Picking a Paint Color

Posted by: Rebecca Atwood

Picking a Paint Color

Picking paint colors can be a challenging part of the design process. Walking into the paint store and staring at the wall of colors is exciting--all of those possibilities! Then, honing in on just the right shade can be a little overwhelming. The trick is to remember it’s a process. Here are my tips.

First Pass

Find some inspiration. It could be a painting of a landscape, a favorite flower, or a place you love. Write down those ideas. Look for rooms on Pinterest as well as in magazines and books that you like.   Allow yourself time to dream before you go to the paint store. When you get there, pick colors based off of your inspiration—and then just grab a few more color swatches that speak to you.

Rebecca Atwood Paint Tips


A Note about Whites

Shades of white can be challenging! Before you pick a bunch of swatches, think about how you want the space to feel. Do you want it warm and cozy? Go for a warmer white (think one that has a hint of pink). Do you want it breezy and airy? Go for a cooler white (think one that has a hint of blue in it). White can be bright and optic, or it can be softer. It’s helpful to have an idea of which way you want to lean before you pick up swatches. This just helps give you context.

Second Round

Now that you have a bunch of swatches bring them home and see how they feel in the space you’re going to paint. Pin them to the wall. Look at them next to one another. See how they change in different lights. You might notice a color is too light, dark, warm, or cool. Then go back to the paint store and look for other options based on what you noticed.


This is perhaps the most important stage! The thing about color is that it looks different depending on the light so you have to try it out on the walls in the space you’re going to use it. You might paint a color you love on the wall and realize it’s too dark or too saturated. This is a pretty common thing to happen as you were previously looking at just a small swatch. You may need to go back to the paint store again and try a shade or two lighter.

If you’re still struggling, consider painting your own color swatch. This is what I did for the store as I couldn’t find just the right peach. Many paint stores, including Mazzone’s in Brooklyn, can match a color if you bring in a solid piece of color that’s around 3” square. They’ve even matched to towels and sweaters before!

Final Decisions

Once you’ve painted your test swatches give yourself some time to look at the colors in different times of day to see how the color changes. It’s key to give yourself time to see how you feel about the colors.



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