Buying paint is one of the more affordable aspects of interior design, but the actual painting of a room is time consuming and can be costly. It’s a process you don’t want to have to repeat often, hopefully only every 7-10 years. That means there’s a lot at stake when choosing your color.
Here’s our step-by-step guide to getting it right the first time, every time.
Step 1: Pick the color you think is going to be perfect.
Scroll through paint chips. Flip through a paint fan. Google top colors for each type of room.
Then from all those choices, pick the one that looks perfect.* But don’t stop there . . .
*If you’re really having trouble finding a color you know you can live with, check out Benjamin Moore’s Historical Colors. They offer a deeper, richer and more sophisticated set of colors — you won’t go wrong with one of these beauties. We use Benjamin Moore paints exclusively because the quality is great, they have lovely options, and their line is readily available most everywhere.
Step 2: Pick your comparison(s).
You need a point of comparison to determine whether the color you’ve selected really is prefect. It’s especially important since the lighting in each room varies and it might turn out that you need a lighter (or darker) color than you thought.
Pick a runner-up, or if that feels like too much, pick a shade lighter or darker than your perfect color (or both!). But whatever you do, don’t sample more than three colors, or you’ll open Pandora’s box. Going “paint crazy” is a real thing. There are so many options, you can easily go mad. In case of paint paralysis, check out our Historical Color note above.
Step 3: Prep for sampling.
Purchase sample pots of paint. The paint stickers, chips, and swatches can be a big help. But different wall textures absorb and reflect paint differently. There is no substitute for actually applying the paint to the surface to get a true sense of what the color will ultimately look like.
You’ll need to sample the paints on two (yes two) walls in each room to be painted. You want to see how the color looks with lots of sunlight and without, so be sure to choose one wall that gets direct sun and another that doesn’t.
Step 4: Start with white.
Painting samples over an existing color is not going to give you a true sense of how the color will look on the wall. You need pure white space around each sample so you can “read” the color against a neutral backdrop.
If the wall isn’t already stark white, buy a can of white primer and create a 3’ primed square for each sample. Allow it to dry.
Step 5: Paint a sample swath of each color directly on the walls.
Paint 18”-24” squares of each color inside each of the primed areas. It’s a good idea to paint the squares in alphabetical order of the paint names, so you can remember which color is which. Apply one coat. Allow it to dry. Apply the second coat, and allow it to dry.
As it dries, the paint’s color will change, so be sure to wait a full 1-2 hours after the second coat has been applied before committing to a color. It’s also important to make sure you see the color during the day time and after the sun goes down. Finally, keep in mind that a small sample will appear darker than the color will look when painted all over.