Choosing the Right Paint Color for Your Home

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Choosing the right paint color for your home can be intimidating.  No one wants to take the time and energy to paint a room only to realize the color is completely wrong. Not only is this a time-waster, but also, if you have hired a painting company to do the work, it can turn into one expensive mistake.

So now you ask yourself, How do I choose paint colors for my house?

Here are 4 tips on choosing a paint color for your home.

  1. lighting
  2. undertones
  3. paint finish
  4. impact of other colors in the room.

Save yourself from wasting money and time by reading along to understand how these 4 tips on how to pick a paint color will help the process.

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1. When choosing a paint color, know the undertone.

Lets’ start with understanding what an undertone is.

Paint colors are often created by using two or more colors. If there is a higher percentage of one color over the other, that creates an undertone. 

All colors have two undertones: cool and warm.

Warm colors typically have undertones that are orangeyellow, or red, and they promote a cozy, welcoming space. Where as,cool colors have undertones that are greenblue, or purple and they tend to make your space feel crisp and fresh.

Knowing a paint colors undertone can help you tremendously when deciding on a paint color. It helps you narrow down the list of paint colors that will work in the space you are painting. 

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2. How do you decide between choosing a warm or cool paint color?

Look at the fixtures, cabinetry, floors, and the trim in the home. If you want to emphasize the undertone for example, A brushed nickel faucet pairs well with a paint color with a cooler undertone such as Gray Cloud by Benjamin Moore. Whereas, a red brick fireplace is complemented beautifully by a paint color with a warm undertone, an example being Neutral Ground by Sherwin Williams.

If you are looking more along the lines to balance the warmth or coolness, go with the opposite undertone from your fixtures or cabinetry. One example would be choosing a cooler paint color to balance out warm wood trim. 

A good rule of thumb is to choose the undertone of your paint color by the mood you are trying to achieve. Either match interior elements to the undertone of the paint color or choose the opposite undertone to achieve a sense of balance.

Knowing your undertone will help you in choosing the right paint color for your home.

Shop This Cool Toned Bedroom

warm toned bedroom

Shop This Warm Toned Bedroom

3. Consider your light situation when choosing the right paint color for your home. 

Light plays an important role in the way a paint color looks. It can change the appearance of virtually any color. For this reason, it’s a good idea to become familiar with the lighting situation of the room you are choosing the paint color for. That’s to be said for natural sunlight as well as artificial light.

Natural sunlight

In terms of natural sunlight, as the day progresses, the lighting intensity changes, creating changes in the appearance of colors. This is very important to remember when you are deciding on a paint color.

At sunrise , the sunlight is warmer because it’s lower to the horizon. As a result, the sun gives off a warm yellowish cast. As the day proceeds to midday and the sun rises, producing more of a bluish, cooler cast. At midday, in direct sunlight, colors will appear to be a bit washed out. Finally, as the day concludes to evening, the warmth is back, but now giving rooms  more of a reddish cast.

lighting direction

North-facing rooms – Light in north-facing rooms comes off cooler and somewhat bluish. Lighter colors appear more muted, while bolder colors will show up, or appear better.

Paint Color Recommendation: Linen White, Benjamin Moore or Sherwin Williams Mindful Gray 

 South-facing rooms– In South facing rooms, there tends to be a consistently bright light throughout the day. Warm and cool tones work with south facing light, This light intensifies colors, so darker colors will seem brighter while,  softer colors will 

Paint Color Recommendation: Gray Screen, Sherwin Williams Agreeable Gray or SW Ligh French Gray

East-facing rooms– East facing rooms have the brightest light in the mornings, with a yellow-orange tone.  If a east facing room will be used mostly in  the evenings, going with a warm palette will help balance the lack of natural light. 

Paint Color Recommendation: Latte, Sherwin Williams

West-facing rooms- Early evening is when West-facing rooms have the best light. Warmer tones might seem overwhelming because of the red -orange the light gives off. However, if the main use for the room is in the mornings, the colors won’t appear as intense.

Paint Color Recommendation: Smoke, Benjamin Moore

Artificial Lighting

Like sunlight, artificial lighting largely affects the appearance of a paint color you choose. Depending on the type of light bulb you choose, the color of your paint will look different.

Check out the list below. Before you pick your paint color, decide what light bulbs you will be using.

