The thing is, choosing paint colors isn’t quite as simple as buying gallons of your favorite colors. It’s true that you should love the paint colors you ultimately choose, but your favorites may not create harmony when combined.
That’s why we’re sharing every single tip, trick, and secret we’ve unearthed for picking the best paint colors. From understanding color to avoiding common pitfalls, we’ve got you covered.
Even if you know nothing of color theory and home decor, you’ll soon be able to confidently pick paint colors you’ll love for years to come.
Color theory has always played a large role in not only home décor, but how humans feel while living in our homes. Colors have a major effect on human psychology. Understanding color and how you can use it to your benefit is the most important step in choosing paint colors.
When it comes to the color wheel, there are 3 categories of colors: primary, secondary, and tertiary. Primary colors are red, yellow, and blue. They’re primary because no other colors can be combined to make red, yellow, or blue.
Secondary colors can be made by mixing two colors together. This category includes green, orange, and purple. All 3 can be created by mixing 2 specific primary colors. Tertiary colors are made with combinations of primary and secondary colors.
On the color wheel, the colors you’ll find are red, red-purple, purple, blue-purple, blue, blue-green, green, yellow-green, yellow, yellow-orange, orange, and red-orange. You may be wondering why there are so many paint chips at the paint store if there are only 12 colors on the color wheel.
This is because there are infinite adjustments you can make to these 12 colors, including adding white or black to make them lighter or darker. When you consider that you technically have 14 colors that can be mixed in absolutely any ratio imaginable, it’s no surprise we have so many options when choosing paint colors.
How to Choose Interior Paint Colors
Now that you have a foundational understanding of color theory, you can start the process of choosing paint colors. You’ll need to evaluate the space you’re painting and ask yourself a few questions.
After all, this project can only have a positive impact if you take your own desires into consideration. The more you can take your time making decisions you feel confident in, the more stunning your results will be.
Analyze the Room for Interior Paint Ideas
Before you can choose a color that’ll look amazing in your home, you must analyze the room being painted. The tones and finish of things carpet, hardwood floors, countertops, cabinets, fireplace surrounds, and anything else in the space are all factors to consider.
Because certain color families clash when viewed by the human eye, the current colors and tones in the space should complement your paint color. This doesn’t mean you want your walls to be the exact same color as your cabinets, to be clear. We’re saying that by looking at the color wheel, you can easily find the right complementary tones for your space. (1)
Don’t forget the room’s purpose in your home, too. If this space is meant to be quiet and relaxing, a bright color may clash. If you’re painting an exercise or hobby room, think about the energy and creativity levels you’ll need to maintain in this space. Dark and moody colors might not be the best fit in that scenario.
Create a Color Scheme That Matches Your Home’s Furniture
Once you’ve evaluated more permanent fixtures in your home—like flooring and cabinetry—turn your eyes to your furniture. You now have a general idea of color families that’ll look nice based on these elements and the room’s purpose. You’ve also thought about what colors resonate the best with you.
With this knowledge, you can use the colors and tones of your furniture to finally create a color scheme. You can flesh out one detailed color scheme to use across your entire home, or decide room-by-room if you aren’t looking to repaint your entire interior.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed at this stage of choosing paint colors, but don’t stress. The information you’ve gathered combined with assistance from the color wheel guarantee a gorgeous end result.
“You can rely on the color wheel’s segmentation to help you mix colors and create palettes with varying degrees of contrast. There are four common types of color schemes derived from the color wheel.” –Better Homes & Gardens
The 4 common color schemes are:
1. Analogous Color Scheme: This option uses colors that’re located next to each other on the color wheel such as purple, blue, and blue-green. These color schemes tend be different and colorful, yet serene and relaxing. Because purple, blue, and blue-green all share the same blue base, they look great when used together.
2. Monochromatic Color Scheme: This choice uses lighter and darker shades of the same base color, making for a very subtle yet refined feel. Deep violet, purple, and lavender are an example of a three-tone monochromatic color scheme. As an added bonus, monochromatic makes it easy to update your décor with items in different shades of your base color.
