Tips for Choosing Paint Colors

We think Marilyn and Peter got it just right when they chose this shade of gray-green for their accent wall, but as winners of the 2006 Fall Colors Contest, they've got a natural knack for color. Not everyone is so adept at picking out paint, so we've listed a few tips below for choosing paint colors...

Just to kick off the conversation, these are ideas we've collected (especially over the last couple weeks, as we've been choosing paint colors for all the rooms in our new apartment). Add your tips and tricks in the comments below.

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• Choose a color that works with your furniture. It's much easier to change your walls than buy a new living room set, so use what you already own to guide your choices.

• Consider a room's natural light when choosing whether to go dark or pale. Generally, rooms with lot of natural light can handle dark colors better than a poorly lit room. Pale shades will usually reflect natural light.

• Choosing the right color is all about balance. If you have colorful furnishings or accent pieces in your home, try balancing them with more neutral walls. If your all-neutral furniture feels bland, use a bold color to give the room some kick.

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• If you see a color you like in a photograph, try to match it to a color chip. Although colors aren't reliable online, a photograph of a whole room gives you a better idea of a color than a swatch on your screen. For rooms that list color sources from AT, see NY's Color Therapy posts.

• Collect chips in a range of colors and look at them against any upholstery, rugs, and wood tones in the room.

• Pair wall colors with a complimentary trim, or paint trim and baseboards the same color as the walls for a modern look. When choosing trim, remember that colors change in relation to one another. Collect chips and samples for both your main and accent colors.

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• In our experience, paint almost always looks darker on the wall than it does on the chip. If you're working off a chip, choose the color you want, then consider going a shade lighter.

• Choose the type of finish you want for your room. Flat finishes hide imperfections, while glossy finishes reflect light. Flat finishes are harder to keep clean (so they're not ideal for a kitchen or bathroom), but glossy finishes can look cheap if the walls aren't in top form.

• Even if you have to pay a little, invest in a small sample pot and paint a few swatches in your room, near the windows and in dark corners.

• Although painting can be stressful, it's one of the least expensive changes you can make in a room, so don't get too upset if you make a mistake. You can always change it later.

Related Resources from AT:
Clip File: Best of Paint Color Questions
How To Paint Your Room: Best Tips and Tricks
AT:NY's Color Therapy Posts
AT:CHI's Color Combo Posts
Color Therapy: The Worst Colors for Interiors

Photo: AT Book Alert: Update on Marilyn and Peter