Choosing A New Paint Color? Don’t Be Misled!

 You know you’ve done it. You see those beautiful rooms in the magazines. Those highly edited, highly brightened, highly saturated versions of the actual rooms they photographed. And you need a new paint color. You see those magazine rooms and say,

new paint color


This is the new paint color I’ve been looking for!

That’s the new paint color that will MAKE my living room perfection!

It’s the paint color I’ve been waiting for ALL. MY. LIFE.


2016-06-28 11.16.48

It’s a little off, don’t you think?

You have to stop. You have to stop NOW.

I’ve said it before, and no doubt I’ll say it again. Those colors are not accurate. I don’t care if HGTV magazine has a fold-out giant paint index in every issue (yes, they do have that). IT DOESN’T MEAN IT’S ACCURATE.

hgtv paint colors


Ok, it’s not exactly their fault (HGTV magazine, that is). Making sure paint colors read accurately is not what they are about. They are about bright, attention-getting, happy colors – and lots of them. It’s about inspiration.

So, YES, get inspiration for new paint colors from decorating magazines. But for heaven’s sake, please check out the ACTUAL color first.

And please don’t paint it directly on the wall. Especially not in the middle of the wall, where the surrounding color will be impossible for you to see past. Plus, you need to see how the new paint color might look against your trim, floor, and on different walls since it will read differently on walls with windows than walls across from windows.

Small Wall

So buy a sample pint of the beloved color and paint up two full coats on Small Wall sample boards – they are sturdy and non-porous (unlike posterboard or foam core) and have a tacky strip on the back. That way, you can move it around and test it all over the room!



  1. Robin

    Haha! I’ve done the “paint it directly on the wall” thing and oh what a debacle that was lol. I learned from that mistake many years ago. All that does it make you more confused as you stated. Poster boards rule! Sometimes our enthusiasm gets the best of us, hehe. Thank you for the great advice as usual.

    • Kristie Barnett

      It’s funny, Robin, I’ve worked with a client who, even after we’ve agreed on a color from large paint sample boards, will go in later and paint a bunch of samples up on the wall. This will totally make her question the decisions we made when I was onsite, because she doesn’t believe that painting directly on the wall in one corner of the room is not the ultimate test of decision-making. Like you said, all that does is make you more confused. Thanks for chiming in!

  2. Kelly

    Smart advice as always!

  3. Laura

    I’m laughing at myself as I read this! I always paint a poster board sample — well almost always… I’ve been trying to decide on a bathroom color after a tub to shower Reno with new tile and put the sample directly in the wall, lol. I’m going to break out the poster board when I return home, duh.

  4. Molly

    I used to make that mistake all the time. Now I remember that my home is not a magazine, and I don’t have the same lighting.

  5. Nancy Greenberg

    Thanks for posting!

  6. Carolyn

    Love this blog post! As a stager who does many consults per week, having your Paint Color Toolkit is a most valuable time saving tool! There’s no time wasted getting samples-painters can come right in and the house can get listed quickly!

    • Kristie Barnett

      Thank you so much for your feedback about the Psychological Staging Paint Color Toolkit – I’m glad it’s been an effective tool for your staging business!!

  7. mallory

    This is timely for me-just went to paint samples on wall and spilled paint all over my carpet. Clearly this should be left to the professionals 🙂


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