How to 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.

How to Pick the Perfect Paint Color

How to pick the perfect Paint Color: Tutorial | DIY Playbook

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 fewer 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.

Narrow it down: How to pick the perfect Paint Color: Tutorial | DIY Playbook

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 discussions, 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.

Get Help: How to pick the perfect Paint Color: Tutorial | DIY PlaybookBecause 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.

Test and try: How to pick the perfect Paint Color: Tutorial | DIY Playbook

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.

Test & Try: How to pick the perfect Paint Color: Tutorial | DIY Playbook

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!

How to pick the perfect Paint Color: Tutorial | DIY Playbook

Other Paint Color Resources




The Year of Casey

Hey there!

I’m Casey Finn, the voice behind The DIY Playbook. I’m a Chicago gal teaching you how to design, DIY, and maintain your home…by yourself! Learn more about me right here.