Want to know how to pick paint colors for your entire house? Here are five simple tips to make the entire paint choosing process so much easier.

how to pick a paint color blue paint

I love to talk about paint colors.


It’s right up there in my top five topics of conversation along with Downton Abbey, yard sale shopping, why more red lipstick is needed in this world and how I changed my life by cutting off my jeans and fraying them.

If you ever see me shopping in Walmart, please stop me and ask me for help with paint colors.

I’ll put down my galvanized tray and give you my full attention.

And one of the main questions I get asked is how to make sure all the colors in your house match. So let’s say for example that you find a color that you love. One that works. One that makes you leap for joy and sends shivers of joy down your spine when you open a paint can. But where do you go from there? Where do you find other colors that work with that color?

You want to be brave.

You want to be paint bold.

But how do you make sure all the colors in your house go together?

I got you friend.

Here’s how to pick paint colors for your entire house.

how to pick a paint color living room

SW Extra White

Step 1: Are you cool or warm

This is where it all begins.

This is where it all starts

You probably already know if you like cool colors or warm colors, but if you haven’t decided yet, I would look in your closet. For example, look at your reds. Are they pink or are they orange? Then look at your yellows. Are they bright yellow or pale yellow? You as a person are drawn to a color palette. You just might not have noticed.

Now take your clothing choices and apply them to your house.

My house?

My clothes?

I’m cool.

Well, actually, I’m not really that cool, but my paint colors are.

The front living room in the house is painted SW Extra White. I love this color because it’s the perfect white. It’s true blue. I’ve painted moldings this color and walls this color and it never lets me down. It looks slightly different with different sheens. You can read this post I wrote on which paint finish to pick for which project in your home.

how to pick a paint color white paint color

Here are some of my other favorite whites.

Notice that some are cool and some are warm.

You want to choose a color lane and stick to it.

how to pick a paint color with khaki paint

SW Sandbar

2. Put all your paint chips on the table

I took this picture so you could see how these rooms flow together.

I like to layer the rooms so the colors all work together. One of the easiest ways to do that is to find all the paint chips you like and place them on a table together. If one paint color doesn’t work with the others it’s SUPER OBVIOUS.

(total aside: one important exception to this is when you have a bedroom or room that’s set off from other rooms by a hallway. If you want to select a COMPLETELY different color for there? Live your best paint life and go for it.)

It’s also important to note that 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.

Here are some of my favorite neutrals.

When you are trying to figure out how to pick paint colors, paint friends are a must.

This is most of the color palette of my house and these colors all work together like they are best friends.

Like they are about to rent an RV and take themselves on a trip across America.

SW Agreeable Gray

Here’s the laundry room painted SW Agreeable Gray.

I paired it with SW Extra White for the trim and a flat plain white ceiling paint for the ceiling.

SW Mindful Gray is just around the corner on the kitchen island.

Don’t forget when you are choosing your paint colors that all surfaces are NOT created equal.

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.

SW Naval

3. Choose the mood you want to create in your spaces

This is such an important point.

Color helps determine the mood of the room.

For example, in our house upstairs there are four bedrooms.

This is Denton’s room that’s painted SW Naval.

See how the dark walls create a cozy feeling in the space. When choosing a dark paint color, saturation is the key.

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.

I get it.

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

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

SW Alabaster

In contrast, here’s another bedroom upstairs painted in SW Alabaster.

See how light and bright and airy the room is?

The sunlight bounces off all that white paint and brings sunlight into the space.

SW Sandbar

4. Make sure the paint works in your space at different times of the day

I cannot stress this enough.

When I was picking the paint color for this room, I found a color I loved. But at night? It went all Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde on me and changed into an entirely different paint color.


You should sample, sample, sample.

They sell $5.95 quart paint samples at Sherwin-Williams.

I suggest you do not let $5.95 come between you and the perfect wall color.

A painted swatch on the wall beats a paint chip color hands down every time.

You can also take big pieces of poster board and paint your colors on them and move them around the room to see how they look in different lights.

SW Mindful Gray

5. Have fun

Picking out paint colors for an entire house seems stressful.

I get it.


Even from someone who talks about paint colors as party conversation, I understand.

Here’s the thing.

It is only a can of paint. Colors can be changed in a day. If you don’t like a color you have chosen, it’s an easy fix to repaint over it with another color.

And the best part?


You are a paint rock star.

Now go find your tune. 🙂

PS I’d love to hear your favorite colors and your favorite tips, too.

