Easy Tricks to Help Pick the Perfect Paint Color

Maybe you feel differently but to me, picking the “perfect” paint color for a space is down right STRESSFUL. Maybe it’s because I overthink it, maybe because it seems so permanent or maybe because there’s a million different paint colors to choose from. I love decorating decision-making, but wow… picking paint colors instantly gets me stressed.

Lucky for me, my dad is a painting contractor and is a great the best coach to have on our team when it comes to this step in the decorating process. With the help of my dad, Maggie picked her perfect paint color and I was able to politely listen & take notes.

Choosing a Color That’s Right for You

Let’s start for the beginning of the process, ya know, when the place was avocado green. I don’t think that’s the actual color’s name, it’s just what comes to mind when we look at the before pictures (not that there’s anything wrong with this color… heck, I love guacamole!) And all jokes aside, I think it works for the previous owner’s style.

Fast forward to Maggie moving in and trying to pick the “perfect” paint color. Maggie knew she wanted a whole different color, one a lot more neutral and a tad softer. Even more specifically, Mag knew she wanted “grey”, she just couldn’t decide on the perfect shade of grey for her space (because let’s be real here, there are far more than just 50 shades of grey in the DIY world).

5 Tips from the Professional

1. Narrow it down to 10 or less shades of grey (or whatever color you desire) using paint chips from local hardware stores of color decks. 

2. Buy small samples of each of these colors to paint on the walls in your space. Paint a large enough sample so you can really tell what the color looks like.

3. Observe these samples at ALL different times of the day just to make sure you LOVE the look with sun, without sun, in the dark… you get the point.

4. Paint the samples next to other key design components of the room. (ie. next to countertops, next to the trim, next to a couch, near the rug, etc.) This will help you not only love the paint color but also love how the paint color works together with the other key elements of the room

5. Here’s where things got even more complicated (is that even possible when picking paint colors?) My dad painted the samples on the walls, but the existing green color was playing tricks on our eyes when looking at the tone of the grey samples on the wall. With the green directly next to it, the grey sample seemed tinted with purple, which was NOT the look Maggie loved.

To combat this problem, we taped some white paper towel around the sample, which ultimately hid the green and allowed us to focus on the true tone of the grey. Plus, Maggie’s kitchen cabinets are being painted white, which helped her narrow down what the grey would look like next to white cabinets.

Lesson Learned

When picking the perfect paint color, make sure the existing wall color isn’t influencing your decision by playing tricks on your eyes. Cover up the existing wall color with the colors it will be paired with in your new room so that the sample colors will appear more accurate than it may next to the old paint.

san antonio gray

Pinterest Image of San Antonio Gray via Cory Connor Design/DecorPad

Using Pinterest to Choose the Perfect Color

6. I also encouraged Maggie to search Pinterest to see how her paint color finalists looked in other people’s spaces. Not that you can totally rely on that search since photography can depict paint colors slightly inaccurately depending on the light, but a general “feel” for a few spaces using these specific colors can be a great resource. Plus, these spaces can give you ideas on what accent colors you love with the painted color, what furniture colors paired well, etc.

After lots of discussion, debate and pairing some of Maggie’s decor next to each sample, Maggie ultimately decided on San Antonio Grey by Benjamin Moore for her entire condo.

IMG_2159Because she took the proper steps in making her paint decision, she was not surprised at how the paint chip color translated onto her walls. She love, love, loves the new color or shall I say color(s) since it looks different at different times of the day.


