinda often. :) Earthy colors are pretty safe choices-- plus, I guess he was bound to go that direction since he was workin' that Zen. :)