Choosing Paint Colors

February 11, 2014
Spring Projects
Planning for Spring Projects
March 21, 2014

Choosing New Colors for Inside Your Home

Winter, Mud Season, and Spring are all good times to repaint the interior of your home. For one thing, you can’t paint outside during those cold wet months. For another, choosing colors is a great antidote to the winter blues.

Many people get nervous about choosing paint colors. After all, there are so many things to consider: How will they go with my drapes? How will they look under my lights? Will the new kitchen paint clash where it meets the dining room wall? Will my family like it? Will my friends?

Choosing colors can be easier when you know some basic color rules and also when you know the current color trends. Luckily, there are plenty of resources on the Internet to help you choose your palette.

Follow the Trends

The public’s taste in colors changes from year to year, and paint companies use very sophisticated computer programs to keep track of every subtle shade of paint they sell, day by day. They use that data to predict what the public will want in the coming year. Being smart business people, they publish those predictions on line, just to make sure the public knows what it wants.

The truth is, it makes sense to look at the paint-makers’ predictions. If you like the basic palette, you’ll have a ready-made list of complementary tints to choose from.

This year, for example, the trend has moved away from bold, saturated colors to muted, “calm colors,” including lots of grays, as you can see here at Remodelaholic.


It’s important to note, that paint companies can provide hundreds of shades of grays, in several different finishes. There’s a lot of color and variety mixed into a gray palette! Here’s another take on the trend toward gray in 2014, from the Paint Quality Institute.


And here are the 2014 trends according to Sherwin Williams and Benjamin Moore.

But what if you’d rather set your own trend? Try the color wheel.


The color wheel is based on the rainbow, with the colors fanning out from the center. It turns out there are lots of variations on the rainbow, depending on the hue you start with. The positions of the colors indicate how well they’ll go together. It can show you matching colors, complementary colors, competing colors, and clashing colors.

You can use the color wheel to pick out all of the colors in any room: paints, upholstery, drapes, lampshades, even paintings. Start with what you already have and see what goes with it.

Here is a very good primer on how to use a color wheel, from HGTV.

In the Chips

A final way to pick your colors is to head down to your local paint store and browse through their paint chips. It’s a good idea to start with a basic hue in mind: “I’m looking for something in the reds today.” Otherwise, you can get overwhelmed by the huge selection.

This is also the best way to match your “theoretical” colors from the paint wheel to the “real life” colors in the paint. Don’t be afraid to bring in a swatch of cloth or a throw pillow from the room you’re painting, but remember that those colors will look different under your lights and next to your windows. Don’t buy paint until you’ve brought some chips home to study in your home habitat.

By the way, when you get to the paint store, ask to see the biggest paint chips they can provide. Those little strips can be very hard to visualize as an entire wall, or even an entire lampshade. In some stores, they can print out a chip as big as a sheet of computer paper.

There are guidelines for working with chips, too. This blog post from Apartment Therapy provides a clear explanation of color balance and some great examples of the rules at work.

It’s Your House – Choose What You Like

Never forget that you’re the one who’s going to be living in your home, so choose the colors you love and that complement what’s already there (unless you’re planning to change all your furniture and paintings, too!). Don’t go trendy or be a rebel just because you’re feeling unsure or want to impress your friends.

And also remember that paint isn’t permanent. You can paint a wall, live with it for a day or two or three, and then paint over it if you change your mind.

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