When we finished this room and the walls were removed and the wallpaper was stripped and the floors were refinished….

…we finally painted the walls.

Not once.

Not twice.

Not three times.

No, not even close.  Truth? We painted this room FIVE times in a month.

(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 (this one is painted SW Mindful Gray).

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 five times.

(1)  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.

(2)  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.

(3)  Saturation is the Key

If you remember nothing else from this post.

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 “stuff” tend to wash out our first color choice.

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


(4) You Can Never Have Enough Paint

You have seen them in the paint store mixing paint.  They take the tinted base and then add different colors.  Here’s the secret:  no 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.

(5)  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 got this my friend.


From my five-time painted room to yours. 🙂


  1. Image for Brenda Brenda

    So true! I painted the foyer a lovely light avocado green and it is lovely. I liked the color so much I decided to paint the living room the same color. We painted it that night. The next day the sun was very bright and the room has a huge bay window. Imagine my surprise to see lime green walls! Luckily my husband was very understanding and repainted! You also have to be very careful with browns, especially on the exterior. They have a bad tendency to turn purple! Great advice! Have a great day!

    1. Image for AnnH. AnnH.

      Oh my gosh. We have brown shutters. To me they look brown, but we have gotten the purple comment about them, too.

  2. Image for Cecilia Cecilia

    I love the paint samples - best thing they ever did. It has saved me from buying many a quart can because I'm a visual person and I need to see what a large swatch of that color looks like in my space! Great advice! Bruce says our home is held together by all the paint on the walls. heh. At least, it's easy to change...maybe a pain but still easy compared to say, wallpaper. Have a wonderful, happy day! Cecilia

  3. Image for Carol@blueskykitchen Carol@blueskykitchen

    Great advice and I have to agree with every point. I'll also discovered these tips over the years. Especially about our minds tending to want to go lighter rather than darker. I'm so glad I stuck with my bright pink for my new office.. If i had gone lighter, once the window was installed and all the white shelving, etc. was installed, a lighter pink would have washed out. I've also painted samples on white poster board and walked around the room to see how the different light affects the color.

  4. Image for Sheila Allen Sheila Allen

    These are golden rules to live by! I've been there, you are NOT alone! I would add, too, the sheen of paint you use effects the look also. I used to use only semi-gloss or satin, now I'm a flat girl only! Semi-gloss and even satin can cast shadows which effect the color, especially on textured walls (mine!). Flat paint takes that all away and just leaves a rich, even tone with no reflections or shadows...which I love :)

  5. Image for Marisa Franca @ All Our Way Marisa Franca @ All Our Way

    Thank you for this much-needed advice, because, I'm jumping up and down in excitement, we are going to paint some of our dungeon rooms. And, do you know what I do with the paint samples?? I go to Hobby Lobby and buy some framed white canvas and I paint the sample on them. That way I can go from wall to wall and see how it looks. When I want to do another color I paint the canvas with a white base and do another sample. I often thought, if I were really crafty, I could take accent colors and wall colors and make a "modern" painting with the canvas. ?I really like your gray paint and I will remember your advice -- Go for the darker!! Hugs! ?

  6. Image for Nancy @ Slightly Coastal Nancy @ Slightly Coastal

    Oh I've been there and done that! The hardest part was picking paint out for a whole house on our new build. it is so unfair to pick out paint for a house that doesn't even exist yet. There should be a law or something. I've almost repainted the whole thing now though...love Mindful Grey. I have BM Pale Oak which is also a great backdrop. Great advice...all of it. Nancy

  7. Image for Wendelin Wendelin

    Oh, my! Been there, done this! There is nothing more frustrating than painting an entire from, standing back, and realizing it's not the right color. I also recommend looking at the paint strips or samples in natural light. I don't know why they always have that horrid fluorescent lighting in paint departments, but it completely throws off the colors. I am famous at our local Home Depot for borrowing their fan decks and quickly running outside. Luckily, they trust that I will bring them back! ;-)

  8. Image for Rowena Philbeck Rowena Philbeck

    Great advice. I would hate to paint a room 5 times…ugh!! I will have to remember that when I paint my next room. Thanks!!!

  9. Image for Gee Gee

    Best advice ever! In had to live with a weird grassy green wall for a bit as in the paint store it was a luvly sage , on my living room that is washed in natural, it read weird and grassy. But this time I went with what I knew animist now a perfect greige ☺ We are in the middle of a whole house reno.

  10. Image for YGB YGB

    Wonderful! Thanks for the post. Here's another tip: test the sample color near the floor where it will marry your flooring. Placing a test sample in the middle of a bare wall will not look the same as it will when the color is being affected by the other large surfaces in the room.

  11. Image for Shirley Shirley

    It is so hard to pick the right paint colour. I have painted a small area & thought " yuck I don't like this colour!" Only to carry on & change my mind. It always looks different than I expect it to look in my minds eye. I do love your handmade Pom Pom cushion!

  12. Image for Carrie Carrie

    Great tips!! I had a mustard color in my living room for four years, trying to 'tone it down' with accessories and even switched furniture from navy to red...The only thing that paint would have looked fine with was a hot dog! I've learned to accessorize with color, not force the color into the room via walls! :) Finally, went with a great, neutral beige. (From Sherman Williams~ the only place I buy my paint!)

