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This Is the Biggest Mistake People Make When Choosing a Paint Color

Paint color mistakes
Courtesy of JHID

Not to state the obvious, but selecting a paint color is an overwhelming process. As anyone who's undertaken a trip down the paint aisle of their local home improvement store can attest, this deceivingly difficult decorating decision involves dozens of swatch options. Even shopping for a simple shade of white isn't as straightforward as you might expect.

To help take some of the guesswork out of the selection process, we turned to none other than Natalie Ebel, the co-founder of Backdrop, a direct-to-consumer paint retailer boasting a curated offering of just 50 shades. When it comes to choosing a paint color, "The biggest mistake is not trusting yourself and your own sense of style," says Ebel. "From there, there is no right or wrong answer. Just make sure you sample the color in your space before painting," she wisely points out.

Ahead, the co-founder of Backdrop weighs in on five paint color mistakes to avoid (and how to fix them), including the best way to put paint samples to the test and why you shouldn't stress over curating a cohesive color palette.

Mistake to Avoid: Choosing a Color That Doesn't Evoke an Emotion

Choosing the right paint color
Courtesy of JHID

Simply put: Selecting the right shade of paint can be daunting, but it shouldn't be anxiety-inducing. Think of it as a fun way to express yourself, Ebel advises. "Painting is such a powerful way to transform your space, but it shouldn't be treated like something precious," she says. "Your space can evolve just like you evolve." Don't overthink it, and opt for a color that evokes a strong emotion, she advises.

If you're not sure where to start, paint color names can help you narrow in on the hue with the right vibe for your space. "Paint colors and their names should be inspired and evoke emotion," says Ebel. With Backdrop, "We took a different approach to the naming process with names like Surf Camp, Morning Ritual, and Harajuku Morning that we would be proud to have as our backdrop." That said, you should ultimately choose a color based on how it looks in your space, not just its name.

Backdrop Cool Moon
Backdrop Cool Moon $59.00
Backdrop West Coast Ghost
Backdrop West Coast Ghost $59.00

Mistake to Avoid: Not Putting Samples to the Test

The biggest paint color mistake to avoid
Amy Bartlam ; DESIGN: JDP Interiors

Without a doubt, light is the most important factor in finding a shade that complements your space, so putting samples to the test is essential. Because sample pots can get messy, Backdrop instead provides adhesive samples that don't require a paintbrush and can easily be moved throughout a space, explains Ebel.

"Light changes throughout the day, so we recommend not only looking at the swatch in the morning, afternoon, and evening but also moving the sample around to different walls," she recommends. "I'm a big fan of putting the samples on corners since colors are dimensional and deep corner angles allow you to see more."

Although it's tempting to sample a wide range of shades, Ebel is quick to caution against getting carried away by testing too many hues. "Limit yourself to three colors so you don't get overwhelmed by choice," she advises.

Backdrop After Hours
Backdrop After Hours $59.00
Backdrop Supermoon
Backdrop Supermoon $59.00

Mistake to Avoid: Selecting the Wrong Sheen/Finish

The best white paint colors
Amy Bartlam ; DESIGN: Katie Hodges Design

"The number of sheen options at the hardware store, just like the number of colors, is overwhelming for most consumers," according to Ebel. With options ranging from flat and eggshell to satin, high-gloss, and semi-gloss, narrowing in on the right finish is nearly as difficult as selecting a shade.

That's why Backdrop only offers two finish options, a standard finish, which is semi-matte with a 6% sheen level, and a semi-gloss finish, which is 30% sheen. "The standard is great for most interior surfaces (including ceilings), while the semi-gloss is great for trims, cabinets, doors—and some people love it for bathrooms and kitchens, as well," Ebel recommends.

Backdrop Harajuku Morning
Backdrop Harajuku Morning $59.00
Backdrop Tanlines
Backdrop Tanlines $59.00

Mistake to Avoid: Stressing Over Curating a Cohesive Color Palette

Painted credenza
Sarah Sherman Samuel

One of the simplest ways to hone your search for the ideal shade is to consider the existing color palate in the space, including furniture, wall art, and home accessories. That said, "Don't stress about choosing your paint and every piece in your space with a master plan," says Ebel. "My advice is to select paint and items that make you feel something and that have stories attached to them."

"I actually love an eclectic style," she confesses. "In our home, almost everything came passed through generations of my family, including an amazing set of bright yellow chairs that are 60 years old, or found objects from our travels," she explains. "Our wall paint is a neutral palette (Supermoon) with the occasional dark accent wall (After Hours), which creates the perfect backdrop for an eclectic compilation of random and sometimes colorful finds."

Backdrop Ryokan Guesthouse
Backdrop Ryokan Guesthouse $59.00
Backdrop Morning Ritual
Backdrop Morning Ritual $59.00

Mistake to Avoid: Opting for a Cool Color Over a Warm One (or Vice Versa)

How to choose a paint color
Amy Bartlam ; DESIGN: Open House LA

"Cool colors can create a great calming sense in your space," explains Ebel. From Backdrop's collection, she's currently loving The Early Stuff, Cool Moon, and West Coast Ghost. Warm colors, on the other hand, can make a room feel more inviting, she explains. A few of her favorite warm shades from Backdrop include Self-Portrait, Ryokan Guesthouse, and Tanlines.

Backdrop Surf Camp
Backdrop Surf Camp $59.00
Backdrop The Early Stuff
Backdrop The Early Stuff $59.00