7 Secrets to Choosing the Right Color for your Walls

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How do you go about finding the right color for your walls?

When you think you need to do something about the looks of your place, painting the walls is most certainly going to pop into your head – because everybody knows painting the walls is such an easy change and quick fix to a stale interior. An it’s not going to cost you the world – just pick a color and get on with it already.

AH! But then you get to stand in front of a wall of paint swatches at the store, and you take one little card from its pocket, and you see anther and you take that, and another, and another, and one more and more until you have stack of them in your hand and you feel little sheepish.

Now what?

Seattle Times recently published an article I wrote that will help you out.


Painting the walls a brand new color is a quick and affordable way to update your room and give it a fresh look.

But how do you know the color you’re picking is right for your space? When you’re faced with a hundred color chips it can be pretty daunting. Even experts sometimes get it wrong.

Here are some of the best designer secrets to help you with the process.

  • Don’t pick your color in the paint store — It can be very tempting to just pick a color off the shelf and get on with it. I’ve done it more than I should admit and ended with devastating end results. Finding the right color is all about context – the locality of the room, the amount and quality of light, and how it interacts with the things in the room. Always test your colors in the room you’re painting.
  • Don’t look at the color sample at an arbitrary angle — This sounds obvious, but sometimes we forget. Color is all about how the light hits it. If you’re painting walls, hold it vertical, or if it’s the ceiling – hold it up above your head. This will give you a more accurate indication of what the color will really look like in the end.
  • Test on a white background — When you put a color swatch directly on a previously painted wall – unless it’s white – it will give you a warped idea of the new color. Because colors influence one another it’s best to test the new color on a white background. Simply use a large piece of white paper to blank out the old color.
  • Don’t rely on a small paint chip — A pretty color on a small chip doesn’t necessarily make a pretty color on the vast expanse of your walls. To get a better sense of how the color will feel on large scale, you’ll need a bigger swatch of paint. A large sample will also better reveal the true undertone of the color to test against the undertones of other elements in the room.


  • Don’t paint your sample on the wall — When you’ve narrowed down your colors to a few favorites, paint your test samples on poster board – NOT directly on your wall. This way you’ll be able to test your colors on different walls and even in different rooms. You’ll also be able to block out the existing wall color with something white.
  • Move it around — With your large sample boards you can put some poster putty on the back and stick it on your walls to get an idea of how the color will look. Test it on different spots on the wall, and move it all around the room to see how the light affects the color. Also look at it at different times of the day, and next to the fixtures in the room.


  • Find the bossy fixture — If you’re working with existing finishes, determine which one is the most prominent in your room – it might be the fireplace surround, carpet, counter top, or large piece of furniture. The undertone of that fixture will be the your guideline for the neutral colors you select for the room. Hold your color boards next to the fixture to get a coordinating undertone match.

This sound like a lot of trouble to just get the color right, but it’s a whole lot less than the disappointment, agony, and cost of having to do it all over when you realize the color is wrong after it’s been painted on the walls.

If you have a color dilemma, or just a question about color – shoot away!

Smile & Go!


interior design information



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