Have you ever picked out what you thought was the perfect paint color? Then you paint the whole room and hate it? Many of us have. So, if you want to choose the right paint color the first time, there are some things you need to understand before you buy your paint.
Never choose the paint color at the paint store!
Light plays a huge role in how your color will look. When you’re looking at paint swatches in the store you are seeing them under the light of the store; typically fluorescent. Fluorescent lights cast a blue light which will dramatically change how that color swatch looks to you. If you took that same swatch outside on a sunny day it will look like a completely different color.
This is a big reason why you loved something in the store but not when you got it home!
Always, always, bring the color swatches home and look at them in the room that you are going to paint! Better yet, live with them on the walls for a few days. This way you can see how the color will react with different types of light. A sunny day vs. a rainy day. Daytime vs. night-time. Even the direction your room faces will cast different colors of light that changes throughout the day. All of these circumstances will play a role in choosing the right paint color. You should make sure you still love the color under all of these lighting conditions.
Here is an experiment to show you how light effects a color. Notice the gray in the white square looks dark compared to the gray in the black square where it looks lighter. They are the exact same color Gray. It’s the surrounding light, or lack of, that changes how the Gray looks.
This is a great example of why people get scared of a color being too dark when trying it on a white wall. Of course the color is going to look dark next to white!
Here are some of the types of light the sun will cast depending on which direction your room faces.
North-facing rooms: The light in these rooms will feel cool and look bluish. Bolder colors will show up better than muted colors and lighter colors will look subdued.
South-facing rooms: Lots of light from this direction makes cool and warm colors look best. Dark colors will look brighter and lighter colors will feel warmer.
East-facing rooms: Eastern light is warm and yellow in tone in the morning then turns bluer in the afternoon. These are great rooms for reds, oranges and yellows.
West-facing rooms: Evening light in these rooms is yellow and warm, but morning light is scarce and can make colors look dull.
Here are some colors artificial light will cast in your room
Artificial light also casts different colors, or temperatures of color, into a room. So when trying to choose your paint color keep the following in mind. Here are some examples of artificial light and their colors.
Incandescent: This bulb light casts a warm, yellow glow and will make reds, oranges, and yellows more vivid, while muting blues and greens.
Fluorescent: This bulb light emits a cool light and can make blues and greens more rich while muting warm colors like red and yellow.
Halogen: This bulb resembles natural light and makes all colors look more vivid.
Compact fluorescent lights (CFLs): CFLs can produce either a warm white, neutral, or cool bluish-white light depending on which you choose at the store.
LEDs: You can buy warmer or cooler LEDs, and even “smart” LED bulbs whose color you can control wirelessly. These can be great if you have an existing color that isn’t working at night. Just change the temperature of the bulb and your color will change.
If you look for bulbs that say “daylight” bulbs. That bulb will be very close to natural daylight and give your colors a “true” look.
Other colors in the room will change the look of your paint.
When trying to choose the right paint color, one problem is that colors actually change depending on the colors around them. Well, the color doesn’t change but the way we see it does.
If you have ever looked at a paint fan deck you would see that all the colors in that deck react to each other? For instance, if you look at a white paint swatch by itself… it looks white. But if you put it next to a different white swatch they will look completely different. One may look like a warm, antique white or maybe a cool, blue-white. But you won’t notice this difference by just looking at one white at a time. It’s all relative.
Look at this experiment. All of the little pink squares below are identical in size and in color but look different.
The pink color may be the same but our eyes perceive it differently because of the neighboring color. Even more interesting look at the color wheel below. You will see that the opposite color of the large square is the color that the small square takes on. For example, in the color wheel the opposite of yellow is purple. Look at the large yellow box. See how the pink looks purplish/pink? And in the green square the pink looks a little reddish/pink? Of course you have to consider that the colors on your computer may look different from mine but you can get the general idea.
Here is a website that has some interesting facts about color in general. You may be surprised on just how color effects us. UCreative.com
My own experience choosing a color
I painted my living/kitchen/dining/entryway yellow with white trim. I love yellow! I wanted it to be a yellow that was welcoming and warm. What I got was a bright, bold, florescent yellow! I loved the color…just not all over my walls! Not to mention when the sunlight changed in the room, so did the color. It went from an orangy/yellow in the morning to a highlighter yellow in the afternoon. YIKES So, I picked another softer, less florescent yellow and painted it again. And although it was better than the first color, I still didn’t love it. But, I liked it enough to live with it for a while. So how did I finally choose the right paint color? First of all I gave up on the yellow LOL All kidding aside I decided to go with a very soft, warm gray.
When choosing my new paint color, I knew that I didn’t want to look at this color next to my yellow walls. This is because I knew it would make the gray look “cool” next to the “warm” yellow. I wanted a “warm” gray. It could also look purplish next to the yellow which I didn’t want. So I made sure I could see the true color by looking at it in front of my white built-ins instead of on the yellow walls.
This is what not to do…and this is exactly what most people do. Dont tape that little paint sample up on the wall, next to the existing color! BAD IDEA! Yes, it’s good to live with the color like I said before. But don’t put it near or on a color you are getting rid of. Think of the squares in the experiment above. Your literally doing the same thing!
Here’s a better idea. Paint a large square on the wall. Put your hands up next to your eyes (like horse blinders). Now look at the color without seeing the old color with it. You will get a truer sense of how the color will look. But remember, if you have a bold color near it, it can absorb some of that color so keep that in mind.
For more “not to do’s” check out my post Decorating 911-Top 10 Decorating Mistakes everyone Makes
So how does all of this effect the paint colors you choose for your home?
To choose the right paint color for your room you have to not only consider the light in the room, but also consider what other colors are in your room as well. Will the color of other items react to the paint color you choose? For example, your upholstery fabrics, your artwork, your carpet, or your accessories like pillows and curtains.
You will be able to see how they work together if you put the color swatch, or a painted sample on the wall, with these elements in your view of it. So paint a sample area above the sofa. Lay the curtains, artwork or accessories your going to use on the sofa. Then use your blinders. That’s how you will get the whole picture.
How to choose the right paint color is by bring it home and simulating how it will look when the whole room is finished. This way you will not waste time and money picking the wrong paint color ever again.
Do you have a specific issue with how to choose the right paint color for your home? Leave a question or comment in the comment section below.
Want more decorating tips, then read my post “How to decorate like a pro”
Now that you are an expert in picking paint colors, pop over to my post “How to draw a floor Plan to Scale” and learn the next step in decorating.