The Sure Fire Way to Pick the Right Paint Color!

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I’m not gonna lie.  Picking paint colors can be overwhelming.  When we moved into our home, I had no idea where to start.  So much so, that I just gave into my four year old and painted our dining room Orange.

It wasn’t the worst ever, but I was never really happy.  People liked it.. or at least they were very nice about it.

Then I painted my foyer and piano Pear Green.  It’s very, very peary.  Greeny. Pear Greeny. {this is getting a MAJOR overhaul soon.  Involving Snowbound and what I hope will be an amazing wall treatment with some leftover wood flooring that my dad gave me a while back!}

Here was my big mistake:

Just buying the paint based on the paint chip.  You seriously cannot tell how paint is going to look in your home from a little, tiny square of paper.

It’s not possible. Ever.

So, after the Orange Dining Room and the Pear Green Foyer, I realized that I really needed to figure this thing out.  I had a ton of wall space to paint downstairs and I didn’t want to make a HUGE mistake because even though our house isn’t totally “open”,  all the walls from the family room around to the kitchen flow and needed to be the same color. At least, I think they do.

Instead of picking a color and diving in, I decided to take my time.

I’ve come up with a very easy to follow system and, today, I’m letting you in on it!

How to Decide on Paint Colors When You Don’t Know Where to Start


1. Go to the Internet.

Browse Pinterest (or as I did before Pinterest came along, Google Images)  for rooms that your love.  You won’t be able to recreate the color exactly, but you’ll get a feel for what colors speak to you.

Create a board or an actual, tangible mood board for your room or rooms with the colors that you like.

2. Go to a real paint store

I use Sherwin Williams because I love them.  I have a great store and the guys always help me find amazing colors. I find the big box stores don’t really have the time or expertise to help me.

Pick out a few paint chips and ask about the bases.  What colors are used as the base?   Is it more green or blue?  Does it have more black in it or yellow?  It really makes a difference.

If you want a true green, you don’t want to have a strong blue undertone in it, kwim?

Or as in my case, the Pear Green has too much yellow in the base.  It’s just overwhelming.  I really wanted something a little softer, which the chip looked in the store, but when I got it on the wall it was CRAZY!

3. Try out the chips in your home

If you can get big chips, even better.  Tape them to your wall and look at them in the different shades of daylight… and at night.  Colors change.

Trust me.

4. Narrow down your choices and buy samples

So important.  SO important.  Spending 20-30 dollars on samples may seem like a waste, but it’s not.  It’s not!

Here is my front door when I was trying to decide on what color to paint it.

front door paint samples
Click the image and you can see which color I decided on.

And yes, it stayed like that for several days while I decided what to do.

Take those samples home and paint them on the wall or buy a scrap of drywall from the hardware store and use that.  Just get that paint up on the wall somehow and sit with it.  If you use a piece of scrap drywall, you can carry it around the room to get a better feel for how it will look.

Watch it through the day and night to see how the color reacts.

5. Get Opinions from your friends and family

I don’t go overboard with this, but it was very important that Morgan liked the paint color. He hated the idea of teal, so I stayed away from lighter blue-greens. Even though I really wanted to go with a teal color, I didn’t want him to hate it.

I’m so freaking nice, aren’t I?

6. Choose your color and paint!

We finally decided on Moody Blue for our downstairs.

Here it is in our Family room:


It’s such a neat color.  Sometimes it looks more green and sometimes more blue.  I love how the color plays in the light, and I’m still not tired of it.

That, to me, tells me I have a winner.  It doesn’t mean I won’t paint is someday, but after 6 years, I’m still very, very happy with it.

Do you have any other advice for my BOLD readers?  Leave me your thoughts down in the comments so we can all learn from your experience!

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  1. This is BRILLIANT Gwen! I’ve made the same mistake just buying the entire gallon based on a single paint chip I thought I liked (like just a few weeks ago – even though I should know better!). I’ll definitely be pinning these tips for the next time I’m on the hunt for the perfect paint!

  2. Great tips! We are going to be painting our office in the next week or so and these tips will be super helpful. I’ve definitely just bought paint off the chip before and while it’s okay, I relize I could have done so much better. I’m going to try to not make the same mistake twice!

    1. I’m obsessed with buying paint samples, now! I can’t wait to see what you do in your office!

  3. When I decided to paint my first room I was super lost but what I ended up doing that really helped me was building the identical version of my house on the Sims game lol….it’s super lame but it works! I also use it to help me figure out where to place furniture when I’m re-arranging

  4. I just went through this, and the sample colors changed color, (some slightly, some a lot) on each wall. Lighter colors that I really liked in the store, washed out to look almost white…it was crazy. The color I went with in the livingroom/kitchen and hall were Olympic One, semi gloss, brandied pear. It was dead on…. I am so glad I took my time, did the swatch thing, sample thing, to get the right paint. I used the samples for other paint projects too! So, no loss.

  5. I can’t stress enough the importance of going to a paint store! I’ve been burned twice at the big box store, that rhymes with gnome beeboe. The first time, my burgundy turned out to be fuschia, & the second time, my terra cotta turned out to be flesh. D-:= And they have a policy of not fixing the colors, too!

    1. Oh, that is awful, Laurinda! I totally agree about going to a real paint store. There is nothing like it!!!


      1. Well the fushia grew on me, & I kept it for 13 years. The flesh tone however, my daughter bullied them into darkening it up to terra cotta. Except I really want a dark chocolate, or a dark gray now

        1. Ha! My office was a really hot pink for a while. It’s now white! I want to paint everything white now for some reason. I guess because I want to add in bright pops of color!

          We just keep changing it up. That’s what is so fun!

  6. my tip for paint color is to paint last. Painting first is such an instinct but it’s so much easier to find a paint to match a beautiful chair,than find a chair that matches the exact color of your wall.

    1. That is a great tip, Emily! And one I totally forgot to mention, so thank you!

  7. Thanks for the great advise. I was feeling really “stuck”, not updating my home due to the daunting task of picking a paint color. Thanks for putting the process into perspective!! Also, I forgot how great Sherwin Williams was when we painted our offices at work. Duh. Much appreciated. ps. Your blue walls are really unique and rich looking. Good choice.

    1. Terri,
      I’m glad to be of assistance! I hope this helps you ‘go bold’ with your home!

  8. Home Depot and Lowe’s have sheets that you can paint and then move around the room to see how it looks on each wall. They work great! (2 sheets per pkg.) Thanks for sharing all your great tips!

  9. Thank you for suggesting you go to a real paint store before buying paint. My daughter is wanting to paint her room. I think we will have to shop around and find the right color for her.

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