How to Pick the Perfect Paint Color Every Time

Paint can be transformative but only when it’s done correctly.

Choosing a hue can be a long, anxiety-inducing process. For one thing, the sheer number of paint colors makes some people experience paralysis of choice — basically, their brains can’t handle all the options. They’re afraid of choosing the wrong one.

Plus, what works for one space might look completely wrong in another. With thousands of options and little consensus on what the best colors really are, how can you possibly decide?

Here are a few foolproof methods guaranteed to help you pick the perfect paint color every time.

1. Choose a good quality paint brand

Painter in paint splattered shirt

High quality paint brands will make your life so much easier. | alessandroguerriero/iStock/Getty Images

Compared to other home improvement projects, paint is a relatively inexpensive way to update the whole look and feel of a room. But just because paint is cheap it doesn’t mean you should cheap out on it.

Certain paint brands, such as Benjamin Moore, are a bit more expensive and can only be found at specialty stores — not at home improvement warehouse retailers.

These are the brands interior designers favor for a couple of reasons. First, the color palettes tend to be more sophisticated, so you won’t have to be as discerning as you’re trying to pick. Second, the paint offers better coverage, even without primer. So you could even spend less money overall because you won’t need as much paint to cover your walls.

It’s possible to find great colors and decent coverage in the discount paint section. But for a couple extra dollars, it might be worth it to seek out better quality brands instead.

2. Pick a color scheme, not just a color

Green dining room

Make sure your rooms flow together. | JZuk/iStock/Getty Images

Even if you aren’t painting your whole house, it’s important to choose paint in complementary shades, so the living room doesn’t feel like a different planet compared to the dining room.

Create a whole house color story that works well together, and then slowly update each room as your time and budget allow. It’s perfectly fine to add some bold accents here and there, but for the most part, stick to one range of hues in either warm or cool tones to create flow throughout the space.

3. Ask for help

You might need help from an expert. | iStock/Getty Images

There are internet experts, and then there are real experts.

If you’re trying to decide between two colors or you don’t know where to begin, try consulting paint store employees for advice. This is where visiting a specialty paint retailer comes in handy. Rather than knowing a little bit about everything (like the employees at a big box store), the employees at places, such as Sherwin Williams, have a ton of knowledge about paint specifically. They’re much better equipped to help you decide on the ideal hue for your room.

4. Buy textiles first

Know what your textiles will look like before choosing a paint color. | iStock/Getty Images

It’s much easier to bring a swatch of fabric to the paint store to try to match the color than it is to do things the other way around. If you’re redecorating, shop for your furniture and bedding first, so you get an overall idea of what colors you plan on using. Bring along a few items while you’re shopping for paint, and make sure your wall color coordinates with what you’ve already purchased.

5. Test an area

couple painting together a room in their new house

You might find a color looks different once it’s up. | LuckyBusiness/iStock/Getty Images

That tiny paint chip square won’t give you the full picture of how the color will look in your room.

Most stores offer little sample cans of paint for free or for a small fee, so you can go home and paint a large square on the wall. If you’re debating between two colors, this is a great way to decide which one looks better in your home.

After you paint your test area, pay close attention to how the color looks throughout the day. One shade can look completely different in the bright morning sunlight compared to how it looks in the late afternoon. Wait a few days before making your final decision.

6. Choose your finish

Know what kind of finish goes best where. | iStock/Getty Images

Paint comes in several different finishes that can make your chosen color look drastically different.

  • Flat finish: This is the least shiny option. It’s usually used on ceilings because it’s one of the hardest to clean and care for, but the modern and sophisticated look is being used on walls more often. Just stick to areas that kids don’t frequent, such as the master bedroom.
  • Eggshell finish: One step up from flat, this finish has a low luster shine.
  • Satin finish: This is one of the most popular options, especially for high traffic areas, such as hallways, family rooms, and foyers. It’s durable and attractive.
  • Semi-gloss finish: An option with a subtle shine, this is most often used in kitchens and bathrooms because it has such high durability
  • High-gloss finish: This makes your chosen hue look shiny. It’s easy to scrub and is great for kitchens, doors, and trim. While some claim it’s too shiny for most interior walls, high-gloss finish paint has been trending recently, even in living rooms and bedrooms. It’s important to prep and prime when you’re using this option because it shows every bump and flaw.

7. Forget about trends

Bedroom with purple bed, walls and lamps

Don’t get carried away with a trendy color. | archideaphoto/iStock/Getty Images

The 2018 Pantone color of the year is Ultra Violet, and people are freaking out over it. If you’re a novice interior designer, don’t even try to make this shocking shade work in your home.

Bold colors have their season, but neutrals are forever. That doesn’t mean you have to paint all your walls beige and live a boring life. But choosing less trendy paint colors means you won’t have to update your rooms as frequently. Incorporate print and pattern in more easily changeable places, such as with textiles and small accessories.

Read more: Best Loved Paint Colors Guaranteed to Make Your Home Look Stunning

Check out The Cheat Sheet on Facebook!