  13. Image for Colleen@LilacDriveDesigns Colleen@LilacDriveDesigns

    Preach! Lol, seriously...I'm in the throws of picking paint for exterior trim right now and I can say that you speak the truth. I found a color from BM called wrought iron. Inside it reads black but outside it is dark gray so that was a no go, but it looks great on the inside of the front door that I painted a few weeks ago. I ultimately chose SW tricorn black for exterior trim on my creamy/white house and am currently painting the trim on the shed with it. So far so good.

  14. Image for Sue Sue

    Bless your heart for being right there to help us, Karianne. I love to paint, but picking the paint is THE HARDEST PART! Thanks for your wonderful helpful tips. I will now go forth to paint with confidence.

  15. Image for Mir Mir

    "I suggest you do not let $5.95 come between you and the perfect wall color." Truer words have yet to be spoken... and wow, did that make me giggle, because I have been there. Now, I know better. Samples are a painter's close friend. :) Your room is beautiful! I hope you have a great day :)

  16. Image for Taste of France Taste of France

    Rooms are never too light or bright for me, but I must admit that the dark gray we painted our vacation rental is amazing. The space is so big, and the ceilings and windows so high that light isn't an issue. It's dramatic and classic. I love it. How do you manage to blog and do so many things while painting a room five times?

  17. Image for Cindy Richter Cindy Richter

    :) HAHAHAHAHAHA! Girl, my hubby and I would have been divorced if I had asked him to help paint more than twice. Even twice I get the rolling eyes and deep heavy sigh. Bless your hubby's heart - yes, truly a saint. He's a keeper! Great advice too.

  18. Image for Kelly Kelly

    In my house, I need to go lighter with the paint color instead of darker. It really depends on how much natural light you get in the room. I saw a lovely shade of paint that I thought was a beautiful color in someone else's home. It was a soft yellow (when that was the "in" color to paint your walls). I bought a sample, painted a small place close to a window in my living room and it looked like I had smeared mud on the wall.

  19. Image for Patricia Patricia

    Fantastic tips. Now if I could only train my paint brush like the pros do so I don't have to lay down a million miles of blue tape to prevent paint 'migration' from the wall to the ceiling and vis versa. sigh..... straight lines are my nemesis.

  20. Image for Sue Sue

    Hey Karianne,great hints. After paying an arm,leg and first born to have my interior painted, I can't afford do-overs.

  21. Image for Dee Dee

    Solid advice. Maybe my hubby will finally believe what I've been telling him after reading your post. Thanks, Karianne, aka the marriage counselor.

  22. Image for Joy Joy

    Great advice! We actually had the opposite problem in a bedroom. The light is different with evening sun rays and a textured paintable wallpaper (not my choice but so much better than the hassle of removing it) caused even the lightest color to be an intense color! After 7 SW paint samples and large swatches upon large swatches painted on every wall, we finally settled on a near white pale cool blue. So happy I painted the bathroom too!

  23. Image for cindy cindy

    Since I do all of the painting, my marriage is saved!! Lol. Funny that you posted about paint! Almost two years ago, I was changing the color in my master bedroom, I only got two walls painted because I got busy with the building of a second home. My room has chair rail and crown moulding, so it's time consuming! Well, after living with that color, I decided I hated it!! I'm now in the process of painting it again in a total different color!

  24. Image for Sharon H Sharon H

    Oh. YES. I hated spending all those 5.95's on samples.....my goodness I could've had a gallon of paint by the time I got through. But. Boy was I glad I did. Glad I painted big swaths on my walls, both sides of the room to take advantage of the morning sun vs the afternoon sun and the artificial lighting at night. But it paid off, Miz karianne! And as patient as my husband is.....? It's still probably a good thing he was working out of town when I did all that....it might not have been a good thing for him to be here!

  25. Image for Julie Briones Julie Briones

    This. Is. Awesome. Haven't heard half of your tips before, but they are SO SO good! Thank you, KariAnne. (And, I must say, that IS scary to go one shade darker... However, I will trust you and get a sample of it the next time!)

  26. Image for june june

    Great post!!!! I printed this one for my paint file...I keep all my paint receipts and chips organized by room. Great reference next time I have a paint project.

  27. Image for TwoPlusCute TwoPlusCute

    No 3 would have saved me about $100 last month, when trying to get a pure white for a tiny room. 4 "whites" later (SW included), I - almost - have what I wanted... All great tips and pinned!

  28. Image for Julie Julie

    Great article! Love your home! Where did u find the adorable metal terrarium house for your herbs? I live it so! Mother's day present for me??? Hahaha. Keep up the great work! Julie

  29. Image for Claudine Pender Claudine Pender

    Omg Kariane!!! I have been through this! Granted, not 5 times!!! I am very decisive and sometimes just going to the store and picking up a paint color doesn't work out! I love this post with practical advice! I will make sure to refer to this post next time I pick paint! Thank you!!!

  30. Image for Dawn Turner Dawn Turner

    Thank you so much! I believe I have an eye for decorating, but when it comes to paint colors--not so good. This helps so much!

  31. Image for Liz Liz

    Oh my goodness, I can relate to this post in a major way. From room to room and starting over again...the paint cans add up. It has been so difficult to find the right paint shades for my home. Thanks for the tips. I shall refer to this when I make the next trip to the paint store! ;-)

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