Strategies for Choosing Paint Colors

I was on Pinterest early yesterday morning, and I noticed a popular pin about how to choosing paint colors.  Since I am a Paint Color Consultant, I am always looking for new ideas about such things, of course.  I went to the site and read a post by a blogger describing three strategies to use for choosing paint colors in your home.  



I’m sure this is a successful blogger with lots of good content, so I won’t be naming names or anything, but I do want to talk about the strategies she proposed and why I don’t agree.  The first strategy is to use three to four of the colors on the same paint swatch.  

 Paint Swatchbeige on beige on beige



Varying the color lighter to darker slightly from room to room is a sure-fire way to get a whole house full of virtually the same color.  Because lighting conditions will vary from room to room in your house and affect how you perceive color, you may be the only person who comes into your home that the colors are different at all! 


Variations of beige doesn’t give you much variety!


The second strategy was for renters and apartment-dwellers.  She suggested you go to a big-box home improvement store and buy the mistinted paint, which is sold at a discount.  I call this “oops” paint, because it was either mixed wrong or the customer hated the color once it was mixed.  Oops.

mistintit’s no return for a reason  


Seems to me this is a terrible strategy – since when is buying someone else’s mistake a good idea?  Just because you don’t own the home you are living in doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter what color you paint the walls that surround you every day and night.  Please, please don’t choose a “bad” color just because you can get it cheaper.  Just because you rent, doesn’t mean you are not important enough to live in a space that makes you happy.

green dining room 


The last strategy mentioned has some merit.  She suggests touring open houses, home tours, and designer show homes to find paint colors you like for your own home.  I tour lots of show homes myself, and I blog about the paint colors and sometimes write about them for The Tennessean.  It’s a great idea to use the colors you see in these homes as a starting point for choosing paint colors for your own home.  You’ll notice I said a starting point, NOT an ending point.  

edgecomb gray

O’More Traditional Home Showhouse


Never assume just because you love a paint color in someone else’s home that it will work well in your own.  Every home has different lighting conditions, surrounding colors, and fixed elements that impact the complexion of the home and how a given color is perceived in that particular space.   

paint color

The color on the left is the same as the one on the right (tricky!)


If you have a few paint colors that you think might work for your space, take the time to make up big sample boards of several colors using a product like Small Wall, available on their website and in Sherwin-Williams stores.  Make sure you apply two good coats of paint (don’t be lazy!) and move the board all around the room so that you can view the proposed color on different walls, up against different fixed elements, at different times of the day.  Never, ever buy three gallons of paint after choosing a paint color straight off a paint swatch, from a pinterest photo, or from a friend’s room you love.  I’m telling you, it could read totally differently in your space.

20110712-6 source


If you are having difficulty choosing the right paint colors for your home, you could consider consulting a good Paint Color Consultant in your area who has lots of experience with creating color palettes that flow and look current (make sure you check out their portfolio of work).  Some of us also offer paint color consultations via phone and online consultation, but again, make sure you see if you like her/his work before hiring someone long-distance.  

phones-with-cordsimage source 


Of course, I realize that not everyone who wants great paint colors can afford a professional design consultation.  For those of you that fall into that category, I suggest that you educate yourself as much as possible about color.  There are lots of great sources (blogs in particular) that offer ideas, advice, and specific paint colors if you have the time and are willing to weed through the bad ones with rotten advice.  


Click here for a preview


There’s a whole lot more I can explain speaking for an hour and a half with photos and props to demonstrate than I can in snippets on a blog.  My Color Workshop Video is an affordable way to learn about how to choose colors that work with your existing finishes, how and where to apply color to make your space look current rather than dated, and where to focus in a huge paint fan deck to find the right colors for you.  I even share my Top 12 Favorite Benjamin Moore on-trend neutral colors.  



What other strategies or advice can you share with other readers about choosing paint colors for your home?


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7 years ago

Great post! I think you handled the ‘misinformation’ quite diplomatically. I just reading your blog, everyday.

7 years ago
Reply to  Christine

Sorry, that should have read ‘enjoy reading YOUR blog’. Sorry about that. It isn’t easy typing with a kiddo or two in ones lap. 😉 Again, thanks for the great information.