Breaking It Down: 10 Step Recap

If you’re tackling what we see as one of the HARDEST decisions in the decor process, here’s a 10 Step Recap to help eliminate Painter’s Regret:

1. Pick a general color
2. Narrow down that color to 10 or less actual paint colors using paint chips or a color deck. Search Pinterest of Google Image for photos of these paint colors being used in other people’s spaces. *Note these may be slightly inaccurate because of photography light, but can provide a general sense of the color in order to move on to Tip #3.
3. Get sample sizes for every  “finalist” color
4. Paint samples on the wall next to key design elements in the room
5. Make sure the existing color isn’t influencing your decision, cover that old color up the best that you can.
6. Assess the colors at all hours of the day and night to ensure you love the color in all different shades of light.
7. Pick a winning color in the right sheen (our tips on Paint Sheens here)
8. Color match this exact color using the paint brand you love to work with. (Fun fact: pretty much any paint store or large hardware retailer can “color-match” any paint color to your preferred brand.)
9. Paint your space and LOVE the new look.
10. I promise this is not the teacher in me talking, but more the DIY-er in me honestly believing that if you do your “homework” before painting, you will be much more likely to L-O-V-E the new look and won’t fall victim to painter’s regret.


And hopefully after you follow these tips, you too can move onto the real fun part– the decorating! To see how Maggie’s place came together, come check out the full reveal HERE!

picking the perfect paint color

Paint Resources

If you’re painting soon, check out our other popular paint posts here on the DIY Playbook:




  • Heather

    LOVE that color! Great idea with hanging the paper towels. We had the same problem when we painted, the yellow, flat contractor paint was messing with our eyes when we were trying to pick a gray

    I feel like gray is such a hard color to pick.

    • Gray is sooooooo hard! Warm tones, cool tones, blue-ish greens…so hard to pick the perfect one.

  • Trang

    I was just struggling with which gray to go with last week for my bathroom renovation. It’s amazing how much green and blue you can see in ‘gray’ paint when placed in certain rooms with different accessories and lighting. I tend to gravitate towards a lighter version of paint colors, but my hubby and daughter wanted a darker shade of gray so I gave in and went with their selection which was a new Sherwin Williams HGTV paint line for Lowe’s stores. I got confused and had gone to the local Sherwin Williams store directly to get a larger sample swatch of ‘steel piling’ and they had no idea what that color was. When I realized that the sample I had gotten was from Lowe’s SW line, I had go to Lowe’s to buy the paint. I have yet to paint it on the walls so I’m somewhat nervous of how it’s going to look on huge surfaces versus the sample swatch.

    • Totally agree! And how crazy about the HGTV paint line. We just saw it at Lowe’s this past weekend and the paint looks awesome. Good luck with your bathroom!

  • Jennifer D

    These are great tips. Putting the color of next to other key elements of the design is so important; this is a great reminder. I’d remember to do it with large elements like backsplashes, but I often over look how the color works with the trim color. I assume it’ll be fine since the trim in my house is white, but, like gray, there are so many different “whites”. Some are cool, some are warm, some go pinkish, yellowish, etc., etc. Yikes.
    I’d like to suggest one change to your tips, though. Rather than paint your sample on the wall get some 18″x24″ foamboard (also known as foam-core board) which is inexpensive and available at any craft or art supply store and paint the entire sheet with the sample color. This way you can move it around your room to see how light, etc. affects it on every wall. A color might look great on one wall, but not so wonderful on another one. If you have multiple colors to try you can use both sides of the board since it’s rigid. When you’re done with the board use it for another DIY!
    An issue I’ve run into when repainting a room is how to deal with the cast color from the old paint that’s on an opposite or adjacent wall on my new samples. In order to really see the true color in the space I’d have to cover that paint completely and I certainly don’t want to paint it all white/neutral…way too much work (unless I need to prime, but a lot of primers aren’t white). Hmmm, I wonder if tacking bed sheets up to cover the old walls would work…

    • we love, love, LOVE these tips, thanks so much for sharing!!

  • YES!! Completely agree with painting all over your house to see what the paint looks like everywhere and at all different times of the day. I also like adding samples next to baseboard, countertops, and other important parts of your house that may impact how the color appears on the wall. =) Good luck!!

  • Seema Sharma

    Such a great blog.Thanks for sharing useful tips

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