Tips for Selecting a Paint Color

The right interior paint color can be inspiring, energizing or calming. But with thousands of paint colors available today, it can be difficult—even overwhelming—to select which one. Here are some tips to help you with this process.

  • Don’t start with the paint color. It may feel counterintuitive to not pick the paint color first but don’t. Instead, use your furniture or décor to help narrow down the options.
  • Gather inspiration. Pinterest is a great place to start to collect ideas. Create a board for each room of the house and start pinning.
  • Use testers. Before purchasing a gallon of paint, buy a few shades for testing. You can either paint it in spots on the wall or paint a poster board (12” x 12” section is fine) to test the color. Make sure you put it in a few places around the room and against your furniture and flooring so you can see how it looks at different times of the day. If a spot isn’t enough, paint a larger section to help you “see” what the paint will look like in the room.
  • Pick the right sheen. Paint comes in six different finishes: flat, eggshell, satin, semi-gloss, high gloss and ceiling. Make sure you select the one that’s right for the room. For example, satin is typically chosen for kitchen and bathroom walls because it’s durable and washable, but it can also be used in other rooms. The gloss paints are usually applied to cabinets, doors and trim.
  • Understand undertones. Every paint, including neutrals, has an undertone. Sherwin Williams describes it this way: “Whenever a color is made by mixing two or more colors together, that color will have both a mass tone and an undertone. The mass tone is what you see first; it’s what tells you the color is red, blue, green and so forth. The closer the undertone is to the mass tone, the truer the color will appear. So a true red will have a mass tone and undertone that are very similar, but magenta will have a blue undertone, while poppy will have an orange undertone.” As you narrow down your choices, make sure you understand the undertone of the paint. That way, the paint won’t look too pink or too green for your liking.
  • Do research. There are many videos, articles and guides online to help you select the right paint color. There are also several color visualizer tools you can use to help, like the Home Depot ProjectColor App or Sherwin Williams ColorSnap® Visualize.