How to Choose Interior Paint Colors

It’s a simple question.  What color should I paint my living room?    Choosing the best paint colors for your home is enough to make anyone crazy!

It seems easy, but then it turns into:
What if I don’t want the same color on every single wall in my home?  How do I use different colors in different rooms and still make it all look good together?  How do I know I’ll like it when I’ve finished?  How long will I like it?

How many people do we know that have had to re-paint because the color wasn’t right?

Sheesh!!!   There are so many questions and even more options to choose from!

White Living Room

All of this can be intimidating so most people just give up and choose a version of white.  It is a neutral, but usually it feels a little less than personable.

Well, I have a few suggestions that should help.

 How to Choose the Best Interior Paint Colors

We want color!  We need color!!   Rooms look more inviting because color somehow seems more alive.  There are so many choices that we know we can find one that we like.   But,  let’s plan first.

First, gather choices.

Paint Color Samples

There are several sites that will ‘help’ you pick a color.  They show you how many different choices they have and some of them can even show you what it will look like in your room.   This really is super helpful, if you want to figure out how their program works.

Second, consider the mood you want in the room.

I always wonder what I will feel like when I go into that room and what will I look like in it?

Do you ever notice that when you take a selfie, you look better with color in your background?  How many of us run around the house, or even outside in the yard to take a quick selfie where the background color of a tree or the sky makes us look better than the boring white bathroom wall?

Woman on Plain White WallWoman in Dark Forest BackgroundWoman on bright pink background



That’s because we want to feel and look our best, even in our home.  When we feel we are at our best we are happier and recharge from the world much more quickly.

Third, figure out which colors complement you personally.

Some people look great in shades of blue, and others look best in shades of orange.  It only takes a couple of minutes to find out which color looks best on you.

3 Steps to Help Choose the Best Colors

Step 1 – Over at Sarah Stebbins gives some great advice on “How to know what color looks best on me“.  She explains how to tell which skin tone and hair color you have and then offers suggestions of colors that will look best with your particular skin tone.   Shani Jay wrote a similar article, “What colors look good on me.”   These tips will give us a nice variety of colors that we can use as a palette to choose from.

This is a great start because it really narrows down those  choices.

Step 2 – Now that we know which colors make us look our best, we need to consider the purpose of the room we are painting.

Which room is it, and how do we want to feel when we are in it?

Bright Yellow and Blue Breakfast NookRose and Gold Living RoomSage Green Living RoomBlue Accent WallOrange and White Living Room



If we are painting the whole house, we should probably keep it simple and just pick 2 to 4 colors to start with and let those colors be the main theme for the whole house.  It would be wise to also consider the colors that are already in the furniture upholstery and artwork.  We can match those to the nearest shade in our new palette.

Coordinating colors always look ‘put together’, like we know exactly what we are doing.  ; )

Corey gives some awesome advice at on how to create a whole home color palette.  We can choose from colors in our own palette, but you’ll get the idea.  There’s also a very cool tool by Adobe Color that I found when reading Josh Byers’ article “The Secret to Confidence with Color Design” at about how to use colors on the color wheel and have them coordinate with or complement each other.  I love cool tools!  You should definitely check out this one!

We can take one color from our color palette and put it in the color wheel and it will show which colors coordinate or complement it.  Super easy!

Step 3 – Okay, we know which colors we look best in, and we know how to match them to other colors so they look great together.  We just need to decide which mood to create for the room and whether we want to paint the whole room, or choose a color for an accent wall.

*Just a suggestion, for decor purposes it is usually a good idea to avoid the true primary colors, as a general rule.

If you look closely you’ll notice that when a room is yellow or red like the pictureRed Kitchen here they aren’t the primary red and yellow, but the yellow, above, has just a touch of red mixed in it and the red, here, has just a touch of green added.  It’s not really noticeable until you don’t mix the color a bit.  This is the trick to using vibrant colors in the room without having them seem harsh.

What do you mean by ‘create a mood’?

Well, as an example,  I love morning chats over a cup of coffee and making meals together with the whole family wandering in, out and helping around the kitchen.  I’d use the notes below and probably choose colors on the orange or yellow sections of the color wheel to add the social feelings of happiness and enthusiasm and excitement.   It’s important to understand that I’m not necessarily talking about the orange orange, but warm rust, or a gold tone would still create the mood we are looking for without needing to wear sunglasses in the kitchen.   I haven’t found anything to beat the cheery bright yellow fresh flower for that needed pop of yellow though.   While these colors wont ‘make’ you feel any particular way by themselves, there are several studies, links below, that show that color does have a small effect on how we feel.  Sometimes just a nudge is all it takes, right?

Ideas from Color Theory

To help create a particular mood in a room we can use color to help, or a variant shade of the color (technically speaking, it’s a hue, but who’s counting?)

There’s a list of several of the basic (primary and secondary) colors and some studies of common perceptions and emotions that people usually use to describe them in this article about color psychology by Kendra Cherry on   I’ll just list the basics here.

