5 Things to Consider Before Choosing a Paint Color

paint color:  SW Rice Grain

I have gotten several e-mails asking about paint colors in my house. 

Along with the paint colors I thought I would provide unsolicited advice on the ins and outs of choosing a paint color.  I preface this advice with the disclaimer that I am not an expert.  I don’t work for a paint company.  I have not gone to paint color school. 

What I am, though, is so much better.  I am the person who has painted and repainted and repainted rooms because I couldn’t figure out the answer to this simple question,  “Why did the paint color in the store not look like the paint color on my wall?”

If you are a paint color expert….this post is not for you.  Please feel free to come back later.  If you have ever stood in front of a paint chip display and closed your eyes and pointed….please read the following:

(1)  The darkest color on the paint strip is your best friend

When you are looking at colors on two (or three different) strips of paint chips, many times the colors will appear to be the same.  THEY ARE NOT!  Do not be fooled.  Each strip of paint color chips are tinted in a slightly different direction. 

For example, a khaki could have a pink base or a blue base.  A gold can have a green base or a brown base.  A red could have an orange base or a pink base.  (I think you get the point).

To see the true color tint….look at the darkest color on the strip.  This color has the most color saturation and you can see the color more easily. 

paint color:  SW Anonymous

(2)  All surfaces are not created equal

Fact #1:  When painting a ceiling any other color than white go at least one shade lighter.  Color on a ceiling appears darker than on the wall.

Fact #2:  When choosing a color for the floor.  Always go one or two shades lighter.  Color on the floor appears darker than on the wall.

For example, in the master bedroom, we pulled up the carpet and painted the subfloor with squares.  The darkest square (see the floor over by the Christmas tree) is the same color as the walls, yet it looks darker.  Amazing.

Note to self:  Post idea #456 “How to paint subfloors with squares.”

(3)  Saturation is the Key

If you remember nothing else from this post.

If in two months you say, “thistlewood who?”

Please, please remember this unsolicited advice when you are standing in front of that paint display:

Find the color you want…..and then go one shade darker.

I know.  It’s scary.  It’s only natural, we have a tendency to go lighter with our paint choices.  The only problem is, natural light and “stuff” tend to wash out our first color choice. 

Trust me on this one.  You will be much happier with a little more saturation.

paint color:  SW Mindful Grey

(4) You Can Never Have Enough Paint

You have seen them in the paint store mixing paint.  They take the tinted base and then add different colors.  Here’s the secret:  no can of paint is exactly the same.

They are close.  Maybe you won’t see a difference.  Maybe you will. 

Don’t take the chance.

Buy a five gallon bucket and mix your cans together before you paint.

Learn from a person with a two-tone painted room.

paint color:  SW Mindful Grey

(5)  Sample, sample, sample

They sell $4.95 quart paint samples at Sherwin Williams.  I suggest you do not let $4.95 come between you and the perfect wall color.  A painted swatch on the wall beats a paint chip color hands down every time.

I use them to paint samples.  I use them to paint furniture.  I use them to paint anything and everything.  I mix them together to make sure I use every bit of my $4.95 paint purchase.

So for the person who e-mailed me about the paint color of this hutch, I can’t really help you out.  You see, it’s invented.

Let’s call it SW:  Anonymous Mindful Rice Grain Grey….

                                                                           ….and leave it at that.

PS  If you would like to see any of these colors on your wall, Sherwin Williams has a great tool called a color visualizer.  You simply upload your photo and brush in the color.

46 thoughts on “5 Things to Consider Before Choosing a Paint Color

  1. Great advice! I wish I had this advice when I painted the living room in our old house that forever looked pink to me, instead of beige. After so much trial and error, I have learned a few tricks as well…I love all your colors, beautiful!

  2. what a FABULOUS insightgul…HELPFUL post!!!!! you have added plenty of information and amazing tricks! thank you so much for taking the time to show us these “ropes: APPLAUSE!!!! hugs…

  3. Thanks for the “word” on paint colors, I’m just getting ready to start several paint projects and I’ll put your study on paint saturation to good use.

  4. I am so there with you on purchasing the paint samples. I also try to give myself about one week to live with the sample paint on my wall. I need to see it at different times of day.

    My son is currently living with the paint from different buckets that are slightly different shades.

  5. Thanks so much for this advice on painting. I am totally in love with your greys.
    And, the HUTCH OF MANY COLORS …..it threw me into COVET MODE…..it’s awesome.

  6. meant to ask….are your kit. cabinets Rice Grain ? I am about to repaint in the kitchen and I love the shade of your cabinets…….

  7. Paint is one of the easiest things to transform a room but one of the hardest to choose! This coming from a girl who had about 20 different samples painted on my house before I finally chose! Love the sample tip – I tell everyone to buy a few samples and live with it on the wall for a few days before choosing – it’s cheaper than repainting or getting stuck with a color you hate! Your colors are fab (and love that bedroom floor)!