3.Triadic Color Scheme: Triadic palettes feel fresh and out of the box. These are created by picking 3 colors that are evenly spaced apart on the color wheel, like red-orange, deep blue, and light green. It sounds like a combo no one would naturally come up with, but in practice, this color scheme adds balanced energy and zest.
4. Complementary Color Scheme: A complementary palette uses colors that are exact opposites from one another on the color wheel. Yellow and purple, blue and orange, and red and green are classic examples. These color schemes also add quite a bit of energy to any space, but you can use different shades of each color to create any feeling or serve any purpose. Try to keep the amount of each color balanced throughout the room for the ultimate harmony.
Choose a Paint Finish
Choosing paint colors means more than just choosing a color. That may sound strange, but the finish you choose actually has a huge effect on how the color looks in your home. Your paint finish refers to the sheen or shine of the paint after it’s fully dried.
Depending on the brand of paint you choose, you’ll have several finishes to choose from. Each has its own benefits and occasions it’s best used for. The most common are flat, eggshell, pearl/satin, semi-gloss, and gloss.
For walls, you’ll typically want an eggshell finish. Eggshell is durable and scrubbable, yet also good for hiding slight imperfections in your walls like small dents. Flat paint is most commonly used on ceilings and any other surfaces that’re rarely touched.
The glossier of a finish you choose, the more durable the paint will be once dry. You’ll typically want to use a satin or semi-gloss finish in your bathroom and kitchen because they stand up well to grime and mildew. You can also scrub these types of paint without fear of scrubbing the paint off.
Gloss or high-gloss paint is most commonly seen on interior doors, trim, and wainscoting. These surfaces tend to be touched often, so you want a finish that doesn’t stain and wipes down easily.
Again, every brand has different titles for these common finishes. You can always ask your paint store’s clerks for advice if you’re torn between different finishes while purchasing paint.
How to Use Interior Paint Colors
Choosing paint colors is only part of your project. Now you’ve got to learn how to use paint colors effectively.
The ideas below don’t clash with any of the steps we’ve discussed above, either. Applying these tips to the color scheme you’ve chosen will give your home that sought-after “wow” factor.
Using Color Architecturally
A new paint color can transform a room, especially when you consider architectural elements. Look through the space you’re painting for unique details. Arched doorways, wainscoting, crown molding, built-in shelving, and fireplace mantels are just a few examples of the features you might want to play up.
You could certainly paint some of these details in the same color as the room’s walls. But first, consider how it might look if you use varieties of other shades and tints from your selected color scheme. Keep in mind that using lighter tints in nooks and alcoves can make them appear bigger.
What Colors Make Small Spaces Feel Bigger?
Any colors that are on the lighter end of the spectrum will make small spaces feel bigger. Light neutral shades, pastels, and off-whites can all help you master the illusion of light and bright spaces.
This is especially true if the space you’re painting has no windows. In these rooms, bright whites with warm undertones will simulate the effect of natural daylight extremely well.
If your space is particularly small, a bright and airy paint color may not do the trick. In these cases, see how you feel about bright and bold colors. An accent wall painted a bright color in a small space can really make it feel bigger without being overbearing. This trick works because a bright color on a small accent wall creates the illusion of depth and a longer room.
What Colors Make a Room Cozier?
To make a room cozier, try choosing paint colors that have a warm or neutral hue and a saturated tone. Warm, deep, rich colors like chocolate brown, a warm burgundy, or a deep golden caramel.
Psychologically speaking, colors in the red/orange/yellow family are warm. Blue/green/purple are typically seen as cool colors. There are warm versions of cool colors and vice versa, but this pairing is the general rule of thumb.
This means that deep shades of cool colors can feel extremely cozy. Bedrooms painted in a deep navy blue or dark moss green are sure to feel cozy and enveloping. If you’re starting to get overwhelmed about relating these tips to your color scheme, don’t worry.
All this information means that regardless of the color scheme you’ve put together, you can find shades within that color scheme to create spaciousness or coziness wherever you want it.
