Hello shortcut rock stars.

If you’ve been following along on the challenge we are almost through.

We’ve been busy.

We’ve discussed the one thing every lamp needs and how to transform a builder-grade door for under $10 and an easy way to makeover furniture and a unique hardware DIY. and simple ideas for the perfect centerpiece.

And today we are talking to our rooms and telling them not to worry.

(total aside: having discussions with inanimate objects is my specialty)

We are telling them that there’s no cause for concern or consternation in the paint department because we are about to read a primer on how to pick out paint.

How to pick out a paint color they will love.

How to get it right the very first time.

How to walk into a paint store boldly and confidently armed with knowledge and wisdom.

Here are easy tips for picking a paint color.

Start with the darkest color

When you are standing in front of the paint display and you are overwhelmed.

Don’t worry.

You have a friend there just waiting to meet you—-the darkest color at the bottom of the paint strip.

Start with by selecting two (or three different) strips of paint chips somewhere in the color range that you like.  The colors may look similar.  You may scratch your head and tell yourself that these colors look almost exactly the same.


Do not be fooled.

Each strip of paint color chips is tinted in a slightly different direction.

For example, a khaki could have a pink base or a blue base.  A gold can have a green base or a brown base.  A red could have an orange base or a pink base.  (I think you get my paint point).  To see the true color tint, look at the darkest color on the strip.  This color has the most color saturation and you can see the true base color much more easily.

The darkest paint color helps you to narrow down your choices.

All surfaces are not created equal

It’s easy to get confused when painting different surfaces in the room.

Color doesn’t always look the same depending on where you are painting.

1. Painting a ceiling any other color than white go at least one shade lighter.

Color on a ceiling appears darker than on the wall.

2. When choosing a color for the floor, always go one or two shades lighter.

The color on the floor appears darker than on the wall.

3. When looking at a paint chip in the store, hold it next to something white to see the true color.

Holding it next to another color instead of white can throw off the tones in the paint.

Pay attention to your saturation

If you remember nothing else from this post.

If in two months you say, “thistlewood who?”

Please, please, please remember this unsolicited advice when you are standing in front of that paint display:

Find the color you want.  And then?  Go one shade darker.

I know.

It can be overwhelming.

The challenge is that natural light and tons of “stuff” tend to wash out our first color choice.

Trust me on this one.  You will be much happier with a little more saturation.

You Can Never Have Enough Paint

When you go to a paint store and choose a paint color, the process starts with a tinted base that is mixed with different colors.  Here’s the secret:  no one can of paint is exactly the same.

They are close.  Maybe you won’t see a difference.  Maybe you will.

Don’t take the chance.

Buy a five-gallon bucket and mix your cans together before you paint.

Learn from a person with a two-tone painted room.

Sample, sample, sample

They sell paint samples for under $7.00.

Do not let $7.00 come between you and the perfect wall color.

Paint that sample on a piece of poster board and move it to different walls in the room.

Look at it in the morning.

Look at it at night.

Look at it from every angle and in every light before you make your decision.

Then choose your paint confidently.

I hope these tips for picking a paint color have helped.

I hope your rooms live long and prosper.

I hope your spaces are full of the perfect paint.

You got this.

Here’s to standing up to the paint chip display….

…and showing it who’s boss. 🙂

Want to know how to decorate your home for free?
Click here to get my FIVE BEST secrets.


  1. Image for Michelle Michelle

    I love this post! I also want to add what a big fan of Sherwin Williams I am because of the knowledgeable and friendly staff. I've found this to be true of any Sherwin Williams I've ever been in. It's like there's a Karianne clone in every store!

  2. Image for Nan, Odessa, DE Nan, Odessa, DE

    Now, please move on to paints!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I know they are different. How to select shades when you want a different shade of white for: ceiling, walls, trim, furniture (in that room. This was great!

  3. Image for Cecilia Cecilia

    Woo boy, I need this! I've been trying to nail down a color for the city kitchen but everything I've brought home has a grey tone and clashes big time with the tile backsplash. "Look at the darkest color on a paint strip"! Got it! Those sample cans have saved me many a costly mistake...so worth it! And the mix all your cans together is so true! Just touched up the paint in the master bathroom from a different can and oh no! It's just slightly off. Sigh. Lesson learned. #soclosetoamazing 😉 Cecilia

  4. Image for Deb Pelton Deb Pelton

    You are just so damn Cute! I like it. I can't even tell you how hard it is for me to pick paint colors! My poor husband has repainted many thing more than once. I wanted a nice warm golden yellow in the living room. The first paint-lemon- no joke like really lemon. Finally got the right color but I still have nightmares about living inside a lemon-ugh! Thanks for the advice with your sprinkling of KariAnne humor. Always a pkkeasure, friend.😊🐝

  5. Image for Nicole Nicole

    I picked out a color from Sherwin for my last house called Natural, we used it everywhere! It was a lovely grey cement color. I knew how happy I was with it so in our next house I also used it everywhere. This 5 gallon bucket looks so different in this house, kind of a soft sage green which I detest. It fights with all my painted furniture and bedding. It's horrible here! My husband says it is not in the budget to repaint everywhere. I don't know if it was mixed different (probably) or just the light here and there or what! Lesson learned!

  6. Image for Penny Penny

    I once learned from a decorator that SW warranty is on the receipt -- only warrant color on 5 gallons. So my pro painters couldn't buy the color in the large containers because of the warranty -- had to buy a bunch of 5's and mix them together. Great hint there! Also, the tips on under tones cannot be ignored. Been reading a blog from Canadian decorator Maria Killam - specialty is picking colors based on undertones of both paint and other fixed surfaces, furniture, etc. in the room. Definitely eye opening and good lessons there -- so again, thanks for noting that in the earlier part of the post! Love your blog and style!

  7. Image for Yolie Yolie

    Two things: Don't forget that the kind of sun exposure in your rooms makes all the difference in the world. If a room gets gray northern light the same paint color will look completely different in a a room that faces the yellow west. This is critical. That is why paint colors look very different in the store than they do in your home.bAlso, the vegetation outside the windows contribute another green layer of color. I'm close with someone who is a paint expert for Sherwin Williams. He tells me that the darkest color on the paint strip is not necessarily mixed with the same tints as the lightest color on the same strip. It can have completely different undertones. That is why you have to try different samples before you get what you want.

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