The Ulitimate Fail-Proof Guide to Choosing the Perfect Paint Colors


One good thing about military life... plenty of practice at color theory, interior design, and nesting! After talking with many of you, I know you are currently trying to choose that perfect color. And if you are any normal person, that task feels 1 part exciting and 15 (or 1500) parts daunting. But I am here to help!

(Ah hem. Let me tie on my super-hero cape because I'm feeling pretty fantastic about this one... Just stay with me through the end of this post. That's where the gold is!)

In the last few years of military moving, we have chosen 12 different paint colors for living rooms, bathrooms, bedrooms, kitchens, accent walls, etc.  We chose a few colors early on that I would never go back to, but mostly we made some really good choices we loved.

Each house has it's own personality, age, and lighting to get to know before choosing colors. Even the state's culture and earth-tones outside the window influence our paint color choices.

After repainting almost every square foot of this home, this is fresh on my mind. I hope it helps you!

If you are a details person, the middle of this article might give you a good spring board:

  1. Color changes. It will NOT look like the paint swatch once on your walls. The existing color on your walls before you paint over, the type of light bulbs you have, the way your windows face... these all change your color.
  2. Color also changes you (your moods and ability to think, function, relax or even eat).

Don't be dismayed. It gets better!

Instead of re-writing some basics on color, I want to just highlight some of the most helpful articles I found online about color. These will help you think about the big picture, and the big picture will help you narrow down the big stack of swatches.

  • Color effects your emotions.
    • Different colors have even been studied to have different healing properties.
    • So how do you want to feel in the space you are painting?
    • Check out this article on Room Color and How it Affects your Mood. Notice as you look at their example pictures how you feel. I want to scrunch my nose on some of them and puke on others and some make me just smile and relax. That's something you need to pay attention to.
    • However, I would stray away from the idea of that many different colors per room. It's exaggerated so you can really see how it affects your mood. Think of your home as a whole. You don't want to feel color overload as you go from room to room.
    • Color will change according to light.IMG_3044
      • The Play of Color and Light excellently explains the relationship between color and various sources of sunlight and light bulb types.
      • In this photo of our living room, you can see how one wall looks olive and one looks pinky beige according to the different types of bulbs in the kitchen area versus the green tints in the living area. It's all the same paint color (except for all those crazy paint samples near the fireplace!)
      • Color will date a home.
        • Paint a brand new build with avacado and orange and dark wood trim and it will inevitably feel like the 70's. Paint a house in beige and it will most likely feel about 15 years old. Paint with grey and it will feel contemporary/modern, but you risk feeling more industrial than homey. That cold feeling is why I think it's come in and out of vogue so quickly.
        • For resale, trends really do matter.
        • "Greige" is the current pallette that most are swooning about right now. This article does a great job explaining How to Choose the Perfect Greige and how undertones work (i.e. how to read a color swatch).
        • Kylie does a good job showcasing some of Sherwin William's Top Greige Paints.
        • I also like to poke around Fixer Upper's site for inspiration. They are SOOO lovable. Joanna often lists her paint colors, which is very helpful!
        • IMG_2735
        • Colors will mix and reflect according to surroundings.
          • Color projects itself. Example: Much of Joanna's choices have a bluer undertone, which I love. But in my house, the trim is off-white, almost ivory, so if paired with blueish-toned walls they look even more yellow and dirty.  If you are trying to mute something that's too yellow, blue will only accentuate the yellow tones. Or make them look green. Red will make it look more orange. That's why I went with purplish undertones to mute the yellow in the trim. ( Let me break that down... On a color wheel, yellow and purple are complimentary. Mix two complimentary colors and you get various shades of a neutral brown.) The photo below was my blue toned first swatch. You can see it clashes with pretty much everything!  Too bright and too blue.
          • Think about your existing colors. Your carpet can look fresher or dirtier depending on your paint color. So put your sample near the carpet. Also look at it with your tile and hardwoods and the flecks in your countertops. (Mom taught me all this!)
  • Also, my fireplace has lots to play with. Yellowy Beige. Grey. Charcoal. Purple. Blue. The original wall colors played off of that yellowy beige in the fireplace as seen in this photo. But then everything in the house became the same beige. I wanted some contrast so I played off of the grey and purple tones, mixed it with a touch of warm beige and voila! We chose a color!
  • Color changes the size of a space.
    • It can make a room smaller or larger and the walls shorter or taller. Here's just a picture of our walls cut in and I can't explain how much taller they felt already!

The gold I promised in the beginning...

You scrolled straight down to here, didn't you? Didn't want to read all the stuff in the middle? Caught you red-handed, didn't I?

Well, that's ok with me.

Because although quite helpful, studying light, color theory and trends are not going to give you the perfect color.

Your gratitude will.

Here's the deal. Color on a swatch will not be the same color on your walls.  You will put it on and it may turn shades of orange or olive that you do not like. You will inevitable doubt yourself when it goes on wet and doubt yourself when it dries. You will hope putting everything back in place and hung on the walls will make it be closer to that perfect color. But here is the greatest trick God taught me about paint...(drum roll please)....

After researching, studying, observing all my samples on the walls in different lights at different times of the day, taking a poll from my husband, 6 year old and 18 month old, asking friends, my mom and praying... we chose Angora. A dreamy comforting creamy warm-grey-beige greige. And then we put it on the walls. To my horror, it turned pink, mauve, lavender. It felt like nail polish from 1989!  (I'm exagerating. Pick it. It's a great color!)

I turned to the Lord as each brushstroke became more and more mauve. I almost blamed Him. (Yikes!) And He did an amazing thing. He changed my heart to be grateful. As I continued cutting in with the paint, I began to thank God.

Thank you for this home.

Thank you that we have a warm, safe place to live in.

Thank you that we have natural sunlight here.

Thank you that we can afford this paint.

Thank you for the lady I met at Sherwin Williams.

Thank you for a fresh paint color to make it feel more like our own place.

Thank you that my husband is willing and not so crabby to help me paint all this.

Thank you for eggshell paint and how much brighter the room feels now.

And as I prayed, the strong pinks and purples I saw before actually faded into rich beautiful (and thankfully quite subtle) undertones. The color actually changed. And you know what. I love Angora! I love everything about it for this house. It reminds me of mom.

You may not believe me. You may say my perception changed. But I say, God does stuff like that. He is able. He can change both what I see AND my seeing.

And I must tell you today, a grateful heart is THE ONLY foolproof failproof way to choose a perfect paint color.

The gold is in your gratitude!

So, paint away my friends! Cheers to a new beginning on the walls. And pretty please, tell me what you choose and how it goes!

Lots of love and paint splatters,

danita jenae