Monday, December 13, 2010

Choosing Paint Colors

There is much information and experience that goes into choosing paint colors but here are some tips to help you better understand how it works.  Anyone without the knowledge or experience of paint colors that has gone through this process knows all too well how easily it can be a hit or miss in choosing the right paint color.  Too many have had the painful experience of choosing the wrong color and having to paint the room over again (and hopefully not yet again).

Painting interiors the color you imagine can be quite a challenge.  Why is this?  Colors have slight undertones and they read differently.  Undertones are the colors mixed in with the mass tone or color.  For example, a beige color may have a pink undertone.  If you are choosing a beige color, you will want to be aware of its undertone since this color could show through on the walls.  How do you know what undertones you are working with?  Be sure to look at the paint chips in the space you are painting because they will surely look different than at the paint store. If you’re not sure of the undertone in a paint color, paint a sample on a white piece of paper or foam core board (paint this thinly, not thick). The neutral, white background will usually make the undertone easier to identify, even if you don’t have a lot of experience with colors.  The other main challenge in choosing colors is to understand that colors will read different depending on whether you live in the North, South, East or West along with the amount natural sunlight, artificial light, darkness and shadows the space provides.  It will also depend on what the color is adjacent to.  For instance, having the beige paint color with subtle or even unnoticeable pink undertones against cherry or mahogany floors will bring the pink out of the beige.

Colors are often referred to as "warm" and "cool." Orange, red, and pink are considered "warm" colors, while blues, greens, and violet are thought to be "cool."  And if that wasn’t enough to figure out; the real difficult part comes in where there are many different colorways for each primary and secondary colors and these colorways can have warm or cool undertones.  For instance a blue can have a warm or cool undertone.  

If you don’t have much experience with colors, start with many paint chips in the space and work your way down to select five favorite options.  Choose colors that work and feel best with your fabrics, materials and finishes and remember to think about the mood you are trying to set for the space.  Before choosing any final color you should always get a samples of your favorite options and put them on an 11 x 17 (or larger) sample board to really see the color. Leave about 0.5" of white space on all sides to help prevent your existing wall paint color from influencing the color on the sample.  Look at the colors in the morning, noon and night.

Trim colors to use are typically in pure whites; whites with slight cream (yellow tints) or with slight gray.  Again, If you don’t have a lot of experience with colors it is best to keep cool colors with the cream whites and warm colors with the gray whites.  Also, if you have a fixed white surface already in your home such as white cabinets or white tiles in stone, marble or ceramic then you can use a white that works best with this.   It is also important to note that all trims do not have to be in white at all.  They can match the wall color or you can have trims in a darker color (and windows can be treated separately and darker).  See the examples below..

Lastly, a little you need to know about gloss.  Gloss levels refer to the shiny or dull appearance of your paint.  The higher the gloss the more durable the paint is for scrub, stain and moisture resistance but it also shows more of any imperfections on the walls. There are typically six levels flat or matte, eggshell, pearl, satin, semi-gloss, high gloss.  Walls are typically done in a low sheen or eggshell for a more refined look and show less imperfections and glare.  Kitchens, bathrooms, children's rooms, trims and doors are typically in a semi-gloss for its durability and ceilings in a flat or low sheen. A high gloss or even lacquered walls really draw attention and are sexy if used in a particular room but the preparation and process for these walls is much more involved and good for another blog post. Here are some examples..

A few tips:

Think about the mood you are trying to achieve and whether you want to set a cool or warm tone for that feel.
If using difference colors throughout the home put all the color samples together and be sure they flow.
Remember that the paint will dry darker on the walls.
Consider the amount of wall space being covered and lighting with the paint color choices.

Some of my many favorite paint colors:

Farrow and Ball, Skimming Stone 241
Farrow and Ball, Pointing 2003
Ralph Lauren, Pocket Watch White WW01
Ralph Lauren, Forde Abbey
Pratt and Lambert, Seed Pearl 27-32
Benjamin Moore, Revere Pewter HC-172

Ralph Lauren, Orion Grey TH14
Benjamin Moore, Horizon 1478
Ralph Lauren, Forde Abbey TH06

Benjamin Moore, Grant Beige HC-83
Farrow and Ball, Tanner’s Brown 255

Benjamin Moore, Horizon Gray 2141-50
Pratt and Lambert, Clover 22-20

Benjamin Moore, Van Courtland Blue HC-145
Benjamin Moore, Kensington Blue 840

Farrow and Ball, Setting Plaster 231
Benjamin Moore, Tuscan Red 1300
Ralph Lauren, Dressage Red TH41

And for more on the color wheel and choosing paint colors: