Tips for Picking a Paint Color

Tips for Picking a Paint Color

There are a lot of potential mistakes you can make when choosing a paint color for a room redo or other project. Use these helpful tips for choosing the perfect paint color for your space.

Tips for Picking Paint Colors

I ignored my own experience this week because I had decided at the last minute (my last two days of time off before starting a new job… what was I thinking?!) to paint my home office/spare bedroom. Anxious to get started, I went directly to my neighborhood Sherwin Williams and after only a short deliberation, I chose and purchased what I thought would be the perfect gray for my office. WRONG! I only needed to paint a little bit of areas around the trim before realizing it was way too dark for the small room. This was a good reminder to me that a little planning saves time, frustration, and money in the long run.

Pick Paint Last – If you’re redoing an interior room, the specific wall color(s) should be the last thing you pick. It’s much easier to to have paint mixed to match a certain shade in a comforter or accent piece. It can be nearly impossible to go the other way around. I had this issue when I painted our master bedroom. It has a checkerboard of shades of blue/gray. I wanted to use a gray comforter, but I have found it needs to have just a hint of blue in it, but not too much. We had to live with our old cream duvet cover for over a year (below) until I found one – after five online orders and four returns.

checkerboard painted wall in four shades of greys and blues

Check the Undertones in Neutrals – all colors have undertones in them that you may not be able to see, especially with the lighter colors. In a swatch with multiple shades, it’s best to look at the darkest color on the swatch to understand what color your choice is based on. When we got new siding, we went through eight samples before finding the right color. Our neighbors regretted not doing this as their gray house has a slight purple hue to it that they did not intend it to have.


View Sample Colors in the Room – Colors can look very different in the store than they will on your walls. Lighting is so important in seeing how it will look in a room. Even in two rooms in the same home, it will look different. When we repainted our kitchen, I thought I would use the same off white as I did for my bathroom, but it looked way too yellow in the kitchen light. The most basic way to do this is to tape the paint swatches up on your wall. Go one step further and get a sample of your top choices and paint a small area on the wall. Many paint brands sell small sample pots exactly for this reason. Make sure to look at the colors during various times of day.

Check paint swatches on walls

I will also add something I experienced in this week’s painting project – try the colors in different areas of the room. Below is a picture of a corner of my home office/spare bedroom. It’s the exact same paint, but it looks like two different colors on these two walls due to lighting. The wall on the right has a big window on it, so I’m guessing that’s what is making it look so different.

Same paint, different angles, different tones.

Thankfully it’s not noticeable except at this one angle now that the whole room is painted but it was really noticeable when it was just painted at the corners and trim. (I’ll share more pictures when I’m done with the room.)

Also try holding swatches up against other items in the room like the floor, furnishings or bedding.

Online Searches and Apps Are Your Friends

  • Google Images – If you’ve narrowed down your choices, type the color into Google Image search and you’ll likely be able to see a lot of different rooms using that color. Or you can start your search here too. I tried “gray paint with oak wood” to find shades that might look good with my oak trim since it can really look different than it does with white trim.
  • Houzz – you can use the site or the app to search broadly “grey bedrooms” and then often they list the paint colors in the comments of each image. If you search a specific paint color it will show you all the rooms with that color.
  • Paint Companies – many of the paint manufacturers have great tools for checking out colors and trying them out digitally.
    • Sherwin Williams – I really like their Color Snap tool which lets you match one of their paint colors to any of your images or any you find online. Use online or via their app.
    • Benjamin Moore – BM’s Personal Color Viewer lets you try on paint colors in one of their sample rooms or upload one of your own to use.

Happy painting!



  1. Great tips!I’ve made several of those mistakes painting rooms in our previous house, especially trying to paint first and find matching accessories later.I’m planning several painting projects in the next few months, and will refer back to this post.Thanks!

  2. I have been procrastinating on painting our two story family room. I painted swatches behind picture frames so that they’re hidden until we want to look at them. I picked a color just need to call a painter and I still can’t commit.

  3. When you painted your siding, was it vinyl and has it maintained well? And did you do it your self or have someone do it?

  4. Our siding is hardy plank (at least that’s what I think it’s called. It has been about 4 years and still looks great. We had it painted. My parents gave the same kind of siding which they paired themselves and it has held up well. I think they are on about 10 years now.

  5. I’m loving that wall! For me this is the hardest part, hah. I’ve went with a gray color in my bedroom and an eggshell throughout the house. My spare bedroom is hunter green thouh..

  6. I love that accent wall in the photo above! I appreciate all your DIY tips you’ve shared! I find that paint colors are one of the most tricky things that homeowners have to decide when building a new home, because it can set the tone for the entire home. It’s very surprising just how much a simple wall color can change the overall vibe of a room.

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