  • Light-emitting diodes (LEDs): LED bulbs can be either cool or warm. They are flexible and work well with any color.
  • Compact fluorescent lights (CFLs)CFLs come in a variety of colors. They can off either a warm white, neutral or bluish-white light.
  • Halogens: Halogens produce a white light very comparable to natural sunlight. 
  • Fluorescents: Fluorescents bulbs are used mainly with cool tones. The cool light enhances blue and green colors.
  • IncandescentsIncandescent bulbs give off a warm yellow light. They will enhance warm tones like reds, yellows, and oranges while muting colors such as blues and greens. 
kelvin scale

If you are looking for a paint color to set the mood to a warm and cozy space opt for warmer light bulbs such as the incandescent bulbs. These will also compliment warm wood tones and darker colors. 

Would you rather have a cool, crisp feel to your room? If so, go for LEDs in bright white, or CFLs. Additionally, these types of bulbs will make brighter colors pop.

Light fixtures

Not only does the type of lighting effect the paint color but also, so does the type of lighting fixture. 

Danica 23" Table Lamp

Shop Lamps Here

Lampshade– A lampshade will affect the strength of the light bulb it holds. Being that most lampshades are solid, the amount of light produced is diminished a bit. White, off-white and ivory shades give off the brightest light. While darker shades give off less light and mute the appearance of surrounding colors. If you have a lampshade in a warmer color, the light will come off in a warmer hue, creating warmth to everything else in the room.

Maggiemae 4-Light Metal Lantern Pendant

Find Pendants Here

Pendants /Down Pointed Lights– Down pointed lighting is directed down and illuminates floors. Pendants direct light down making them ideal for workspaces, such as kitchen islands.  As a result, the down-pointing light can usually make ceilings feel darker or unlit. 

Shop Sconces here

Sconces / Up Pointed LightsSconces and lights pointing upward, direct light towards the ceiling, which in turn illuminates the ceiling and upper portion of your walls. 

LRV  – Light Reflectance Value

The LRV ( light reflectance value), is the amount of light a paint color either absorbs or reflects. LRVs range from 0-100, with 100 being pure white and 0 being absolute black.  So the higher on the LRV scale, the more light-reflective the paint color will be. 

LRV is very a very important factor consider when you are trying to pick a paint color for your home.

Benjamin Moore Paint Deck Index (1)
LRV Scale

Let’s take Repose Gray by Sherwin Williams. The LRV is 58, which is almost smack in the middle of the scale. Agreeable gray is slightly higher on the scale, so this paint color will reflect more light than a color with an LRV of 39 like Dorian Gray by Sherwin Williams.

It’s always good to check the LRV  when choosing the right paint color. It will help you when you are dealing with rooms that don’t receive a lot of natural light. For example, for a smaller office with only one window, you’d want to opt for a color such as Pale Oak by Benjamin Moore, which has an LRV of 69.89. The high LRV of this paint color will be able to reflect the little natural light the room has, giving the room an airy feel.

4. Don’t forget Paint Sheen when picking a paint color.

Paint sheen plays a role in the way a color looks as well. This is one aspect that is often overlooked. 

The higher the gloss level of a paint color, the more light it will reflect and the brighter the color will appear. While a paint color with a matte finish will not be reflective and will give the paint color a truer appearance.  

Finally thoughts on picking a paint color

The 4 Key elements you should keep in mind when choosing a paint color for your interior are:

  1. lighting
  2. undertones
  3. paint finish
  4. impact of other colors in the room.
How to pick the perfect paint color - (1)

Finally, my biggest recommendation when it comes to choosing the right paint color for your home is to pick  3 or 4  colors you are drawn to, get samples, and paint swatches in the rooms you want to paint.

Be prepared to swatch! Grab yourself some chippy brushes.

Don’t paint small dinky swatches either. I’m talking biglargemonster swatches so you can actually see the color. Then just live with the swatches for a few days, checking them throughout the day, in different lighting, natural and artificial.


Want to try a mess-free way to test paint colors? Check out Samplize Peel & Stick Paint Samples.

You want to make sure you are covering all bases before choosing the right paint color for your home.

