Looking for simple easy tips on how to pick a paint color? This is the post for you. Here are five of my best paint-picking tips.

When we moved back home to this house, we started with this room first. We replaced the ceiling and added lights and put new floors in and added new molding.

And then?

We finally painted the walls.

Not once.

Not twice.

Not three times.

No, not even close.  Truth? We painted this room FOUR times in a month. I couldn’t help it. I wanted to get it right.

(total aside: my husband has the patience of a saint)

The moral of the paint story?  Sometimes you encounter a few paint speed bumps along the way to the perfect color for a room.

Total paint aside: (This one is painted Alabaster SW 7008. You can see all my other favorite white paints here).

Don’t be like me.  Choose your paint wisely.  If you are on a paint journey or about to be on a paint journey or think that painting a room might be in your future?

This is the post for you.

How to pick the perfect paint color for a room without repainting it four times.

Tip number one: The darkest color on the paint strip is your best friend

When you are looking at colors on two (or three different) strips of paint chips, many times the colors will appear to be the same.  THEY ARE NOT!  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 the point).

To see the true color hue, 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.

how to pick a paint color dining room

Tip number two: All surfaces are not created equal

Consider your surface and these three facts before you paint.

Fact #1:  When painting a ceiling any other color than white go at least one shade lighter.

Color on a ceiling appears darker than on the wall.

Fact #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.

Fact #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 anything else can throw off the tones in the paint.

Tip number three: Saturation is the Key

If you remember nothing else from this post on how to pick a paint color.

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

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’s scary.

It’s only natural, we have a tendency to go lighter with our paint choices.  The only problem is, natural light and other “stuff” tend to wash out our first color choice.

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

how to pick a paint color front room at Thistlewood

Tip Number Four: You Can Never Have Enough Paint

You have seen them in the paint store mixing paint. You know how it works. They take the tinted base and then add different colors.

Here’s a mixing secret that no one really talks about: no can of paint is EXACTLY the same.

The colors are usually super super close. Maybe you won’t see a difference. Maybe you will.

Don’t take the chance

If you have a large space to paint, buy a five-gallon bucket and mix your cans together before you paint.

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

how to pick a paint color blue and white

Tip number five:  Sample, sample, sample

They sell $5.95 quart paint samples at Sherwin Williams.

Please don’t let $5.95 come between you and the perfect wall color.

When figuring out how to pick a paint color, a painted swatch on the wall or a large piece of poster board beats a paint chip color hands down every time. Paint a sample of the color you think you want and live with it for a little bit. Look at it during the afternoon. Look at it at night. Look at it during the day. Look at it on different places on the wall in your room.

Date it for a little bit before you commit.

how to pick a paint color living room

I hope these tips on how to pick a paint color save you time.

I hope these tips save you money.

I hope these tips save you paint.

You got this my friend.


From my four-time painted room to yours. 🙂

PS Sharing tons more paint tips today in Instagram stories today. You can follow along here.

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  1. Image for Robbie Robbie

    Samplize is also good with peel and stick true paint colors from SW and BM. Now, SW is selling smaller sheets that stick to your walls. You can peel them off and move them around. With Samplize you get a 12x12. I cut them in fourths and placed them all around my kitchen. I thought I wanted SW pure white. But ended up getting extra white thanks to those movable squares.

  2. Image for Darlene Darlene

    I love your white wood chairs with the spindles. Do you mind sharing where you purchased them, or maybe the brand ?

    1. Image for KariAnne KariAnne

      Here's the link to a super similar chair! Mine is discontinued! https://bit.ly/2Sn1aLg happy day!KariAnne

  3. Image for Sharon Sharon

    Great tips! I don't currently have any blue in my home as I have mainly neutral decor. I must say that your blue and white decor is the best that have seen. It's so well done. It makes me want to show it to my friend who does use blue and try to convince her to redecorate using your photos as inspiration!

  4. Image for JC JC

    Paint picking is my absolutely LEAST favorite thing to do when remodeling. I mean I REALLY don't like it. It's almost right up there, for me, as a root canal!! I think its a big stresser because it is such a big surface area and commitment. This post is encouraging, helpful, and timely! I have a north bedroom to pick paint and carpet for. It is dark and has one window which has a stucco wall, close by, with vines which adds to the coziness, but darkness. I also, have a cabin kitchen we are remodeling and trying to find white paint for the drywall walls against adjacent pine walls is no small task. The pine seems to change every color of paint! We have painted twice already! Thanks Robbie for the moveable paint sample tip!! I'm thinking of SW extra white vs. pure white. Being able to move them around next to the pine will help in that decision! Third time is a charm, right?😬

    1. Image for Candice Candice

      Same here! We are doing a master bed/bath remodel with 1 window in bdrm. I am scared to death to pick a paint color.! I love color, the light greenish gray or subtle greens & blues, but will probably go with a light cream, almost white. I have been stressing over this for 2 years. Best of luck to you and I hope yours comes out beautiful!!!

  5. Image for Lyn Lyn

    Wow, great tips. Also, I have never heard of Samplize before - I will definitely use these next time we paint. I love the Sherwin Williams paint samples. I bought one a while ago to try a pretty blue color to paint the base of an old Ethan Allen hutch. I loved it so much, I just kept painting. I bought another sample, and I actually had enough to paint the entire base. 2 coats. It only cost me $13.00. It's been 18 months now and I still love it. I wonder why I didn't paint it before. I bought new hardware for the buffet that cost. more than the paint. I talked to another gal at the paint counter who was more experienced at painting than me, and she told me she always buys sample sizes for small jobs.

  6. Image for Wen Wen

    Thank Yoooooou KariAnne!! That Yooooou is said the TX way ! It’s been 3 years & I still can’t decide on several rooms…. I have solar screens ( which are black) Makes a huge difference in paint colors. Wen

  7. Image for Leslie Watkins Leslie Watkins

    Oh, you are so my best friend with this post…on white paint color #2 for a tiny bathroom. I hope we get it right before another round! Thanks for the advice…hanging on every tip…

  8. Image for Peg Peg

    I agree with JC above! Sometimes it's tough to get paint just right, as you well know!! Thanks for the tips!!! xoxo

  9. Image for Jolyn Jolyn

    Great advice! AND, once I think I know what I want, instead of buying a sample, I usually order it from Samplize (sp?) and stick it up in areas all over the room.

  10. Image for Kathy Earp Kathy Earp

    Yes, that's what happened when we painted our living room. We had it remixed 3 times and finally settled on the last mix. Thank you so much for sharing. Your living room has been my inspiration board for my living room.

  11. Image for Brenda Brenda

    I ordered paint squares from Samplize. They are 12x12 and can be stuck to a wall, as well as moved all around the room and be stuck to other walls so you can see how it looks in different light.

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