How to Choose the Right Paint Color for Every Room

Dazey Den

Dazey Den

In the mood for a revamp? Painting a room or a single wall in your home is a simple DIY that promises to have a major impact in any space. When it comes to taking on a home renovation project, doing your due diligence is a must. From sampling chips to evaluating natural light, there are a number of essential dos and don’ts you should consider before you even walk into a paint shop.

Drawing inspiration from a selection of our favorite color-rich interiors, we’ve culled our tried-and-true tips to have you well on your way to the perfect paint color. These impeccably executed spaces promise to pique your paint interest, leaving you feeling inspired and ready to roll. Whether adding a flourish of Kelly green to a crisp white dining space or bringing in an imaginative hue for a statement wall, the following thoughtful and spirited abodes are among our favorite examples of how to paint like a pro in every room in the house.

01 of 10

Take Note of Permanent Features

Bohemian Kitchen

Sarah Fultz Interiors

Before you even lift a paint palette, look around your home and take inventory of the permanent features of your home. Do you have dark-stained wood floors, exposed beams, or a brick fireplace? Are you planning to make any permanent changes in the near future? The hue and tone of all these elements should be strongly considered before you move forward with your design.

02 of 10

Don't Use Paint as a First Step

Living room with gallery wall

Reena Sotropa Design

It’s okay to walk into your design process knowing that you want pops of color, but choosing your paint color should be the last step in your design process. First, find inspiration for your room, be it in a family painting or a textile you love. Select your fabrics, furniture, and major accents first, and then consider how they all come together.

Is there a hint of yellow in your botanical-print fabric that you want to pull out? Is your stained wood table darker than you realize? It’ll be too late to chime in on these details if painting was your first step.

03 of 10

Get to Know the Color Wheel

colorful living room

@dazeyden/Dazey LA

To find colors that complement your chosen fabrics, finishes, and furniture, use a color wheel. The expression “opposites attract” is as true when it comes to color as it is when it comes to relationships: Hues opposite each other on the color wheel are complementary.

04 of 10

Test Paint Before Committing

Kitchen with blue island

House Sprucing

If you’re seeing chartreuse everywhere lately, that’s a good sign it’s a color that’s on its way out. Though your walls can be repainted, it’s not something you’ll want to do once a year. If you’re lusting after an on-trend color, use that in your accents and select a wall paint that’s more timeless and/or subtle.

05 of 10

Consider the Bigger Picture

entryway with starburst painted ceiling, rustic orange and white

Erin Williamson Design

One of the biggest mistakes people make when painting their homes is not considering adjacent rooms and how the room works as a whole. The colors in your home—especially on the same floor—should have a cohesive palette and should complement each other. Likewise, if you have accent walls, a painted staircase, or a statement-making ceiling, those should also complement each other. Pull together swatches for each and ensure that they jibe.

06 of 10

Find Complementary Neutrals

bedroom with peach and white walls

Reena Sotropa Design

Will you be choosing multiple paint colors for one room? Choose your boldest color first, and then select the others with the first in mind. It’s more difficult to find complementary hues for bright, bold colors.

07 of 10

Think About Mood and Purpose

calm living room

Thomas Guy Interiors

Before you begin thinking of colors, you should ask yourself how you use the space as well as who uses the space. These are both important factors in color choice.

Are you painting a workspace that needs to feel energizing? You may want to select a warm color, which has a stimulating effect and perhaps a bright one—maybe even white. Are you designing a movie lounge or a bedroom that should have a calm vibe? Cool colors, which tend to recede, may be your ticket; you may even want a dark, moody color to create a nest-like effect.

08 of 10

Pay Attention to Lighting

Blue Paint Colors
Chris Patey for My Domaine

Lighting is one of the most essential factors to consider when selecting a paint color. Natural daylight shows the truest color, so if you have big, bright windows, your paint should turn out true to the swatch. But be mindful of what time of day you tend to use each room—if you’re only using a room at night, that great natural light of yours won’t have any effect.

Incandescent bulbs tend to bring out warm tones and yellows, and fluorescent lighting can cast a sharp blue tone, so test your swatches with the lights in your home before you commit.

09 of 10

Maximize Space

white bright dining room

Sarah Fultz Interiors

Do you want to make a long, narrow space feel bigger and wider than it is? Select a lighter color for the longer walls and a slightly darker hue for the short walls to maximize the space.

If you want to make an expansive space feel more cozy and intimate, however, use warm hues—such as browns, oranges, or reds—that advance toward you to make the walls feel closer. Do you want to make a small room seem bigger? Use cool hues—such as blues, greens, and purples—which recede visually, to make the walls feel more distant.

10 of 10

Order a Ton of Samples

colorful bedroom

House 9

The cardinal rule of painting is to test, test, test. If you don’t test your paint sample, you’ll very likely wind up wasting an afternoon or weekend spent painting—or the cost of a painter. Grab a sample pot of paint and test your favorite swatches near all the sources of light in a room.

Test them on a piece of wood or drywall, and hold them up to your flooring, your tile, and other permanent fixtures (remember those?) to see how they’ll compare. Testing only a white wall won’t give you a sense of how the color complements other elements of the room.

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