Intuition and information are useful tools when you need to find the right paint colors to update your home. Major paint manufacturers like Behr offer several tools to make it easy for DIYers to get it right the first time. Inside, outside and room-by-room, find the perfect shade and the best finish to showcase your colorful castle.
The Room Next Door
No room exists in isolation. When choosing paint for one room, take time to look at every view into and out of that room. The dining room connects to the hallway and has a partial sightline into the kitchen. The foyer, living room and dining room all open into each other, and the hallway is open to the kitchen and mudroom.
Factor in all the colors when you paint a single space so your house harmonizes. A Behr display in a paint store has color cards with different intensities of the same hue, organized next to similar shades. Select a color you love and consider painting adjacent spaces with lighter or deeper intensities of that hue -- the paler and more vivid colors on the sample card.
Evaluate the light at different times of day -- a dark room might need light paint for balance. A muted shade of paint in too-bright room will knock down the glare.
Warm and cool colors help define the temperature in a room:
- Sunny yellows and oranges and fiery reds add strong, vibrant energy to the environment.
- Cool blues and greens calm things down and feel fluid and open.
- Most purples fall into the cool realm, and enhance quiet energy.
Whites and light colors expand a room, dark colors and very bright hues -- in most cases -- make the space seem smaller.
Once you've found a color, have a sample made up so you can cover a large section of wall, or a movable board, with the paint to check its color values in changing light.
Select Your Sheen
Narrow the choices for finish according to traffic flow. The busier a room or hallway is, the shinier and more easily washed the paint should be.
- Matte or flat paint absorbs light, is very low-sheen or no-sheen, and works for ceilings and places that see few people and little traffic. It's not impossible to wash a wall painted in a flat finish, but it's more likely you will damage the paint.
- Flat enamel has a little more luster and is ideal for moderate traffic, according to Behr's website.
- Eggshell enamel is softly shiny . Use it in moderate-traffic living rooms, for example.
- Moderate to high traffic requires something a bit sturdier that can handle some moisture -- satin enamel is fine on kitchen walls and halls.
- Semigloss enamel is wipe-down simple and really shiny on cabinets and trim, where grubby little fingerprints sprout like mushrooms overnight.
- High-gloss enamel -- get out your sunglasses. This finish is hard, glasslike and super-shiny. Heavy traffic areas and theatrical set pieces only.
All the Tools
Love the color of your friend's new bedspread or powder room wall? Snap a picture of it with your smartphone and unleash Behr's mobile app to match it to the nearest shade of paint. The app has a workbook where you can save appealing colors, and Behr's website offers numerous articles about color selection and pulling off a professional-looking job.
The Inspiration Gallery provides free slideshows with rooms, color combinations and unexpected ideas for using paint to create effects. The ColorSmart visualizing tool lets you click a color and then view that color in a room to see how it would look as an accent or covering all the walls. Color cards and paint-trends brochures from the paint store are just a few of the many ways for you to experience the dramatic or subtle effects of different hues before choosing the paint.
Outside the Box
Don't limit your informed choices to the inside track. Get some help selecting exterior colors that show off your home to advantage. Light colors make that compact shack look larger, but changing light and shadows show up more on light walls. Dark colors give the impression of a lower, more compact building and help to integrate the house with extensive landscaping. Different architectural styles can handle complementary and triadic color schemes; some styles look best in traditional choices. Siding looks more attractive and richer with a low sheen, but trim and the front door could use a little more shine.
There's an art to choosing exterior colors, and Behr makes it easy for you to browse color families and popular shades online, and then adds suggestions for trim, accents, shutters and doors. Order samples of the colors you like, either online or in the store, and try them out in all light before committing to the whole house.