Three lessons in picking a paint colour (that you’ll love)

01 May 2015

Choosing a paint colour. It’s not easy. We know that. You know that. Just putting together this guide has been close to impossible. But although the colour choice is personal, there are a few things to keep in mind when choosing a paint colour. Here are some tips that’ll mean less time in the paint shop and fewer mistakes on the wall.

TIPS FOR PICKING A PAINT COLOUR

The different grey paints on this paint sticks show the different tones of paint, with warm on the left, cool in the middle and neutral on the right. The different grey paints on this paint sticks show the different tones of paint, with warm on the left, cool in the middle and neutral on the right. The different grey paints on this paint sticks show the different tones of paint, with warm on the left, cool in the middle and neutral on the right. The different grey paints on this paint sticks show the different tones of paint, with warm on the left, cool in the middle and neutral on the right. The different grey paints on this paint sticks show the different tones of paint, with warm on the left, cool in the middle and neutral on the right. The different grey paints on this paint sticks show the different tones of paint, with warm on the left, cool in the middle and neutral on the right. The different grey paints on this paint sticks show the different tones of paint, with warm on the left, cool in the middle and neutral on the right. The different grey paints on this paint sticks show the different tones of paint, with warm on the left, cool in the middle and neutral on the right. The different grey paints on this paint sticks show the different tones of paint, with warm on the left, cool in the middle and neutral on the right. The different grey paints on this paint sticks show the different tones of paint, with warm on the left, cool in the middle and neutral on the right. The different grey paints on this paint sticks show the different tones of paint, with warm on the left, cool in the middle and neutral on the right. The different grey paints on this paint sticks show the different tones of paint, with warm on the left, cool in the middle and neutral on the right.

Lesson 1 pick a tone: warm, cool or neutral

Every paint colour (even grey) is made up of a mix of the primary colours: red, blue and yellow. Some have more red, others more blue, others more yellow. It’s this mix that affects whether the colour feels warm, cool or neutral. And this, in turn, affects the mood of your room. So, if you want a cosy feel go for warmer tones (like the grey on the left). If you want to keep things fresh, go for neutral (like the grey on the right). And if you want to add crispness, go for cool (like the grey in the middle).

Think about: a dark room or one that faces away from the sun would benefit from warmer tones. A room that bathes in golden morning or evening light can get away with a cooler tone.

The different shades of grey paint here represent the colour scale from paler to darker shades. The different shades of grey paint here represent the colour scale from paler to darker shades. The different shades of grey paint here represent the colour scale from paler to darker shades. The different shades of grey paint here represent the colour scale from paler to darker shades. The different shades of grey paint here represent the colour scale from paler to darker shades. The different shades of grey paint here represent the colour scale from paler to darker shades. The different shades of grey paint here represent the colour scale from paler to darker shades. The different shades of grey paint here represent the colour scale from paler to darker shades. The different shades of grey paint here represent the colour scale from paler to darker shades. The different shades of grey paint here represent the colour scale from paler to darker shades. The different shades of grey paint here represent the colour scale from paler to darker shades. The different shades of grey paint here represent the colour scale from paler to darker shades.

Lesson 2 pick a shade: pale to strong

Aside from having red, blue and yellow in a colour, all shades have different levels of black and white too. A pale colour has more white, while a strong vibrant colour has more black. The strength of the colour affects the feeling of the room. It can make it feel bigger or smaller for example. A strong shade makes big rooms feel snug. A light shade makes small rooms feel more spacious.

Think about: when you paint a colour on the wall, it looks darker than on the paint swatch. So to get the colour you see (and actually want), buy the colour that’s two steps lighter on the paint swatch.

This gif shows how different natural and artificial lights affect colour tone. This gif shows how different natural and artificial lights affect colour tone. This gif shows how different natural and artificial lights affect colour tone. This gif shows how different natural and artificial lights affect colour tone.

Lesson 3 the power of light

Light has a massive effect on the look of a paint colour. Light can look cool, warm or neutral, just like paint. So it’s a good idea to paint up patches of the colours you like on the wall and leave them for 24-48 hours. Check out how the paints change colour under different lights: artificial light, overcast daylight and bright sunlight. See how they work with your furniture too.

Think about: if your room gets loads of sunlight you can use all colour hues (warm, cool or neutral), but you might want to avoid really stong shades as they’ll appear more saturated under bright sunlight. If your room doesn’t receive much daylight then paler, warmer shades are better.

A grey paint in the pot can look very blue on the wall as this example shows. The painted wall also has an affect on the shade of the grey sofa. A grey paint in the pot can look very blue on the wall as this example shows. The painted wall also has an affect on the shade of the grey sofa. A grey paint in the pot can look very blue on the wall as this example shows. The painted wall also has an affect on the shade of the grey sofa. A grey paint in the pot can look very blue on the wall as this example shows. The painted wall also has an affect on the shade of the grey sofa. A grey paint in the pot can look very blue on the wall as this example shows. The painted wall also has an affect on the shade of the grey sofa. A grey paint in the pot can look very blue on the wall as this example shows. The painted wall also has an affect on the shade of the grey sofa. A grey paint in the pot can look very blue on the wall as this example shows. The painted wall also has an affect on the shade of the grey sofa. A grey paint in the pot can look very blue on the wall as this example shows. The painted wall also has an affect on the shade of the grey sofa. A grey paint in the pot can look very blue on the wall as this example shows. The painted wall also has an affect on the shade of the grey sofa. A grey paint in the pot can look very blue on the wall as this example shows. The painted wall also has an affect on the shade of the grey sofa. A grey paint in the pot can look very blue on the wall as this example shows. The painted wall also has an affect on the shade of the grey sofa. A grey paint in the pot can look very blue on the wall as this example shows. The painted wall also has an affect on the shade of the grey sofa.

So here’s the colour on the wall. We went for a cool-tone, mid-strength shade of grey (the top middle colour from lesson 3). And it looks kind of blue under warm daylight. Note how the colour has more impact when the entire wall is painted. It even makes the sofa look a different shade of grey.