PPS If you are looking for ideas on how to pick paint colors for creative unique paint projects here are some of my favorites.

Painted cube wall

Painted herringbone wall

Painted stripes

Painted ombre hexagon wall

Painted flower diamonds

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

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  1. Image for Kathy Kathy

    I have 15 sample cans in the garage:(. My west facing family room is driving me more than a bit crazy with the change in color from morning to rvening!

  2. Image for Jenn Jenn

    Great tips...picking paint makes my palms sweat! I am stuck right now on the barn doors for our upstairs loft. My walls are a light grey, the trim is white. I really thought I was going to go dark almost a black for the doors. Then someone suggested that it might close off the space.....I am not convinced, and my gut keeps saying go dark. Then I think...oh a white wash might be nice....so for now they are natural wood with paint chips taped all over them!

    1. Image for Jeannie Jeannie

      Check out the blog Blesser House (I found it through Thistlewood Farms). She has painted her doors black and they are beautiful.

  3. Image for Karen Karen

    I've really struggled with finding the right paint colors for our Alabama house. Our Michigan house was easy. It was builders' white when we got it and I picked one color swatch that spoke to me and used the different tones on that swatch. Alabama has been way harder. Most of the house was a dark, dingy caramel brown. Felt like a tomb-- especially with all 30 watt light bulbs. Some rooms I painted were too yellow, and some were too grey. Finally find a neutral that goes with virtually anything. It's Behr in French Beige. It's one of those griege colors.

  4. Image for Cynthia Nessel Cynthia Nessel

    I like your top five topics of conversation. I'm going to think about what mine are. Thanks for letting me know about the comments being removed on my Rocking Chair blog post. WEIRD....sometimes technology just gets me.... Happy FriYay Friend!!!!

  5. Image for Leslie Watkins Leslie Watkins

    You are always right on time!! Getting ready to redo paint colors in several adjoining rooms on the first level. Ready to go lighter and brighter to help with the light in each room. No stranger to how light changes the color in a room. Thanks again, as always, for encouragement at the right time. And for another tour of great spaces in your home.🥰

  6. Image for Beth Y Beth Y

    My mom had the hardest time finding the right color of grey for her house!! Poor Dad had to paint it twice for her, since the first color didn't look that great! He has since passed away, but he was a saint for putting up with her indecision!! Lol!!! These are great tips. I say go all in on color. I have yellow, green, red, blue (different shades), turquoise and fuschia (in my daughter's closet). I know.....some of you are probably hyperventilating at the thought....lol, but I love being surrounded by bright, happy colors. Try it, you might like it!!

    1. Image for Ann C Ann C

      I’m with you as to having color. Most of mine tend to be pastels tho. I have a dusty blue in the guest room. The main living area and hallway is yellow and my kitchen is red and white. I’m getting ready to repaint my bath with white and a navy plaid stencil.

  7. Image for Karen Mary Karen Mary

    What a great post! My problem is that I'm all warm and cozy one day and fresh and bright another. And my house reflects it! I have used the Extra White often, though. Now that I'm in a new house and determined to paint over what are now grey walls—one room at a time—it's super helpful to have your guidelines. Thank you!

  8. Image for LC LC

    So much excellent advice here, sprinkled with the most amazing eye candy!! I couldn't agree with you more. The main rooms of my home are painted SW Repose Gray (mixed at 75% for JUST the right shade in my lighting) and my dining room is SW Mindful Gray (one up on the color chip) and my living room is SW Eider White (one down on the color chip from Repose Gray.) They flow together nicely. And my kitchen cabinets are a bright white, my kitchen island is painted SW Naval, my most favoriteist navy blue of all! Thanks for all the inspiration.

  9. Image for Marion Marion

    Great post! Helpful info! I would have never guessed that your daughter's room was SW Anonymous. I have used that just recently on a bathroom cabinet and outdoor deck and it is much darker. Did you lighten it up at all? Amazing how different paint looks in different locales. Thanks!

  10. Image for Linda Miller Linda Miller

    Excellent advice for choosing paint colors. I've learned this over the years by wasting gallons and quarts of paint. Light changes everything, so sampling the color on several walls to see how it changes throughout the day is crucial. I love SW paints. They have never failed me. Happy weekend friend! Summer is heaving it's last sighs. :-(

  11. Image for Debbie Debbie

    It's like you read my mind today! I'm pondering paint colors to brighten our downstairs and I just loved your favorites and home photos! Can't wait to head to SW!

