How to Select Inteior Paint Colors

Color can make or break the room—it can provide an energy boost, enlarge a small space, bring in light, and so much more. But choosing the right color, shade, and finish without the help of a designer or decorator can be difficult.

Color theorists, consultants, and industry experts suggest dividing colors into three manageable categories: pales, neutrals, and deeps. 

Think of pales as those light and uplifting colors that are versatile and easy. 

By contrast, deeps have a mysterious quality that intrigues with immediate character and domination over a room. Deeps create depth and intimacy in a space.

In between pales and deeps, are the neutrals; the earth tones. Earth tones can be combined for a calming effect by looking for a neutrals undertones, whether warm or cool, and combining neutrals from the same family.

How Lighting Will Affect Your Color

When it comes to color, lighting matters; and lighting is room specific. A south-facing room can make bright colors beam, whereas a north0facing room can cause a bright color to look more muted and cooler.

Because of that, it is suggested that you put samples on the walls of the rooms you intend to paint. Look at the samples in different lights, and at different times of day. Sun, overcast, and time of day will effect the color of your samples. So you’ll want to be sure that the color you’re considering is a color you’ll be happy with at all times of the day and night.

How to Decide On Your Sheen and Shine

After you’ve selected a color, the decisions continue.  And selecting a sheen can be as important as selecting a color--the right color in the wrong sheen can really diminish the beauty of a newly finished room.

Sheens vary from dead flat (no shine) to high gloss (extreme shine).  Generally, flats are great for ceilings, while gloss, semi-gloss and gloss look great on trim and doors. But in certain applications, a high gloss wall in a deep hue can add light to a room, while also enhancing the dramatic effect of the dark color. High Gloss on a Ceiling is another way to add flare to a room.

A note of caution though: high sheen finishes look best on near-perfect surfaces, which increases the amount of preparation necessary prior to painting.  Shine tends to reveal flaws and imperfections in a substrate.

How to Select Color for Multiple Rooms

With some planning, color can be used to accentuate the architectural character of your home.

In a home with an open-concept floor plan, selecting different colors in different spaces can define those spaces and highlight interesting architecture. Alternatively, selecting similar colors  in different shades or hues will bring an open-space together. A simple and easy way to ensure your home has a harmonious color palette is to select various shades of the same color, or of similar tones, as you pick colors from room to room.

Seek Professional Help—From a Color Selection professional

If you’re still stuck on which colors to choose for your home, or if you just need some reassurance that the colors you’ve chosen will look just as you hope they will—you have options there as well.

For a quick and easy view of what your color will look like in your home, use Sherwin Williams “ColorSnap Visualizer”. Using computer technology, you can upload a few photos of your room, select the color, and see that color on your walls!

ColorSnap does have its limitations though—first, you have to upload photos and then the color you see will be effected by the screen your viewing the color on. All screens display colors slightly differently—kind of like how different TV sets make the same shows and colors appear different from TV to TV. The difference is slight, so you will get a good idea of what the color will look like. But it won’t be exact.

For slightly more effort and not much more cost, you can buy some samples. It’s recommended that you put samples on each of the walls you intend to paint and make the samples large enough that you can truly get a feel for how the color will appear in you home—think a 4 feet x 4 feet box, NOT a 12 inch by 12 inch square.

Finally, if you really are having a difficult time even beginning to select a color. Or, if you’re like me an MUCH better at applying paint than selecting colors, you can hire a professional. Both Sherwin Williams and Benjamin Moore offer in-home consultations. Sherwin Williams offers in-home color consolations out of almost every retail store location. Benjamin Moore is a bit more limited; not every store has a consultant on staff, so you may have to call a few stores to find one that has a consultant on staff.

Alternatively, and especially if you have more to decide upon within your home than just colors, you could contact an interior designer. Designers tend to be more costly than color consultants, in part because they have a wide range of design and decorating knowledge. The drawback of that though is that some are better at color selection than others, so do your due diligence in vetting anyone you hire to help you select colors.

Happy color hunting!