Thursday, June 2, 2011

My Little Secret: How to Pick Paint Colors Like a Pro

I have a little secret.

I have never, EVER tried out a sample of paint before purchasing. And then immediately splashing the new color all over our walls.

The reason?

I don't feel the need to.

See, I believe that a house should "flow" from one room to another, each color blending into the next and making walking from room-to-room a wonderful and sensuous experience (yes, I did just use the word "sensuous" to describe a home's paint job). If a home's color scheme is well-thought out, it should make sense to someone touring your house, while also making your house feel cohesive and larger by letting each room's color mesh into the next.

Now, this is a common belief among many - that a house's colors should "flow" throughout.

And my simple solution to ensure that the new paint color you're picking will fit right in without being a huge blaring mistake and interrupting your home's flow?

Knowing that it's all relative. That's my secret.

Have you ever taken a slew of pretty paint color chips that look nice on the shelf, and held them up to one another - only to realize that suddenly, magically, one of them is too green, one is too gray, one is too peach, etc.? It's because colors play off of one another, and your eye usually doesn't see the slight differences in undertones until they're all held up right next to each other.

So if detecting paint undertones is so difficult, how in the world do you make sure that your new paint color will fit and flow with the rest of your house - without even testing a sample or leaving the paint store?

And here's my awesome little secret:

Yep, that's right, a ziploc bag chock full of paint chips. So sophiscated, huh?

But really, this little ziploc bag has saved us lots of hours of labor and money and heartache. It's simple, easy, and (practically) foolproof.

Here's how it works:

This baggie contains all the paint chips of the colors in our house. Each paint chip is labeled according to which room it is. When we're shopping for a new paint color, I just toss the baggie into my purse and we're on our way. Once we're at the store, I whip it out and compare all the chips with our homes' colors on them to any new paint colors, paying attention to flow and undertones. It's easy to find the perfect shade of the new color, because I can instantly tell when one isn't going to work - it just LOOKS wrong. And it doesn't jibe with all the other colors.

Best of all? All the paint chips are under the same lighting in the store, so as long as you pay attention to how the colors flow together, they should still be flowing together under any light (but if your house gets different lighting in different rooms it's a good idea to take the chips or a sample home to make sure!).

Want to make your own? It's super-easy!

- Find the paint chip for every paint color in your house, label them, and keep them in the ziploc bag.
- If you don't have a paint chip, grab the leftover paint from the can and make your own with a piece of cardstock paper and a dab of paint.
- Anytime you go shopping for any major purchases for your home (new furniture, carpet, tile, paint), just simply throw your ziploc bag into your purse and you're set!

Now, if you want to be doubly-sure of your new paint color, of course go ahead and buy a sample.

I'm just lazy.

So there's my little secret. Anyone else have any tips or tricks up their sleeves for picking paint colors? Do you have a foolproof or favorite method of picking paint? Let's share tips about the number one dilemma when decorating your home!

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  1. Nice technique! I tend to be terrible at picking out paint colours... my most recent mistake was forgetting about matching a paint colour to our bathroom tile. We went with something that I thought was mostly neutral, got it on the walls and felt like the whole room just kind of blended into a big ball of blah. *pout* Not making that mistake again!

    This is a good idea, but I might suggest adding a chip of tile to your little baggy for any rooms that you might need to match colour to tile.

  2. Great idea. I do want to say though, sometimes your home lighting does matter, so looking at those chipsat home may make them look completely different.

    We were picking out a color for our guest bedroom and wanted something neutral that would flow since you can see it from the living room.. Our floor plan is very open so we went the monochromatic route in our kitchen, dining room, living room and hall way. The mono chips had four colors all together, and we wanted the lightest color (and the one we hadnt used yet) for the guest room.

    In the store all 4 looked great together, even in the room the chips looked great. Hubby convinced me to get a test pot just incase and I'm so glad I did! When I put it on the wall, it looked totally green, and not the color we wanted. I thought maybe the pot was mixedl wrong, but when I held up the chip to it, it was the exact color.

    All was good though. We used the chips to pick out a less green color.

  3. Great tips! Thanks so much for sharing, and keep the tips coming!

    Nette - That is a fantastic idea for matching paint to permanent furnishings! Another idea (if you have no spare tiles lying around that you can use to pry a chip off of) is to match some paint samples to the tiles, carpet, etc, in your home - then you can take the paint chip anywhere! (and keep it in your baggie)

    Ginnie - I completely agree, home lighting does indeed matter (as do existing furnishings and such), and I'm glad that you decided to try a tester before buying and everything worked out for you! This is something I definitely should mention in my article - thanks for bringing it up!


  4. I don't have a baggie, but I do carry around out swatches in an envelope! Well, I haven't in a long time because we've basically done all the painting we are going to - but it also works for accessories and decor. Woot!

  5. Sara - An envelope definitely works, too! Looks like you've been doing the same thing I have, and I agree - those free little paint chips definitely make selecting new decor and accessories much easier! ;)


  6. nope, no good ideas from me! I bought 7 different samples before we painted our living room, dining room and kitchen "wicker."

  7. We're also pretty brave with paint and never do samples up on the wall. I have the whole Benjamin Moore fanbook of colors and I do a similar exercise to yours. We always say "it's only paint!". It's such instant gratification too! Compared to other projects!


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