How to pick the right color
February 14, 2012 9:56 AM   Subscribe

Where can I find good websites, books, magazines, etc. that explain the principles of picking good paint colors to use when painting rooms in my house? I tend to pick a color and paint the room, only to find that I don't really like the color. Are there design standards/rules (e.g. the rule of 3s for photography)?
posted by GernBlandston to Home & Garden (8 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
One design standard is to pick a textile first, and plan your paint colors around that- it's easier to match paint to curtains or a couch then vice versa.

Design Sponge and Design-Seeds both post paint palates that can be inspiring for painting:

Personally, I hired a paint consultant to help me pick colors- she was way cheap (an art major who had her own painting business)- she introduced me to the C2 line of paint- this was 10 years ago- and though I am repainting now she did help me learn about the way paint colors can flow.
posted by momochan at 10:16 AM on February 14, 2012

I came across the site of color consultant Maria Killam recently - from Apartment Therapy, I think. She keeps a blog and has an ebook specifically about choosing color. I can't vouch for the ebook, but I've learned from her blog.
posted by jocelmeow at 10:45 AM on February 14, 2012

This is purely anecdotal but... the rule my mother learned (the hard way) is pick the color you like, then go two shades lighter. Again, it's not theory or anything, but it has worked more than once in my life.
posted by maryr at 1:57 PM on February 14, 2012 [1 favorite] lets you play around with various color schemes--complementary, analogous, monochromatic. you pick a starting color and it does the rest. could be helpful if you are trying to design around colors you already own (art, rugs, upholstered furniture)
posted by iahtl at 2:54 PM on February 14, 2012

Color looks completely different on a paint chip versus filling your whole entire room. It also looks different in your room versus the paint store, because the lighting is so different.

The last time I wanted to paint a room, I got a huge swath of butcher paper, painted it, and tacked it up. After living with it for a few days, it was clear that the shade was a huge mistake - it was way too vibrant and "in your face" when there was soooo much of it.

I went a few shades lighter, repeated the experiment, and was a lot happier.
posted by ErikaB at 4:05 PM on February 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

Seconding maryr. My way of expressing it is this: the smaller the swatch, the more you'll be surprised how much darker it feels when it's all over your walls. Always evaluate paint colors in place (i.e. what ErikaB did with the big swatch) and under all applicable lighting conditions (daylight, artificial light, etc).
posted by expialidocious at 4:13 PM on February 14, 2012

Two things I would stress is warm vs cool colors and the amount of light in the space.

Warm vs cool colors: This is very much a personal preference but also may be affected by the lights in the space. Generally, Incandescent lights are warm, most fluorescent lights are cool, and you can buy full spectrum lights nowadays too that are more even. This is why as people have stressed, you need to bring samples home first. There are cool whites and warm whites, that's not something that interior designers make up.

Light: If you are in say, a tiny apartment in a big city, I think you would be shooting yourself in the foot to do any dark color (or any color but white, but that is my architectural bias ;) ) unless you like a really intense space. Walls will suck up light as we can remember from physics and if your room is say, blue, and you have one window, your room will be markedly darker than one painted white. Even a subtle off white vs bright white can be a big difference in a fully enclosed space with one tiny window (most little housey house rooms).

If you are thinking more than one color, or have furniture you wish to compliment, please google color theory if you not familiar, but keep in mind that this has a lot more to do with art than interior design (silly example but do not paint your house green to compliment your red couch...)
posted by tmthyrss at 4:48 PM on February 14, 2012

This Shelterpop post has some handwavey woo, but I think the picture about half way down showing a side by side of 2 shades of blue is interesting. It illustrates some of the warm vs cool effect that people have mentioned above.
posted by asciident at 7:57 PM on February 16, 2012

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