My Go-To Method For Choosing The Right Paint Color

Learn how to choose the right paint color the first time using this method! Don't fall into the trap of making a decision based off of a tiny paint chip!

Let's face it - choosing the right paint color can be a bear. 

There are a million different paint colors out there and they have a way of looking astonishingly different depending on the light in your home. (If you haven't witnessed this yourself, trust me, it's true!). Picking the best one for your walls can be one of the most anxiety-provoking design decisions because you really only get one shot at it. The pressure is even higher if you're hiring out your paint job - you definitely don't want to have to pay twice to get the project done!

So what's the best method for getting for getting that paint color right the first time? Well, I've got a tried and true one for you that has worked beautifully for both my clients and my own home and I'm going to let you in on it today! It requires some effort from you on the front end, but it's WELL worth it and will save you a lot of headaches and regrets down the road.

The key to picking the right paint color is SAMPLES.

Please, please, please don't ever pick a paint color based off of that tiny paint chip from the paint aisle. It's way too small for you to make a good assessment on whether it's the right one for your space. DO, however, narrow your paint color search by picking up a bunch of those little chips in shades you like and bring them home to get an initial sense of whether they're contenders. The light in the home improvement center or local paint store will be different from yours, so even if you like what you're seeing in store, you need to bring them home to see what they look like there. 

(Psst! Here's an extra credit tip for you for this first part: see if you can borrow a fan deck from a designer friend, painter, or from the paint store if you want to have ALL of your initial options at your fingertips. They're really handy!)

Once you've settled on 3-6 colors you like based on the paint chips, get some samples.

Samples pots are small containers you can have mixed up in any color. They're the perfect "try before you buy" size. Every paint store or home improvement center has these available. If you want to make it easy on yourself, stick with one paint brand so you can have all of your sample colors mixed at the same time.

(On a side note, did you know that Home Depot will ship you 8 oz. paint samples for free!?* Save yourself a trip to the store!) 

If you do want to try colors from multiple paint brands, but don't want to run all over town collecting samples, you can have them color matched in a different brand's paint. What I mean by this is that you can have a Benjamin Moore color matched in a Behr paint for example - you just need to bring the paint's name and number with you to the store. They all have libraries of other paint brands stored in their systems for this very purpose. 

Keep in mind though that the color may not be a perfect match to what you see on the paint chip since every brand's formulations are proprietary. They're often really great matches, but there are times when it doesn't work out exactly how you expect. The key to pulling off this color matching strategy successfully if you like the sample you got is to go back to the same paint store and use the same brand/base when you're ready to get your gallons. Remember that you're making your final decision based on the color you see on your walls and not the name of the color or the paint chip! So go back and have that Benjamin Moore color made from a Behr base if that's how you got your sample originally. If you decide you would rather have Benjamin Moore paint through and through though, have your sample made with Benjamin Moore base from the start. 

Wall Color: Winter White by Benjamin Moore. Learn how to choose the perfect paint color for your walls in this post! // White modern bedroom, white walls

Wall color: Winter White by Benjamin Moore from my Modern Eclectic Master Bedroom 

With your samples in hand, it's time to try them on your walls!

You have a couple of choices for this step in the process: 

  • Paint the sample directly on your wall
  • Paint the sample onto a poster board and tape it up on the wall

In either scenario, you'll want to paint the surface with two nice coats just like you would if you were painting the wall for real to give you the best idea of how that shade will look. 

Personally, I prefer the second method of painting a poster board because it gives you the option of being able to move the color around to different parts of the room to observe the colors at different times of day in several areas. This also avoids that crazy-looking scenario of having paint samples all over your walls! If you end up delaying the paint job for some reason, you can simply pull the poster boards down - no harm, no foul. :) 

When we bought our house and I was choosing paint colors, I used the poster board method and boy did it work well. I had three colors picked out from the paint chips: Classic Gray, Gray Owl, and Winter White (all Benjamin Moore). I had samples mixed and painted them all onto poster boards, then carried them all over our house to see what they looked like. As it turned out, Classic Gray had a green undertone in our house, Gray Owl was too dark and too warm, and Winter White was just right. It was the perfect light gray for our home and I would never have understood the (unwanted) nuances in the others had I not tried the samples. My instinct would have been to go with Classic Gray and I would have been so disappointed!

Wall Color: Galapagos Turquoise by Benjamin Moore in this modern dining room. Come learn how to choose the right paint color for your walls in this blog post! I teach you my go-to to method!

Wall color: Galapagos Teal by Benjamin Moore from my Queen Village Cozy Modern Dining Room project

Now I've got one more curveball to throw at you regarding samples.

I recently came across a company called Samplize that hand paints large peel-and-stick swatches in any color in the Sherwin Williams or Benjamin Moore paint collections. Going this route gets rid of several troublesome issues with the sample process: it cuts down on time wasted going to the store and putting up the samples, it eliminates the problem of what to do with leftover paint, and it helps you get a really accurate assessment without the mess. I haven't personally tried them so I can't speak from personal experience, but it sounds pretty amazing!

Here's a video of how it works if you want to check it out:

Once you've had a chance to live with and observe the various samples for a few days, you'll be ready to make a final decision. If you've done your homework, you'll feel confident rather than anxious to get that paint up on your walls! 

Cheers to getting your paint color right the first time, my friends!


*This post contains affiliate links, which means Mix & Match Design Company will receive a small commission from your purchase at no cost to you.


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