Picking the Perfect Paint Color

Have I talked about anything other than paint this week?  Oh right, I did talk about pork.  Great, we can get back to paint now.

One of my college friends commented on my post about paint earlier this week.  Megan said:

“Do you have any suggestions on how to go about picking a wall color?
I always seem to love the tiny sample and not the overall wall.”

While I am far from perfect when it comes to picking paint colors, I do have a few reliable tricks.  And so far, none of them include taping paint swatches on the wall or buying small samples to paint in test squares.

Nope.  I cheat completely.  I copy the hard work of others.

But at least I admit it!

My first resource is inspiration pictures.  So many people have taken to showcasing their homes online (either on blogs or just Flickr) and sharing their design choices, so it is easy to spot and identify a color that you like.  I recommend doing Google searches or reading home improvement blogs to hunt down a room with a color you like, then snag the details on the paint color.  If the color isn’t listed, you can likely leave a comment or send an email to ask what the color is.  Trust me,  we bloggers are usually more than happy to share and talk about ourselves!

Take the nursery paint color for example.  When I saw this nursery, I immediately fell in love with the wall color.

via Ohdeedoh.com

I also took note of the room and realized we also have two windows that get a lot of sunlight and that I would be using a lot of white and bright accents, so the color would likely look similar in our room.  Luckily the talented mom who designed this room listed the color as Benjamin Moore’s Gray Horse.  So, I trudged down and had Lowe’s match the color using Olympic’s zero VOC paint.

Does the paint look identical in our room as it does in the picture?  No, not quite depending on the lighting, but it is pretty darn close and we love it.

Another great place to look is the Pottery Barn catalog.  Even if the big PB isn’t quite your taste or within your budget, the catalog does the huge favor of listing paint colors that are used in the display rooms.

Again, the color won’t look identical in your home, but you can get a sense for what it would look like against your furniture, etc.  And remember, most stores can match colors from any brand of paint, so don’t worry about seeking out Benjamin Moore paint just because you want that color.

When I’m not immediately finding a color that I love in inspiration photos, I work backwards.  I pick out some swatches that I like in the store, bring them home and then Google Images and I become best friends.  I just type in the paint brand and color and usually I get a slew of photos that show the paint color used in the homes of others.

For example, here is a photo that shows up in Google Images for Olympic’s Guacamole paint (with day light)…

And here’s how it ended up looking on my dining area accent wall (in candle light)…

And, if nothing shows up in my Google Images search then I assume the paint color isn’t cool enough for me to use.

Not really.  Well maybe.

Let’s just say that I am much more likely to try a color if I can find others who have.

Finally, I do have one go-to resource that I usually check out before going too crazy: the Young House Love Foolproof Paint and Color Scheme post.  This post by John & Sherry is chock full of suggestions for any hue you might be considering.  This is where I first saw Behr’s Pensive Sky listed, which I ultimately chose for our first floor bathroom makeover.

And that, my friends, is how I copy others and take very few risks when picking paint colors.  Aren’t you impressed?

I hope this is helpful, Megan!

Does anyone else have any friendly paint advice to offer?  I hope someone has a more calculated approach than I do…

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  1. That post from John and Sherry sealed the deal on our nursery color (BM’s Hawthorne Yellow), after I used Google Images to check out other rooms. I also buy the sample jars and paint a sheet of cardstock or poster board to create a larger swatch.

  2. Megan Rand says:

    Thank you, Erin. This is so helpful! I was glad you had advice other than buying a sample to paint on the wall. I can’t wait to get onto Google Images to check out some wall colors for our bedroom. Thanks so much!

  3. I seriously think we were separated at birth. I have done ALL of these things in the past 3 days. I’m trying to pick colors for the entire house and I’ve totally consulted google images (by far my favorite trick), flickr, Pottery Barn and Young House Love’s paint post. How hilarious is that? It’s like you have seen my Internet history. 😉

    I LOVE the nursery inspiration. Seriously, I want that room in our house.

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