Color Confused? TRY IT ON

The after-holiday lull seems a perfect time to purge our homes and selves of all the excess. Once you clear everything out, you might see your rooms in a new light and decide it’s time for a little change. Paint is your friend and can do wonders to freshen things up. The absolute number one color tip I give when it’s time to choose a wall color is to TRY IT ON. There are three avenues you can pursue in this process of color selection and it can be a progression of the three or depending on your confidence level, you might just pick one route. Digital visualization of your room is #1, taking a photo of your room and using a computer to colorize it. Choosing paint color swatches is #2, taking chips from the paint store and selecting a color. Painting with samples is #3, using actual paint to try a color on your wall.

Several paint companies offer color visualizers on their websites. These tools are best for quickly trying on a multitude of color families. This blogger at Fox Hollow Cottage explains how she cycled through a few options for her front door in a pretty quick fashion. If you use a site that lets you upload your own room shot it is a fantastic way to quickly see what colors may work in a broad sense with other colors in your room.

Fox Hollow Cottage

Fox Hollow Cottage

After you have narrowed down to a color family like greens, the next step is determining the best green, whether yellower or bluer, what saturation level – just how green you want it, and the value or light/darkness level. Head to your chosen paint store and bring home some chips. I find it best to bring home everything your hand touches. You won’t know for sure until you see the swatch in the lighting of your room. Some paint brands offer large sheets of color which might be enough to help you make a final decision. If you are like most people though, even an 8 ½” X 11” swatch is not enough. If you are working with existing colors in your room, the sample swatches are great for this next level of narrowing down. It will get you into the right general area of color. If you can get down to 3 or 4 options then you are ready for what I feel is the final and most important step. Trying the color on your actual wall.

I know, you resist, “I don’t want to have to actually mess up my wall with paint yet” or “I don’t want to waste money on samples.” Trust me on this, it is so worth it!!! Even though color consulting is what I do and I’ve worked with paint colors for over 20 years, I still paint samples on the wall when I’m selecting a color. It is the best way to see a color in your lighting with your furnishings and your wall surface or trim. Many paint brands offer sample pots or cheaper quart size versions of their colors. (My only regret here is the waste of the paint you don’t use, but hey, I bet you have a crafty project waiting to be done or hopefully your village accepts unused paint for recycling.)

I’ve seen suggestions for trying color by painting on poster board or drywall scraps. If you absolutely can’t paint the walls yet, there are a few products out there that let you paint a sample on special paper that you can then peel off and stick to your wall. Lowe’s carries one called Spot On™ and it comes with a tray and roller and even has a coupon towards paint purchases.

Swatch Right™ comes in a pack of 3 circle shapes that you paint and then stick on the wall.

These tools are helpful and they are definitely better than using poster board that curls, or unwieldy and heavy drywall samples.

But truly the best way to see the color is to paint it directly on the walls or trim. Paint a BIG swatch, one foot square or even two. Put on two coats. Paint on multiple walls in one room or paint in a corner across two walls. This is a trick that helps your eye to see the variations in color from lighting.

Lighting is the variable that cannot be ignored. Whether it is natural light or light bulbs, you need to factor in the changes over a day or two and be sure to have some patience to look at your swatches at different times of day and night. Live with them for a bit and I bet you will know, with confidence, the best choice. Some colors vary a little and some may change in personality completely from daylight to evening. Some paint stores have light boxes to show you how the color chips will change in different lighting situations. These are a great educational tool but you need to see the color in YOUR lighting. We could get into the technical stuff about which way your room’s windows face or the type of lightbulbs you have and how they affect color, or we can just TRY IT ON.