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Interior Design & Decor
Picking a color to paint a room is a daunting task! If only it was as simple as choosing a color from a rainbow... Typical rainbows have only seven colors, with expanded rainbows having up to 12 colors. What is the number of possible colors you can choose from when painting the walls of your home? More than 10 million!
To help, here’s how to pick paint colors like an interior designer, plus some tips and tricks on how to make smart choices when it comes to the type of paint finish for each component and room in your home.
While you don’t have to be an expert in color theory, understanding a few concepts and terms will certainly help when it comes to picking the right paint for your home.
For instance, there are two types of colors: primary and secondary. Primary colors are always the three same colors: red, yellow and blue. These are the base colors. All other colors (both in the rainbow and in the world) are known as secondary colors.
The variety of color is known as a hue. For example, aqua is a hue of blue. On the other hand, a color tone describes the process of adding gray pigment to a primary or secondary color. Adding gray tones down a color, making it softer; removing gray helps make the color pop, making it brighter. Like tone, tint is used to describe the process of adding white to a color. Lighter tints have more white than darker tints. On the flipside, a shade is a term used to describe the process of adding black to a color.
Colors are also described as either warm or cold. Warm colors are typically hues of red, orange and yellow — colors often associated with fire, the sun and other cozy or warm images. Cool colors are typically hues of blue, purple and green — colors often associated with images of water and nature and remind us of relaxed, calm scenery.
Why are all these terms important? Quite often, we select the color of our paint based on the mood we want to feel in each individual room. If you want a tranquil bathroom, you may choose a cool color; if you want a cozy, tranquil bathroom, you may opt for a cool color that is darker in shade or with a more subdued tone.
That said, don’t be surprised if you gravitate towards a shade or hue of white. Of all the paint colors for walls, bright white is still the most popular choice. It makes small spaces feel lighter and bigger, and it easily pairs with almost any other color in your home’s decor.
Once you know the theory, it’s time to put it into practice. To help pick the perfect color for each room, follow these tips:
#1: Bring it home. Don't make a decision based on how a color looks in the store. Pick up a color-swatch card (or two or three) and take it home. Stick it on the wall of the room you want to paint and turn lights on and off, while opening curtains and shades. You want to get an idea of how this color (or all colors) look in your home.
#2: Paint a sample. The best way to choose a color is to try it out. Invest in a quart and apply the color to a two-by-two-foot piece of foam board (available at paint centers and art supply stores). Position the panel in several parts of the room at different times of the day. Doing this allows you to see how the color looks throughout the day, with the changing light, and whether or not it evokes the imagery and feelings you are looking for.
#3: Match what you love. Do you already know the colors you love? Match it. Every paint store and local hardware store that sells paint should color-match for free. Just bring in a piece of the fabric, textile, wallpaper or even magazine page. Keep in mind that to properly color-match, your sample must be able to sit flat and have at least a half-inch square of solid color.
#4: Go online. Take the guesswork out of picking colors and use a computer. These days there are a variety of free programs that let you try out colors on virtual walls.
Once you’ve narrowed down your color palettes, it’s time to select paint. But, wait! Before you commit to any brand, you need to find out if you’re selecting the right paint finish.
Selecting the right finish is important: each type will vary the look and feel of a color. Selecting the right type is also important because each finish has its advantages and drawbacks, which makes it suitable – or not – for each type of room or use.
To help, here are the various types of paint you can choose:
This finish is best used for walls with many imperfections. It’s also the best option for ceilings and walls in bedrooms, dining rooms and living rooms. One of the reasons it’s such a popular finish is because it’s an easy finish to touch-up, but it’s a hard finish to clean. Keep in mind, the better the paint, the easier it will be to clean.
Do not use: This is not a good finish to use in kitchens or bathrooms or any other room where moisture and humidity can vary dramatically.
This low-sheen finish is a great choice for living room or bedroom walls, since it’s an easy finish to apply touch-ups to, and wipe clean.
Do not use: Don’t use it in high-traffic areas such as hallways, since the delicate finish can mark easily.
This paint finish has a silky, pearl-like sheen, making it a good choice for woodwork as well as walls in the family room, a child's room, the laundry room, kitchen and bathroom. As a paint finish that adds a bit of warmth to a room, it’s a great option for rooms that may require frequent washes of the wall.
Do not use: In rooms or in areas that will require touch-ups, since any differences between an old and a new coat of satin paint will be visible.
The semigloss finish is a popular choice for trim and moldings as it’s a tough finish that is both durable and easy to clean. As a result, a semigloss finish is also ideal for kitchen and bathroom walls because it is more resistant to humidity and withstands stains, chipping and scuffing.
Do not use: In rooms or in areas that will require touch-ups, since semigloss is more difficult to touch up; the difference in sheen will show up easily.
Unless you have a perfect wall, don’t use gloss-finish paint. This paint finish is spectacular but will show imperfections, just like a mirror does. For that reason, it’s typically used on woodwork, trim, moldings, and any other surface that is perfectly smooth and requires high durability. The good news is that gloss is the easiest to clean.
Do not use: While gloss is the easiest to clean, it’s the most difficult to touch up. For that reason, do not use in rooms or areas where touch-ups will be required.
Now that you know the basics of how to choose colors for a room, as well as the right paint finish, it’s time to put these tips into practice. Explore and experiment when selecting the right paint color — play around a little to help bring out your unique personality in every room.