Skip to content

A Color Expert's 7 Step Guide to Picking the Perfect Paint Color, Stress-Free

Blue Living Room Paint Color
Catherine Kwong Design

Picking out the perfect shade of paint to use inside your home can feel like an intimidating and overwhelming challenge. There are seemingly limitless options to choose from, and even when you do manage to make a decision, it can feel like quite the commitment. However, there are steps you can take to make the process feel a bit more manageable.

"Choosing interior paint colors for your home is very personal," says Erika Woelfel, color expert and V.P. of Color and Creative Services at Behr Paint. "But there are a few steps I always recommend to make the sometimes-overwhelming task easier," she continues.

According to her, there are a variety of questions homeowners can ask themselves before taking the plunge and committing to a new interior shade of paint. Essentially, it comes down to determining the desired mood of the room and picking a hue that helps evoke that feeling. You'll also want to examine existing factors in a space that could affect the way the paint looks throughout the day, such as natural light, permanent design elements of the room, and décor.

Keep reading to learn exactly how to pick paint colors, according to an expert. Here's how it's done.

Figure out what feeling you want to evoke

Blue Living Room Paint Color
Catherine Kwong Design

According to Woelfel, the first question you should ask yourself when picking out a new shade of paint for a room is "What type of feeling do I want to create in this space?" Consider how you want to feel in the room, as well as how you want guests to feel. If you want the space to feel serene, your paint color choice might be much different than if you want the room to be energetic.

Examine the colors that are already in the room

Pink Paint Color
Elizabeth Roberts Interior Design

Look around the room you want to paint and take note of colors that are already in the space. Consider what pieces of furniture and décor you definitely want to keep and make sure that your next choice of paint fits with the hues that will stay in the room.

"You'll also want to consider more permanent features of the room," Woelfel says. So be sure to take elements like wood paneling and the color of the flooring into account when picking your new shade.

Keep the purpose of the space in mind

White Kitchen Paint Color
Katie Martinez Design

The purpose of a room can help you pick out the perfect paint color. For instance, if you're redecorating a kitchen, you may want to think about whether you'll spend most of your time in the room working, relaxing, or entertaining others. This can help guide your decision making.

Consider the lighting

Light-Filled Living Room
Catherine Kwong Design

"The size of the room and lighting are also important factors to consider when choosing a color," the paint expert explains. According to her, homeowners often overlook the natural light of a space, which should influence paint decisions. "The direction of your light and windows will change the way your color appears on the wall," she points out. 

It's important to note that southern light will appear warmer while northern light is cool and more shadowed. "So be sure to paint large swatches throughout the room before committing to one color," Woelfel continues.

Stay away from highly saturated colors

Blue Living Room
Jessica Helgerson Interior Design

Although Woelfel believes that there's really no such thing as a bad paint color to put on a wall, she does suggest avoiding bright and highly saturated colors of any hue. She points out that colors like pink, yellow, bright green, and orange can be difficult to use as an overall wall color. However, more subdued shades of these colors can work.

"A toned down, less saturated version of each of these hues can bring just as much energy without being overwhelming as an all-over wall color," Woelfel says. If you are drawn to brighter, more saturated colors, the paint pro suggests using them in smaller proportions, such as on a door or an accent wall.

Keep it simple

Gray Living Room Paint Color
Liljencrantz Design

"Be sure that your wall color doesn't clash with focal points throughout the room," Woelfel advises. You can do this by maintaining a simple color scheme and avoiding the use of multiple different hues. "A general rule is to stick to one palette of three to five colors," she explains. "One white or light color, one to two neutrals, and one or two supporting colors," she continues. You can also go for a monochromatic look by using different color concentration combinations in a space.

Don’t be afraid to experiment

Black Paint Color
Jessica Helgerson Interior Design

According to Woelfel, the color black has been gaining popularity as an interior paint option. Although she points out that it can be tricky to use, she's not against a little experimentation. Just be sure to strike the right balance when using a bold tone. "Balance dark walls with light flooring, trim, or furnishings and pops of color to lift the mood," she suggests. You'll also want to try a large sample that you can view on the wall at different times of the day before making a commitment.

Next up: These 7 paint color trends are out.