9 Things to Consider Before Picking a Paint Color, According to Designers

Bedroom with a deep teal wall paint

Spacejoy / Unsplash

Paint is the biggest defining feature of a room. It may sound bold considering how many other components get added to a space, but the color that's rolled onto walls dramatically influences the atmosphere more than any couch or lamp.

The shade you pick can either be the focal point or it can seamlessly blend into a room, allowing other accents to take center stage. Regardless of how it translates, it's the backdrop for everything else and conducts how different parts of your home feel.

At the end of the day though, as one interior designer pointed out: it's merely paint. It's temporary and fixable. But to help you make the best decision on the first go, several designers gave their input on what should always be considered before the first brushstroke.

  • 01 of 09

    Analyze the Lighting Situation

    Neutral colored space with light coming in

    Afro Bohemian Living / Instagram

    Light does more than illuminate a room—it impacts the color of the walls, too, especially depending on the time of day. Because of this, interior designer Kevin Francis O'Gara of Kevin Francis Design says lighting should be a huge consideration.

    "To simplify it: If your room is facing north/south, the sun isn’t going to shine directly into the room so it will be indirect and much cooler than east/west sunlight," he explains. "This will affect whether colors will need warmer or cooler undertones to balance out the color temperature of the outside light."

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  • 02 of 09

    Don't Rely on Tiny Paint Chips

    Living room with blush accent wall

    Home By Polly / Instagram

    Mark Cutler and Nichole Schulze, co-founders of interior design firm cutlerschulze, note that you can't get an accurate reading from a tiny paint square. "Never select from just a paint chip, go the extra step and paint on the wall in the room you are going to use it," they explain, adding that a 2x2-foot patch on multiple walls is more realistic.

    Not every room, budget, or schedule will allow for this. Don't worry though—the two experts have a helpful hack. "If it's not possible to do this, create a color board by painting your choice on a large board and moving it around the space."

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  • 03 of 09

    Remember Furniture Makes a Difference

    Pink chaise lounge in room

    Rikki Snyder

    Painting requires removing or covering up your furniture. Once these items are out of sight they're typically out of mind, but they largely influence the look of a pigment, too. Cutler and Schulze explain that "walls will pick up the color," so it's best to be mindful of the items that'll be present.

    "For instance, a white wall in a room of pink furniture will look blush, which might be good," they note. "If you wanted stark white, choose one with a hint of blue and it will resist the pink shading from the furniture."

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  • 04 of 09

    Choose Personal Favorites Over Popular Picks

    Painted green ceiling in dining room

    Mocha Girl Place / Instagram

    Both trendy and timeless colors are used for a reason: People really like them. But just because there's a general consensus saying one color is chic, that doesn't mean you should neglect your own personal favorites.

    "I always encourage clients to consider their favorite color, the color they wear the most, and the color they're most intrigued by," says Leah Alexander of Beauty Is Abundant. "Sometimes they're the same. Other times they're not."

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  • 05 of 09

    Don't Fear Bold or Basic

    Bold purple bathroom

    Whittney Parkinson Design

    There is another tip that Alexander uses that ties back into the concept of choosing colors you enjoy "I like to ask the question: 'Wouldn't it be cool if?' Sometimes it's: Wouldn't it be cool if this entire room was painted that burnt orange color like the painting you found and fell in love with at that flea market?" she explains. "Other times it's wouldn't you love to paint all these feature walls white?"

    This can spark inspiration and break down worries about choosing something too wild or too boring. Alexander also notes there's an even more essential thing to remember. "It's just paint," she says. "Nothing too permanent. Have fun."

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  • 06 of 09

    Pull Out Your Favorite Colors As Accents

    Beige walls with blue accents

    Design: Tracy Morris Design / Photography: Greg Powers

    On the flip side, beloved colors can be incorporated throughout the rest of a room while the walls stay neutral. Tracy Morris, a Benjamin Moore color expert and founder of Tracy Morris Design, says this can help make your favorite shades really pop.

    "I have a client who loves blue," explains Morris. "Instead of painting the room blue, where the color can be lost in the entirety of the space, we painted it a medium-toned beige. Why? Beige brings out the blue tones and allows your eye to see the blue color!"

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  • 07 of 09

    Don't Forget Permanent Fixtures

    Teal green room with fireplace

    Becca Interiors

    Morris also points out that immovable and existing features should be part of the paint-picking equation. "What is permanent in the space?" she asks. "The floors? The kitchen cabinets? The countertops? An antique rug from Aunt Tilly? You want to make sure to consider the items that AREN’T going anywhere prior to selecting your color."

    Not taking these into account can lead to slightly off color combinations or palettes that feel like an eye sore.

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  • 08 of 09

    Think About the Mood

    Black bathroom

    Jessica Nelson Interior Design

    Before even jumping into paint swatches and color ideas, the first question Tina Ramchandani of Tina Ramchandani Creative poses to clients is what atmosphere and overall feeling are her clients are looking to evoke.

    "When picking a paint color it’s important to consider the mood you want to create in a space," explains Ramchandani. "Dark and moody spaces require deep tones whereas cheerful spaces work best with bright colors. Light and airy typically lends itself to whites and tonals."

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  • 09 of 09

    Explore Different Paint Finishes

    Light blue bedroom

    Tina Ramchandani

    Ramchandani says texture can be a make or break factor when choosing paint. "The condition of the walls (and ceiling!) is really important when picking a sheen," she says. "A shinier finish on rough, unsanded walls will look horrible. You’ll be able to see every imperfection."