Monday, February 17, 2014

Four Easy Steps For Picking Paint Colors

So you’ve decided to paint a wall, a room, or your whole house. Congratulations! Many people are too afraid of color to try it yet paint is the easiest and quickest way to bring a new, fresh look to your home. But there are a few things you should definitely keep in mind during the process of picking paint colors.

Step One: Like a color
To start, if you are drawn to a specific hue, explore that color family. If you are not, start with an inspiration—a piece of art work, a pillow, a rug, even a piece of clothing can provide a color palette or direction. You can also choose a color palette based on established color schemes which I covered here in a prior post entitled “Let’s Talk About Color: Four Color Schemes To Know And Love.”

Step Two: Find a paint chip
Your next step is to go to the paint store and browse chips: those are the little squares of color that often come on a strip of paper, sometimes five or six to a strip. It can often be a little overwhelming looking at so many different tints, tones, and shades of the same hue, so here is something that might help you to keep some sense: generally, the middle color on a strip, or color family, is the pure hue. Then the color lightens (a tint) and darkens (a shade) on either side of the parent color. This is why it is called a color family.

When looking at paint swatches, please please please hold them up vertically, as if you are looking at them on the wall. The way the light falls onto a surface dramatically changes the intensity and hue of a color. You may have encountered this with fabric. It is amazing how different the color of a shirt can appear when it is draped across a bed waiting to be worn versus how it looks on a hanger.

Step Three: View the color in your space
Once you have chosen a color—or colors (you go, you color daredevil!)—you will want to look at samples of the paint. For your next purpose, the tiny swatch you get at the paint store kiosk will not cut it. You need to see the color in a large format. Buy the largest swatch the paint manufacturer sells or better yet, buy a tester pot.

Either tape the swatch to the wall, or—and this is my preferred method—paint the color on your walls. Now here is an extra step that many people miss when painting sample patches but it will help you to more clearly and confidently choose a color: if your current walls are not white, you need to paint the wall a white color-blocking primer first, since wall colors can bleed through certain paints and interfere with the way the color reads on the wall. It is best to start with a blank white surface in order to achieve the purest form of the color.

Live with the color(s) on the wall(s) for a few days. The next step is very important: watch at different times of the day—and evening—to see how the hue changes with the changing light. If you like a hue in the daytime, but it turns a yucky color at night, then that is probably not a color you would want to paint, say, your bedroom, since you will be seeing the color mostly at night! Also keep in mind color-bounce from outdoors: if you have a large expanse of green lawn outside of a large window in your room, your color will be tinged with green at different times of the day. If you live next to a building whose wall is a light color, your chosen hue most likely will end up being much more intense at certain times due to increased light bouncing into your space.

Step Four: Pick your paint!
But before you make a final decision, remember that if you are painting an entire room a hue, that color will intensify because any light will make it reflect from the adjacent walls back onto itself. It will create a kind of visual feedback loop. Your paint will come in a variety of finishes as well. You will want to pick a finish based on where the wall is and what kind of traffic it is going to see. Kitchens and bathrooms generally take a semi-gloss since that finish allows for the most ability to be cleaned. Walls that are highly textured with an orange peel plaster for example, should not be painted in a high gloss--the pits, crags, and bumps of the plaster will only be highlighted by the gloss, creating shadows on every irregularity. For these walls it is best to use a satin or pearl finish.

Sometimes people ask if paint dries darker or lighter. This is a tricky question to answer since ideally, the paint should dry to match the exact hue on the swatch. Having said that, not all paint is created equal. Like with almost everything in life, one gets what one pays for, and paints of higher quality tend to behave better (they go on smoother, less brush strokes/roller marks, better coverage, and more pigments so the colors are more saturated, etc.). But when paint is wet, no matter if it is high or lesser quality, all bets are off. It is hard to tell before it dries. Lesser quality paints that have less pigment tend to go on dark and dry up to the hue. Higher quality paints tend to go on lighter and dry down to the hue. So don’t panic when the paint is being applied. It will look different when dry.

Keep in mind that your space, when being prepped and painted, is devoid of drapes, rugs, furniture, and art on the walls. If the color you have chosen seems too intense or too much, remember that probably much of it will be hidden by furnishings, drapes, and art. You are going to end up seeing less than what you see when the room is bare.

Of course picking a paint color can and should be tied in to all the other elements in a room, or perhaps the rest of the house... and if you want an advocate to help you out, give me a call!
Happy designing!

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