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18 thoughts on “Choosing the Right Paint Color for Your Home”

  1. This is a very thorough and informative post! Such great tips and helpful to know what to consider before painting. I’ve made the mistake of picking the wrong color multiple times and it’s so frustrating. Thanks for this excellent post Cate!

  2. We have a north facing kitchen and we are looking for a light gray on walls with a white cabinets and white / marble gray counters. Any suggestions on white and gray paints to consider?

    1. Hey Catherine,
      North facing rooms will pull all the cool tones out of most paint colors. So if you like cooler colors the north-facing light will amplify those cool tones. That being said a few great colors to check out that are on the warmer gray/greige side would be SW Collonade Gray, Worldly Gray, and BM Revere Pewter. The warmer grays will somewhat balance the north-facing light. As for whites, look into BM Simply White or SW Creamy. both are warmer whites. You can also look at SW Silver Satin which is a very light gray if you like a cooler color just without an icy feel to it.

  3. I just found your posts and find them to be very informative. I’m just so overwhelmed with picking out colors. We are building and the cabinet guy needs our colors. I want to go white with all the wall cabinets and then with the island and the range hood a different color. I thought I wanted charcoal greys then I seen this post and thinking about switching it up to the grey/blue side. The Charlotte slate or the charcoal blue looks appealing. It’s an open floor plan and we plan to put down dark wood floors. (But that can change). If Having this much trouble with one cabinet and the range hood I can’t imagine what am I going to go through with my walls

    1. Hi Kim, Thank you for the kind words.
      It can be very frustrating trying to pick the right paint colors. It sounds like a blue-gray would be a great contrast against the white cabinets. When you get to painting your walls, make sure you consider the fixed elements, furniture and decor your room will have. You want to make sure they all work with one another. I offer paint color consultation if you are interested.

  4. Hello, I need some advise for a east facing room, which has several mature trees. The sunlight is filtered through the trees. I selected BM HC 170 . One the wall with no light, the color is like the swatch, but with sunlight on the wall, it looks blue.
    Really blue, if I use a brown undertone as in BM HC 170, it turns to army green. Right now the room is a apricot shade which pretty much stays the same color in the daylight. Do you have a suggestion to a neutral color that is not going to Chang so drastically?

  5. Hi Cate,
    I am thinking of painting my north facing kitchen all one color: a mixture of simply white and pale oak, with a bit of a dark pink paint that I have, so that the color looks like a pale taupe/linen with a sight rosy glow. The LRV of straight pale oak seems too low for this dark room, but would raising the value of the paint with the simply white be too light for a dark room? Some say white works no matter what lighting the room, others say too light a paint just looks drab. Thanks!

  6. What is functional gray do for a wall I am trying to get a dark wall and I used requisite gray for light wall but I think my functional could had been a little darker help please only two windows in this master bedroom did my bathroom with theses colors they did awesome but I had to kilZ the wall in my master bed rn my requisite gray look like a brown undertone Help please

  7. Very helpful information. We are painting the outside of our Colonial with a southern exposure and red brick on part of the lower level. I tried a sample of Thunder, AF-685 and it looks nice but I am seeing more some purple in the sunlight. The new roof is Weathered Wood, a soft mix of browns and gray and I thought a house color that is more of a greige would work. Can you recommend some colors?

  8. I would like to paint my house a lighter grey( but not silver) with dark grey trim. I have navy shutters. I was thinking of using Sherwin Williams Aviatrax as the base and Carbonized as the trim and garage doors. I want something that will not be too light and fade in a few years. I was going to use Alabaster White as trim around the windows. I have a large house with stone and stucco ( that is now tan). I cannot make a mistake. What do you think?

  9. We are in the midst of choosing paint colors for our home. I love the bedroom blue gray by Sherwin Williams on your blue gray page. Would you please tell me the name of the Sherwin Williams paint ?

    What blue would you recommend to complement agreeable gray for a split wall with agreeable gray on top?
    Thinking I might go with a darker gray on top to make the white woodwork pop in our basement? Thinking of going with a blue gray on the bottom. What would you recommend?

  10. I have two west facing bedrooms and looking for paint colors, mostly neutral or gray/beige wall paint colors. One of them I have selected Balboa Mist, looking for the second bedroom with two windows and bedroom is about 12×14, white/off-white furniture. Any Benjamin Moore color suggestions? thanks!

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