  • Red – lust, power, excitement, love, warmth, comfort, intensity
  • Pink – sophistication, sincerity, feminine
  • Orange – excitement, enthusiasm, warmth, energy, socializing
  • Yellow – competence, happiness, sometimes jealousy
  • Green – good taste, envy
  • Blue – masculine, competence, high-quality, calmness, serenity, peaceful, secure, orderly
  • Violet or Purple – authority, sophistication, powerDark Blue Room
  • Brown – ruggedness
  • Black – grief, sophistication, expensive, fear, sexuality, formality
  • White – sincerity, purity, cleanliness, peacefulness

So I will choose a color with the particular mood for the room that I’m painting, then find the closest color in my palette of colors that I know I look best in.

*Remember to also consider the colors that are already in the room decor, like upholstery, draperies, pillows, rugs, etc.

I’ll take that color to use in the color wheel cool tool which will give me a small palette of 3 or 4 complementary and coordinating colors.   If they seem too dark or too bold for what you think you want, you can adjust the slider on the tool to get the lighter versions and use the bold color as an accent.   Don’t be afraid to use bold on one accent wall though.  It really makes a difference in the room.

Just to be sure though, I have one more cool tool.  Well, Olympic Paint has it.  I love their color visualizer tool!   (I am not affiliated with Olympic Paint at all, they just have a cool tool ; ) ) You can try out your color on the walls and ceiling in the photos.  It will even let you upload a photo of your own room to use so you can get an idea of what the color will look like on your own walls.  Then you can make minor adjustments, lighter or darker, if you need to.

So this is the way I choose colors when I paint.  When you are ready to start, check out my page about taping and preparation for painting.  There is a video demonstration about how to apply wall texture here, and I also have a list of necessary supplies for painting .    After you have finished your paint project, come back and check out my ideas for room designs.    And just to get your ideas started there’s a short video by Rebecca Robeson just below that gives some more great ideas for decorating.

I hope this helps you enjoy the process and feel awesome with your finished product!

Please feel free to leave a comment below.  I love to hear about my readers’ projects.

20 Replies to “How to Choose Interior Paint Colors

  1. Would chalk paint be good for hall cabinets? And would chalk paint be good for a cabinet that receives a lot of water on it (under kitchen sink cabinet)?

    1. Hi Glenda, Thanks so much for stopping by. I would say that it should be fine under your sink as long as you are careful to follow
      the directions closely. From many of the reviews that I’ve read it sounds like it would be prudent to use a primer first. The manufacturer advises to use 2 to 3 coats and make sure to ‘season’ it after it cures completely and before any writing or drawing occurs.

  2. Cool post. I like your description of how each color means something different. I once painted the inside of my house green . I have no idea why I did it. Well written.

    1. Thanks for stopping by, and thanks so much for the complement!
      How did that green work out for you?
      Green is supposed to reduce conflict/aggressions. I read a study once where kids were
      found to bicker less among each other when playing in rooms with a lot of green.

  3. Thanks for the guide on these colors. I have used two colors for my daughters bedrooms. But these have been feature walls, so only one wall has been painted.

    For the girls rooms the colors we have used are pink and purple. It is good to know that they share the same meaning, that being sophistication.

    1. You are very welcome, Owain. I hope these ideas and tools will be of some help to you with your girls’ rooms.
      Thanks for stopping by and I hope you check back again soon for more tips and tricks.

  4. What great ideas. We are in the process of updating our house and we got some interesting discussion going on how to redo our house. I am going to improve our sun room / cat relax area and i thing i know how to make it an appealing room. thanks

  5. Hi Rae, as being a Realtor myself, it has been a long time since we suggest to keep the wall white. 😉 I like your article. I might just keep it handy and share it with my client! Thanks for sharing

    1. Hi Carol, Color! Yay! Thanks for helping to start the trend! I hope to see a lot more color in the future. It just seems to make the room come alive. Thanks for stopping by! Check back soon and see other decorating tips as they come. 😉

  6. How I wish I can redecorate my house again with new furniture and the works! Right now, I do not have the resources to do so but I will definitely be taking mental notes for the next time. My favorite wall colors are light colors and I don’t like strong wall colors in my house.

    1. Hi Yvonne, Thanks so much for stopping by. Light colors are great! They can be very fresh and versitile. It’s easy to change the whole feel of a room just by changing a few accessories when the mood hits.

  7. There is a theory of everything in deed. Even the theory of color. I think I like the theory of purple and white together. Any ideas what the blend might look like after mixing?

    1. Hi May, Thank you for your comment. I have always loved the idea of purple and white together. I think a deep purple wall with bright white trim is so elegant. I’d probably use it as an accent wall. You can experiment with the colors you choose on Olympia’s tool that I link to.

  8. Very informative. I am always curious what colors to paint my interior. It’s always difficult choosing. And guess what? My house has flooded 3 times, so I’ve had to cut up the drywall and re-do my basement 3 times including painting. Each time, I picked new colors for my walls. Next time, I will have to come back to this post!

    1. Hi Rob! Thanks so much for the comment. I’m so glad you found it helpful! I’ll look forward to having you back when you are ready to paint again. Hopefully it’s not because o a flood though. : /

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