“What color should I paint my room” is a question we’ve all asked ourselves, only to go to the paint store and get completely overwhelmed and confused (there are 96 different dark blues?!) It’s not an easy process, to be sure, as the colors picked from a swatch often don’t end up looking the same when they’re splashed across a wall. Everything from lighting to the color of your furniture can make a huge difference as to how a paint color ends up looking.
Here, our top tips for picking a paint color that won’t make you want to cringe every time you walk into your room. Things to keep in mind: A little planning goes a long way when selecting a paint color, so don’t be afraid to test out colors on a large patch of wall before making your final choice.
1. Decide on a paint color last.
Wait until you have your room planned, including what furniture and fabrics you’re going to use, and how you plan to lay out furniture and art in the space before even thinking about what paint color you want. Plus, what accent colors, fabrics, and prints you choose for the room’s decor will be a great jumping off point to help you decide on a paint color.
2. Examine other parts of the room.
When you’re ready to begin selecting a paint color, a good place to start is by choosing a shade you’re drawn to from something else in that room—a piece of art, a rug, a pillow, or an accent piece.
3. Test drive your selection.
The color a room is painted is an important choice. Yes, it’s totally fixable, but it’s a pretty big undertaking, so getting it right the first time around is preferable. Test colors on a wall or on a poster board that you hang before making your final decision. If you still aren’t completely sure, begin experimenting with the color in a smaller space in your home, like a bathroom, or a hallway.
4. Consider the mood you want to create.
Are you looking to create a space that’s restful and calm, high-impact, or dramatic? Soft, cool colors like light blue, mint green, and pale gray will create a more zen feeling, while stronger colors like hunter green, various shades of red, or navy will certainly up the drama. Warm and bright colors like rust or burnt orange create an ambience that’s great for socializing, while deep blue-greens and neutrals will give a space a more formal vibe.
5. The lighting in a room is a critical part of the decision.
One of the most important parts of picking a paint color is to bring samples home—colors look dramatically different depending on the lighting in a room. Natural daylight shows the truest hue, incandescent lighting brings out warm tones and yellows, while fluorescent lighting will add a blue tone to colors.
6. Don’t examine paint samples against a white wall.
Because a color will appear differently depending on what surrounds it, putting a paint swatch against a white wall will cause it to appear darker than it really is, which can result in picking a color that’s actually too light. Instead, put the sample against a sofa or the floor, to get a better idea of whether it will work in the room.
7. Consider the flow of your space.
Think of your walls as planes of color, and consider how the walls in adjacent rooms interact. You don’t want to create a home that looks like a nursery school by painting each room clashing primary colors, nor do you want every wall to be dark and moody. If you live in a very small space, like a studio apartment, you might consider only painting one wall, like the one behind your bed.