The Easiest Way To Pick Out Paint Colors For Your Home

Selecting paint colors is actually the hardest design dilemma to solve. I know this because I’ve met so many designers and decorators that fully admit they are brilliant at putting textiles, décor and finishes together but doubt themselves each time they pick out paint colors for their clients.

I was experiencing those same doubts and knew that I had to do some research as to why. While investigating my little heart out, I learned that the main reason color is so hard to deal with is because it has no set rules to follow by but simply guidelines.

Color is managed through its undertones, how the light hits it, and how a person views it.

If that sounds confusing, know that you are right!

The good new is, I've been able to distill the difficult process down. I'd love to share with you a guideline on how to easily choose the perfect paint colors for your home.

The Easiest Way To Pick Out Paint Colors For Your Home

The first question that must be answered once and for all is… “Where do I start?”

Your starting point is that you HAVE to start out with SOMETHING.

There will never be a time that I choose a paint color for a room that has zero furnishings, fabrics or art to get color inspiration from. You must have the paint color RELATE to the other items in the space or it the color will look detached and very out of place.

Start with any of these items and choose a color from them:

An Area Rug:


A Piece of Wall Art:


Fabric on Pillows and Bedding:




The best case scenario is to already have your furnishings, draperies and art picked out and base the paint color upon those items. If this just isn't feasible, make sure you have at least one major item, like a big area rug or sofa, to base the color upon.

I would also suggest choosing from a neutral color palette at first and then once you have your furnishings in place, begin adding color to the walls. Having your $50 wall color match your expensive furniture will be much easier than the other way around. Changing the paint color is way more cost effective than switching out a $2000-$5000 sofa to just to match it. Am I making any sense here?

This lovely living area has purple-grey woven throughout the draperies, pillows, a throw and the roman shades. The clear choice is a purple-gray wall color.


This beautifully assembled room captures the yellow-beige from the sofa, table and various decor elements. They also accented a wall using the soft blues from the pillows, chairs and curtains and painted the hutch in blue shade as well.


Bonus tip: Be sure to only incorporate 3 different colors in the 70/20/10 ratio or the room will look messy with color. 70 would represent the yellow-beige in the living room above, 20 would be the blue and 10 would be the orange.

Clean vs. Dirty:

The next thing to be sure of is that the colors you are using are either "dirty" or "clean".

Every color has a clean and dirty version. Dirty colors are best defined as "muddied" or "grayed out" and a clean color is simply a fresher, brighter version.

The rooms below display a "clean" yellow and a "dirty" yellow.



Do you see the how the yellow in the second photo has been "grayed" out and muddied? Notice how they kept a "dirty" color scheme going with a dirty version of orange in the curtains and accent pieces.

The first picture reveals a "clean" version of yellow. Do you see how they complimented the clean yellow with the clean version of a blue? If the blue had been grayed out it wouldn't look right.

"Dirty" colors could also be referred to as warmer colors, while "clean" colors could be referred to as cooler.

Can you tell which green is "dirty" or "clean"?

The concept of clean and dirty should be the priority in choosing a cohesive color palette. Making sure that you don't mix clean and dirty colors will be the easiest and best way to assure you get the correct colors in your home.

Keep comparing the colors throughout the process to make sure you aren’t mixing dirty and clean colors. Compare, compare, compare!

Notice the Undertones:

Undertones are another important thing to consider. A great tool to keep in your tool belt is to know this about undertones:

Avoid blending pink-beige and yellow-beige. They will forever make each other appear "dirty". It will be subtle, but you will recognize that something is certainly wrong.

Do you notice (above) how the yellow-beige cupboards make the pink-beige tile flooring look dirty and terribly pinky?

What is an undertone?:

An undertone is simply a color that has been applied and is seen through another color.

There are 3-4 undertones in greys. Blue, green, purple and sometimes blue/green.

This is Grey Owl by Benjamin Moore. It is a grey with a blue undertone.

This is one of my favorites to work into a room.

This Revere Pewter by Benjamin Moore. It is a grey with a green undertone. source

Revere Pewter is the most popular grey used in homes as well as most versatile.

This is Collingwood by Benjamin Moore. It is a grey with a purple undertone. source

Notice how wonderfully it harmonizes with the dark wood flooring.

This is Wickham Grey by Benjamin Moore. It is a grey with a blue/green undertone.

This cool grey goes beautifully with a cool purple. Notice how the purple they painted the island in the adjacent room compliments the cool blue tones on the wall.

Comparing a shade of grey alongside another grey will help you distinguish which undertone is in it. Practice with the 4 grey's listed above, comparing and contrasting them to other greys in a paint deck.

Bonus Tip: Avoid mixing more than two undertones. Your eye will notice if you do.

Test Drive the Color:

Once you have a color picked out that relates to the space, take it to the paint store.

This is going to sound tedious, but it’s the BEST way to really see how a paint color will look on the wall.

Buy poster board and get a “sample pot” of the color or colors you have chosen. These sample pots are around 3.99 and are completely worth buying as they could save you from buying the wrong can of $50 paint.

Use a paint brush to apply the paint onto the poster board and let dry.

Once it is dry, set it next to every fixed element (Anything that can’t be moved when tugged on. Fireplaces, cabinets, tile, countertops. Fixed in place.) and see if it blends correctly.

Put it around the room at different times during the day. Color changes in lighter and darker times of the day, so be sure that you love how this color looks all day long on your walls!

Now that you are sure you love your new paint color you can move forward in painting the room with confidence. You no longer have to “wonder” if paint color will work in your home, you’ll KNOW!

Happy Painting!

-Yours Truly,


Do you have any burning color or design questions you need answered? Comment below and we’ll figure them out together.

If you need help choosing the perfect color palette for your home check out our Paint E-Design Consultations. They are phenomenal.

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