How to Avoid Overwhelm and Save Time Choosing a Paint Color

living room with blue ceiling

Basketball orange.  But brighter. That’s the color I stared at in horror in our tiny home office that day.  I was a pediatric resident and had a rare day off…so I decided to give our space a new look.  But as you may know, choosing a paint color isn’t always easy.

Basketball orange wasn’t what I was going for.  At all!!

But that was close to 20 years ago… and a lot has changed. 

Has this ever happened to you? 

You decide to paint and have a general idea about what color you want.  But as you look at all the options and have 5 or 6 samples painted on the wall, what seemed like a simple decision has now become a very complicated one.  AND it’s taken up an enormous amount of your time. And you’re STILL not sure which one to choose…

And then, after you’ve finally selected the color and everything has been painted, it’s still not the color you thought it was. And whether you’ve hired someone to paint or you’ve invested the time yourself, it’s definitely NOT something you want to get wrong… because you don’t want to invest the time and/or money to have it fixed.

So how can you avoid overwhelm, save a tremendous amount of time and be confident with the results when selecting a paint color?  

Here are the five steps I use: 

1. Look at paint colors in a paint deck rather than at the individual paint chips on the store sample wall.

This is so that you can see how all of the colors relate to each other. Paint decks are arranged so that you can easily compare the shades of a particular color in a particular color family.  For example, let’s say you want a blue for your living room. As you look at all of the blues in context with one another, you’ll see that some will be more blue-green and others will have more purple in them.  Some will be more saturated and others will be more subtle and gray. 

Needless to say, I didn’t know this back when I picked the basketball orange! 

Now, even as an experienced interior designer, I always use a paint deck when selecting paint colors.  

2)  Use the process of elimination.

When you’re looking at the paint deck, don’t immediately try to zone in on the exact color you want.  I know it’s tempting to want to pick the color right away. Instead, start by eliminating the color you know are not what you’re looking for.  This is typically pretty easy. Too much green? Too bright? Eliminate paint colors until you narrow it down to just one or two.

3.) Think about color value.

Color value is the lightness or darkness of a color.  Think about how much natural light your room gets. If it gets a significant amount of light, you will be able to use a darker color value if you prefer. If your natural light is limited, you will usually want to choose a lighter value.  Also think about the color values in adjacent rooms. You’ll want them to be similar. 

4)  Choose paint last: Compare with the colors in the furniture, rugs, accessories and drapes  your room.

When I’m asked for a paint color recommendation, my first question is always, “What are the other colors in the room?” 

Often, people that ask are just starting a redecorating project and haven’t planned what will go in the room yet.  Or they are moving into a new house and want to repaint everything. 

But, if at all possible, paint color should be the LAST thing you select in a room.

I always leave it for last.


Because how your paint color works with the colors in your furniture, accessories and art is important.  And if you don’t know what will be in the room, you’ll have to select all of it based on whether it will work with your paint color. 

But, if you wait and select the paint color last, you can simply pull the color from the colors already in the room. 

It’s much simpler and helps you avoid buying things you don’t love just because it will work with your wall color.

5) Sleep on it and repeat the process.

Unless you routinely select paint colors, it’s easy to make mistakes.  So I always advise selecting a color using the process I’ve described, sleep on it, and then go through the same process again. 

Want my help selecting paint colors for your project?  My “Paint Selection Package” is designed specifically for women physicians who want the perfect color without all of the time-consuming overwhelm and decision fatigue.  Click here and I’ll do all the work for you. 

Until next time,

Hi I'm Kricia

I help crazy busy women physicians create intentionally designed spaces that makes coming home the best part of their day!

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