What Really Makes a Paint Shade Worthy of Being Named Color of the Year?

pink living room

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It happens like clock-work: After plenty of speculation and anticipation, a slew of paint brands—and, yes, even some décor destinations like Etsy—release their signature Color of the Year. For many brands and design enthusiasts, the Color of the Year is a lot more than a hue that will reign supreme for the next 12 months; it can also lay the groundwork for the incoming rush of trends. (If you don’t believe in the power of a paint shade, just look at the influence millennial pink has had on the entire design industry.)

But with so many options—and nuanced variations—to choose from, selecting a shade to represent a full year is easier said than done. So how do the big paint brands do it? And what makes any regular hue worthy of being named Color of the Year? 

For many brands, our culture’s latest trends play a big role in the decision-making process.

“At Behr, our annual Color of the Year announcement gives us the opportunity to connect trends, culture, design, and creativity in a holistic way that resonates with DIYers and tastemakers,” Erika Woelfel, the brand’s vice president of color and creative services tells MyDomaine. “In today’s media landscape, people are inundated with inspiration, so we find that it’s helpful to hone in on one hue and theme that we anticipate will have an impact on lifestyles across the U.S. and Canada.” 

Our annual Color of the Year announcement gives us the opportunity to connect trends, culture, design, and creativity in a holistic way that resonates with DIYers and tastemakers.

For 2020, Behr selected a green shade called Back to Nature, which speaks to society’s craving for lush plants and wilderness landscapes. But why stop there? The company took it a step farther and created a 2020 Color Trends Palette, filled with 15 hues inspired by Mother Nature herself.

Of course, a shade’s trendiness is only one factor of finding the Color of the Year. Unlike some throw pillows or a roll of temporary wallpaper, choosing a paint color requires a lot of commitment. So it’s in anyone’s best interest to pick a paint hue that isn’t just the flavor of the week. (Okay, year.)

“A key factor in this process is selecting colors that will work well in the home, as there are colors that may be on trend, but are not ideal selections for painted surfaces,” says Andrea Magno, color marketing and development director at Benjamin Moore. ”We also aim to select a palette of colors that will not only be ‘on trend,’ but will also remain relevant for years to come, as we know that people don’t repaint their interiors each year.”

Take Benjamin Moore’s 2020 Color of the Year, First Light, for example. A rosy hue that teeters nicely between subtle and statement, First Light feels like a subtler take on the ever-so-popular millennial pink. 

We also aim to select a palette of colors that will not only be ‘on trend,’ but will also remain relevant for years to come, as we know that people don’t repaint their interiors each year.

But as décor brands begin to embrace the pigment phenomenon, what goes into selecting a Color of the Year is bound to change. Case in point: Etsy, which has unveiled its very own Color of the Year since 2019. And while culture and fads do play a role in the overall result, the company’s trend expert Dayna Isom Johnson says Etsy’s search data is at the core of its inspiration.

“Shoppers ready to dive head-first into the chartreuse trend can opt for statement-making pieces like accent chairs, area rugs, or patterned curtains to make a big splash,” she says of the 2020 Color of the Year. “If shoppers aren’t fully ready to commit, they can start out with a chartreuse accent pillow or throw blanket, and combine it with more neutral colors, like grey or navy, for an eye-catching combo.”

At the end of the day, no two Colors of the Year are the same. Every company inevitably chooses a different hues, with its own sources of inspiration. But no matter how a company picked that color for that year, one thing’s for sure: These hues are selected with a company’s customers in mind.

“Ultimately, we want to provide new ideas and advice for our customers so they can transform their spaces and love their homes,” Magno says.

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