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.

I love to talk about paint colors.

Seriously.

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?

No worries.

I got you friend.

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

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.

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.

Yikes.

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.

Truly.

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 GOT THIS.

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.

Comments

  1. Image for Lori Lori

    Maybe this is a ding dong question but here goes....When you say in using a darker shade of paint go one shade darker ...am I going down a shade on the paint strip colors or am I asking the kind paint guy to go one shade darker in the pigment when he or she is mixing my paint up? I have read a couple times lately that many ask the paint mixer to either add more or less pigment...I've never done that before. I love that cute Naval blue room you created. The plaid blankets, those adorable baskets! It all works so well together.

    1. Image for STEPHANIE STEPHANIE

      I'm assuming she means go one shade down on the paint strip, but she'll have to clarify. I recently wanted contrast on a sloped wall--I wanted the slopes a lighter shade, and the straight walls below them a darker shade. It turned out I wasn't happy with the darker shade--it wasn't dark enough, so I took the paint back to the hardware store and asked if they could go a few shades darker. They were happy to do it for me (I think they added more black?), so I believe that's always an option. I don't know if that's what Karianne meant, but I thought this information might be helpful for someone.

  2. Image for Indre Indre

    I'm going to say that fact#1, regarding ceilings and walls proved to be the opposite for me. I painted the ceiling on my enclosed porch a very pale aqua. There is molding that comes down from the ceiling to the top of the windows. I painted that area with the exact same color but it looks several shades darker....which I'm not complaining about, I love the contrast, but it shoots #1 down.

  3. Image for STEPHANIE STEPHANIE

    Hi Karianne, Thank you for the helpful ideas. What I did when choosing paint colors for our last house was I took a pillow that had my FAVORITE fabric on it to the hardware store with me. Yes, I may have looked silly, but I had important work to do! LOL. We wanted our living and dining room to be a warm gold, so I held paint chip samples up to my pillow and compared the colors. When I found one that matched, it was the one I chose. You mentioned using colors that flow from one room to the next, but I did the opposite and used different paint for different rooms/areas of the house, even if they were open to one another. For instance, I chose a grayish green for our front entry. That space was open to our gold living room. The living room opened to the dining room which was also gold, but because the room went off to the side (it was an addition) it looked long and narrow, so to make it look less so I painted the end wall Martha Stewart barn red. The dining room opened to the kitchen, which I painted the lightest yellow I could find--it was the first color after all of the whites on the paint samples. The kitchen opened into the family room, which I painted a different shade of green than the front entry. The bathroom and back entry were off of the kitchen, and I painted them a silvery/grayish-blue. I chose different colors for the office, three bedrooms, other full bath, and the basement. In short: I used seven different colors in the house! I know my description might make it sound like our house was quite garish, or clownish, but in actuality it was beautiful. In fact, I did such a good job with the paint colors that there is now a second owner in the home after we sold it, and neither she nor the previous owner changed the paint colors. I've become friends with the second owner and she told me that she LOVED the colors that I chose, so I know it's not a matter of the new owners being too lazy to repaint. Goodness, I never realized how fun it is to talk about paint colors with a kindred spirit! Thank you. Two other things I'll add: I LOVE Valspar paint. I've tried other brands and nothing compares. It gives total coverage in one coat, but because we had new plaster walls I chose to do two coats to ensure that every nook and cranny in the plaster was covered. The second thing I'll add is what you already mentioned--when you find a color you like on a paint strip (the ones that show different shades of the same color), always go one darker. I was disappointed when our hardware store/Valspar got rid of those color strips and only show one sample of color now. I find it makes choosing a color much more difficult. Lastly (sorry; I know I talk too much) I wanted to say how much I enjoy your blogs. You have a gift for writing, in addition to your gift for decorating. You're also as cute as a bug's ear, and every time I see your smile it makes me happy. Thanks again, and happy painting!

    1. Image for Tracey Tracey

      I love reading your comment Stephanie! 😃 your house colours sound lovely. I’m sure it was gorgeous, and it sounds like all the colours did flow from room to room.

  4. Image for Peg Peg

    My tips would be to do a test area (and live with it for a few days to see it in different light), and that paint dries darker!! xoxo

  5. Image for Dianne Miley Dianne Miley

    My husband and I recently downsized to a 1200 sq. ft. house. I wanted to keep the rooms cohesive, especially since it’s an open floor plan and a small house. We chose SW Accessible Beige. It’s a neutral greige (more beige than gray). We love it! It’s light and bright, goes with everything, and contrasts well with our white trim.

  6. Image for Sharon Sharon

    Well first of all, I do not like any sort of Gray. We recently painted most of our rooms Sandbar or a lighter version of this and our bathroom is Naval. If one more person asks me why I did not paint my rooms gray, well, don't. lol I love our rooms and I can mix in any colors to go with this palette. I believe people should paint colors that make them feel happy and not necessarily what magazines, etc. tell that "is in". I get wonderful ideas from your blog!! Happy Mother's Day!

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