Choosing Paint Color Like a Professional


Summer is the ideal time to catch up on your home improvement projects, including interior painting. But if you’re having trouble picking the perfect paint color for your summer home decorating project, don’t feel bad – even professional decorators may need help from time to time. For years, the only way to envision paint on a wall was by taking a tiny paint chip, holding it at arms length and squinting. But today, this process has been greatly improved with the creation of a number of helpful color tools.

Peggy Van Allen, color services manager for Pratt & Lambert Paints, says the first step in understanding the basics of choosing color starts before you even drive to the hardware store to pick out your paint.

“It might seem obvious, but the first thing consumers should do is survey the furniture and decorations they currently have in their homes,” says Van Allen. “Most people are surprised to find out that much of their décor is in the same color family because they are naturally attracted to decorating in their favorite colors.”

If there is a pre-existing color scheme, Van Allen suggests designing around it. For example, if the couch, coffee table and end tables all have brown hues, then choose a complementary color such as a taupe or buttery yellow.

After surveying the space you want to paint, look to the actual paint displays at the local paint dealer or hardware store for help. Some paint rack selections now offer index-sized cards that have a color design theme displaying how specific colors can be used in conjunction with each other. The intent of these cards is to inspire you to try similar schemes. Pratt & Lambert offers 16 Color Combination/Inspiration cards as well as oversized punch out color chips.

“Inspiration cards are ideal tools if you are trying to achieve a certain look,” Van Allen says. “Some colors lend themselves better to creating a tranquil and relaxing atmosphere. Other combinations are best suited for evoking a warm and welcoming feeling. Inspiration cards can help you decipher which is which.”

An additional aid in choosing color is the color chip. Color chips have undergone a substantial makeover in the last few years, as many of them are now much larger and therefore more useful. Also, with the increase in size, some chips offer other features as well, such as punch-out centers for matching color to furniture upholstery, and peel-off stickers to affix the chip directly to the wall – allowing you to take a step back and view your choices from a distance.

Though inspiration cards and color chips can be very helpful, sometimes you really need to see the color on the wall to get the full effect of how it will truly look. Purchasing an entire gallon of paint, or even just a quart, may not be a cost effective option. If you don’t like the color when you test it on the wall, the remaining paint goes to waste. But, there is another innovative option: sample sizes of paint.

These small containers of paint are available for buyers to take home and test on their walls. They are ideal for seeing how certain colors appear side by side and how those colors accompany an established design theme. Pratt & Lambert’s Sample Selector Program offers two-ounce containers in 288 different colors. Additionally, these containers can accommodate a standard size two-inch brush, so there is no need to transfer the paint to another container. The samples provide enough paint to cover a two-foot square wall area, allowing you to see the paint spread across a larger surface.

“Decorating should be fun, so try to relax and enjoy the process,” adds Van Allen. “And if for some reason you’re still unhappy with a paint color after it’s been applied, remember, it can easily be changed – just grab a brush and a new color.”


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