Using Two Different Colors in the Same Room
If you’ve read this far, you already know several of the traditional types of color schemes use multiple different colors. This typically results in a bright and fresh feeling that’s still harmonious.
Consider painting your built-in shelving in one of your colors, and the walls of the room with a different one. Regardless of which of the 4 types of color schemes you picked, you’re guaranteed to get a unique and professional-looking finish.
You can even paint two colors on the walls in one room if you’re thoughtful about it. A reading nook or recessed area in the room would be a perfect spot to use a different paint color. Doing so will add visual interest to the room and add character to the nook. (2)
Transition Color Throughout Your Home
Earlier, we discussed how you could create a color scheme for each room or one for your entire home. No matter which route you’ve decided on, this tip will help your home look like it was professionally painted.
If you have an open floor plan, it’s crucial to have a good color scheme that also leaves space for each room’s identity. Try picking one color to use as a “common thread” across your house. You could paint all the open, connected spaces of your home in a light and airy blue.
Then, just add accents or décor in the same shade across the rooms in your house. The walls in each room can be painted a different color from your color scheme, and that “common thread” of the light, airy blue will pull everything together.
Or consider using colors to define your spaces. Does your living room, dining room, and kitchen sort of blend in one big space… and you wish it was more compartmentalized? Try picking 2 or 3 colors from your color scheme to use in your kitchen and dining room. This makes these spaces feel connected.
Then, pick 2 or 3 colors for your living room that aren’t the main star of your kitchen and dining room. So long as you use your chosen color scheme every time you pick, your home will feel harmonious without looking “blah.”
3 Mistakes Everyone Makes When Picking Paint Colors
1. Getting Boxed in By One Color
Once you land on a color you truly love and want in your home, the rest of the selection process gets easier… right? Many people find themselves even more indecisive once they start choosing paint colors to go with their first choice.
“The best way to get over that fear is to always start with a color you love—from a rug, a painting, a fabric. Then test it on the wall.” –This Old House
Ultimately, people often paint their entire home just one color to avoid choosing colors that may clash. But with your knowledge of color theory and how to choose several colors that harmonize well, you won’t have this problem.
2. Not Getting Color Chips, Not Testing with Paint Samples
We know how exciting it is to finally start putting paint on the walls. You find a little swatch at the paint store that looks perfect, so you’re inclined to buy a gallon and get to work. Unfortunately, the human eye isn’t great at judging this from 1 small square of color.
There are countless stories of folks getting halfway through their home paint project, just to realize the paint they’d bought was actually awful. Colors look quite a bit different from a small square on a paper to an entire room full of it.
It might not be as “fun” to take your time and get color chips to tape on your wall, then samples to paint a small square. But this crucial step will always save you time and money, plus get you a better finished product.
3. Skipping the Primer
No matter what color you’re painting over, you have to consider primer. Primer guarantees there won’t be any unpleasant surprises after your paint dries. Without it, you might notice that you can see the previous wall color through the new paint.
And if you’re making a drastic change to the wall color, you may even need a tinted primer. Trying to paint white over a navy blue room will take double—maybe even triple—the amount of paint you’d needed if you’d primed.
Your Home is a Blank Canvas, Full of Potential
You now know just about everything there is to know about choosing paint colors. There’s no need to rush your choices, but now you can get to work whenever you’d like. Simply use your new color theory knowledge to start narrowing down choices, pick a color scheme, think of any architectural effects you’d like to achieve, and start picking color chips.
That said, handling interior painting on your own can be a daunting task. Masking and taping off your interior, trying to work neatly, and cleaning up all those rollers is always a hassle. Here at Same Day Pros, we make it easy to go from “Do-It-Yourself” to “Done-For-You.”
With just a few clicks and some basic information about what you’re painting, we’ll match you with professional interior painters in your local neighborhood. You already know everything about choosing paint colors. Kick your feet up and let Same Day Pros take it from here!
1. Better Homes & Gardens, Cozy Colors
2. This Old House, How to Pick Paint Colors for Interior Rooms