  8. Wow! What a wonderful post! Thank you.

    We too, kind-of-never get THE color on the wall, which we THOUGHT was going to be on the wall.

    Thank you, a million times.

    “Animal crackers, and cocoa to drink,
    That is the finest of suppers, I think;
    When I’m grown up and can have what I please
    I think I shall always insist upon these.”

    ~Christopher Morley

  9. That’s a really good tip on deciding on the right paint color. I’ve always been taught that you need to look at the entire strip that the paint comes on to fully understand the tint you’re getting too. Never select a paint from just one little square sample without seeing the ones around it too. I’m always nervous about selecting paint that I’ve never seen up on anyone’s walls before, so I tend to go with paint colors that someone else has used and recommended. Ha!

  10. Wonderful advice. Buying those sample jars has saved me from making huge mistakes.
    You have some gorgeous colors in your home. Love the hutch with the Anonymous Mindful Rice Grain Grey!

  11. Why is it that buying the right paint color is so stinkin’ hard….??? lol! So, thank you for this informative and humorous post. It will certainly be helpful in the future. Oh…and your house is absolutely stunning! Magazine-worthy indeed! 🙂

  12. Thank you so much for your comment on my felt flowers! Your home looks absolutely beautiful, ready for a magazine photo shoot, I think!

  13. Found your blog today from Pinterest….stopped over and ready every post! Your home is beautiful….LOVE all the colors and furnishings! And your sense of humor made me chuckle several times (in between the drooling)!
    Can you tell me where you got the darling mini-cloches on your dining room table?
    Thank you, and I’ll be back to visit!

  14. Great ideas for choosing a paint color. Here’s my tip: I like to paint the sample colors on a large white poster boards (each color on a separate board). 1) You’re painting over white and the new color is not affected by the current wall color. 2) The boards are portable to each wall to check the lighting from all sides. 3) Save a piece of the board from the color you choose to take to stores for matching fabrics and furniture.

  15. Very good information. I’ve learned the hard way about most of this…especially the one about going a shade darker. Great advice. Your home is lovely…you should be very proud. Have a super weekend!

  16. Love all these tips. I am always so scared to pick colors. I am glad you did this post!! Also, yes please on the how to paint squares on the subfloor!

  17. Oh I had a lot of fun with the color actualizer from SW when I was trying to make my exterior paint choice for doors. Trouble is, the SW guy said that the actualizer isn’t at all accurate. Still, it was a starting place. The SW guy was the best help if a gal can handle having some guy at SW say, “I think this is the color you want.” ☺

    The wall colors in your home are very soothing.

  18. I would love to know more about the floor and how you painted the sub floor. Can’t wait for that post. Your house is absolutely beautiful!!!

  19. I couldn’t find your email address. It may be out there in plain sight, but I am a bit scattered this morning! Anyway, here is my message to you:

    Your blog has just been featured on my weekly Welcome Wagon Friday post. Welcome to our little blogging neighborhood. You should be receiving neighbors soon. I look forward to getting to know you better!

    Brenda@Cozy Little House

  20. That’s sound advice right there. Many people don’t take into account the fact that light will make the color appear even lighter than it actually is, so going with a slightly darker version is a smart choice.

  21. Thanks for the choosing paint tips. I can use all the help I can get. Love the kitchen paint color and your “invented” color for the hutch is great. I’d have a muddy mess if I tried that.

  22. I need you on my side when my family asks me why need to paint a room over again. I am on the quest of the perfect shade of white. I will definitely remember what you said about choosing a shade darker. Thank you for the advice.

  23. hello, visiting and now following from it all started with paint!
    Oh where, oh where were you when i was painting my kitchen!!! I’m a hit or miss, missing more often, when it comes to paint swatches!! Thank you for the good advice i’m ready to hit the paint store again!! Your home is beautiful btw and i’m not just saying that it really is!!

  24. I couldn’t agree more! I spent $30 picking paint for our downstairs, but after learning the hard way, that was a bargain! Great advice. Popping over from Salvaged Whimsy and I love what I see!

  25. was that island a piece of the home or did you build/buy it? we are looking for something similar if not identical :)! your house is just FAB!

  26. OMG I don’t know if I can follow your blog, my sides are splitting!! This is painful (guess I haven’t laughed this much in a while, I need to build up more slowly).

    You are hilarious. Thank you for the paint advice, I’m loving it!

  27. I love how your has white cabinets and white appliances. I also love how it looks so warm and bright and inviting. Ironically, I’ve lived with a bunch of saturation and darker colors and now I am lightening things up. I’m mixing colors at half tint and loving it.

  28. So, I’m commenting again on this post… I’m dying to rip out the carpet in our bedroom and paint the subfloor…is your subfloor plywood or concrete? Ours is a slab, so I am wondering if I need to lay plywood down and paint that…

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