  12. Image for Robin Schmidt Robin Schmidt

    So, is SW Sandbar considered a cool color? Sometimes the computer makes the colors look different. Which of the whites would you consider warm?

  13. Image for Celeste Celeste

    My living room and guest bath on the main level are SW Agreeable Gray. It is darker than what I see in your laundry room photo but it is a wonderful greige. I wanted a similar look in the basement, but not so dark. I asked for a sample of Agreeable Gray at 50% and a sample of SW Egret White, which is higher up on the same color strip. I am so glad I tested them out first. Even though they are VERY close in color, the samples really helped me choose the Egret White. I also have a custom blue-grey that I have used in two homes. We are planning another move next year and I will find a way to use that color somewhere no matter what house we live in.

  14. Image for PJ PJ

    I have cottage white throughout the farmhouse and am at the point where I am ready to paint some of the interior doors. I am considering Naval for the beautiful original doors, but am stumped as what to do with the newer, inexpensive flat doors that are on some of the closets. Do I paint them cottage white so that they disappear?

  15. Image for Deb Deb

    Great post about something that sometimes makes people freeze when moving forward in either a different home or a home they have had 10,20 years or more. When I moved into my present home I knew I wanted blues. The white I used for the kitchen and the family room is SW Westhighland White. But I have a couple bedrooms that are the same white with a blue accent wall and also have two blue walls in my living room. I love them all but I wish I had gone darker so I think that tip is by far one of the best ones. Yes I had ten samples of blue:):):):) But it just isn’t the same when it is on the whole wall. My ranch house has a long hallway with 6 doors. They are just 50 year old stained flat doors. I just finished painting everyone of them peacock blue and changed out the hardware. It certainly made that hallway which has hardwood floors look a lot less like a bowling alley. People , if you open your closet and see some bold colors in there.....I can assure you that you will love bold colors on your walls. Happy Painting!

  16. Image for Marlene Stephenson Marlene Stephenson

    Great information, i will pin it for later just finished painting, and it may be awhile before i do it again.

  17. Image for Jane Brown Jane Brown

    The desk in white or light gray with darker top is exactly what I am looking for. Where did you find it, please?!?!?

  18. Image for Lynne Lynne

    Thank you for this great post, KariAnne!! I am just getting ready to start choosing new colors for our family home so this timing is perfect! After many color mistakes through the years, I am definitely a fan of trying samples on poster board so I can see the colors in different light and from different angles. Wishing you a wonderful weekend, my friend!

  19. Image for Pat Pat

    Karianne, I LOVE Sandbar! I have it in all the main living areas on the upper level of my home! Depending on the natural light and time of day, it is either a gorgeous Khaki hue or a light Gray. I've used Agreeable Gray in our Guest Room and Home Office. I LOVE its serene and tranquil mood! Thank you for this inspiring post! Pat

  20. Image for Kim Kim

    Great tips! Hey, would you mind sharing where you found those big lined baskets on wheels in Denton's room?! I love them!

  21. Image for Peg Peg

    My tip would be to make sure you look at the very bottom color on the paint card thingy. That will show you if the lighter colors near the top contain more blue, gray, brown, etc. P.S. I think you’re vert cool!!!

  22. Image for Rev. Suzanne Taylor Rev. Suzanne Taylor

    Thank you for the tips, KariAnne. Even at 71, picking paint colors causes me to tremble, especially for my open concept main floor.

  23. Image for Linda Kuzior Linda Kuzior

    Oh this was super helpful. I live in a converted barn that we are slowly repainting. We are tackling the basement next and it seems like the house likes big dark bold colors. My hallway is a dark blurple (black/blue purple color) and it sets the tone. Next challenge is the main floor and kitchen area.

  24. Image for Jeanna Jeanna

    It's amazing how the living room in white and blue makes it airy and cozy, I love the looks throughout. Since I've lived in apartments in WI most of my life it's all about that, making the space look bigger while maintaining warmth. I love that you have a go to white paint.

  25. Image for April J Harris April J Harris

    Karianne, this is such wonderful, practical advice! I so agree with not allowing a small expenditure stop you from being sure about a paint choice, and all your other tips are fantastic too. I tend to go towards blues and greens for decorating, and funnily enough there are a lot of them in my closet too. Pinning this wonderful post. Thank you for sharing with the Hearth and Soul Link Party.

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