Cindy Gray
Cindy Gray
7 years ago

The other strategy that I hear/see alot is finding an inspiration piece and choosing colors from it. For example a pillow, artwork, dishes. I think the first HGTV show I watched was Matt and Sherri using this approach. I do think it can work but it can go wrong as well. It’s sorta like what my grandmother use to say about clothes, “Just because it comes in your size, doesn’t mean you should wear it.” I think it’s good to get an overall feel for the colors you like. But I’ve had huge misses when trying to pick a paint… Read more »

7 years ago

Good advice, Kristie. I like to keep a file of nice colors I have use, but as you say, it’s only a starting point. Same with using an inspiration piece. You can use it for a jumping off point, but to focus on matching one little thread is not the way to go. One of the resources I enjoy is the color column in House Beautiful magazine. They ask designer’s to share their favorite red, blue, or whatever the color is that month. Nice to see what the higher end designers are doing and use it as inspiration for your… Read more »

Donna McBroom-Theriot
Donna McBroom-Theriot
7 years ago

Love your advice, as you say, for a starting point. I think another good point to let people know, but then again, maybe not, unless they are confident choosing colors. Any color can be a neutral. You just have to know what to do with it. I’ve probably broken all the “rules” of decorating in my little cottage, but it is a cozy wonderful place that works for us. And, I am not afraid of color and have a good color sense. I do not have one white wall in my home and the same colors are found throughout our… Read more »

Donna McBroom-Theriot
Donna McBroom-Theriot
7 years ago

I wanted to add one more thing. I truly believe that saying – when you are choosing colors, look in your closet. I didn’t do this, but turns out, it is quite true. Those are the color your love, so why not consider them when decorating. If you only wear browns and taupes and beiges, you will probably not like loads of color in your home either. If you add pops of color with jewelry and scarves, that will also work with your decorating. Just my two cents.

7 years ago

Hi Kristie-I love all your advice about color and you deliver it in such a professional way. I have a color question. I just bought a fan deck from BM and am wondering how the colors are related to each other on one swatch. Should I assume that they are the same hue with variations in tints and shades? If this is the case, is it the same with other paint manufacturers?
Thanks you for your help.

Jil Sonia Interiors
7 years ago

Your article is bang on!

It’s sooo tempting to paint your interiors the same as your neighbour, as you love the colour, but as you so wisely mentioned, it can, and often does, look so very different. 🙂

7 years ago

Great tips Kristie! Good luck with your new workshop video!!

7 years ago

I’ve slowly become more improved with color but it really takes a while and a lot of practice and educating – common mistakes I see: people trying to choose a color from a small paint swatch, not doing multiple samples around the room, wanting to use colors they’ve seen in a friend’s house (which is a great starting point but doesn’t always mean that color is going to work in another house). Anyway it is a process and one that shouldn’t be rushed into – great analysis/commentary on the subject Kristie. I’ve learned a lot just from your blog.

7 years ago

Perfect example on how color changes with light !Your picture captures it all and underscores why it is essential to have a color sample that is not static ( like one painted on a wall in a room), but instead on a repositionable sample board to view color in different lighting, locations and adjacent to other colors.

Carol Daniell
Carol Daniell
6 years ago

Looking in my closet for color choices wouldn’t work at all. Black. Leopard. Sparkles. Since we’ve been starting from scratch with the house having burned down, I actually followed your advice and hired a designer. So I’ve bought a few pieces of furniture, and she came over to the rent house we’re living in, and she asked me what color I liked, and I told her green, so she picked out a four greens that went with the stuff I had, told me that , no, you were wrong, dark colors made the ceiling look LOWER, and I didn’t believe… Read more »


[…] painting going on this week with my clients, both local and e-clients.  I went by and checked the progress of interior painting in the newly-purchased house of a newlywed couple who are wanting to make it their […]

home remodel contractor
home remodel contractor
6 years ago

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Painting My House
6 years ago

Great post! Been reading a lot about choosing the right colors for my home. Thanks for the info here!


[…] also worked with a another client that I had consulted with on paint colors two years […]

4 months ago

I have been trying for 2 years to find a paint color for my living room and I have just given up. I hide I can’t visualize color.

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