Picking the perfect paint colour is a careful process that requires consideration to a number of factors. My system for specifying colour includes knowledge of colour psychology, the ability to see undertones, considerations to lighting as well as how different elements in a space interact with one another. In short, it just isn’t that simple but let me walk you through my thought process as well as a sample project below.
1. Colour Psychology
I start with a mood and vibe. Consult a colour psychology expert for the colours that work the best for the mood you want to create. If you’re curious, here is a quick 101 on colour psychology used in different spaces in a home.
Relaxing and restful is the mood I started with and typically a pale green would be a perfect choice for this mood.
I consider lighting – both natural and artificial. Lighting is measured in a colour temperature unit called Kelvins (K) ranging from warm yellow (1000K) to cold blue (10,000K). Natural lighting is right in the middle around 5,000K. The colour temperature of your lightbulbs as well as the direction of your windows will influence how the paint colours look in your room. When I pick paint colours I
adjust my colours towards these lighting sources.
This toddler room has north facing windows which give off bluish light and tends to wash out colours more easily so I picked a brighter pale green to avoid the colour being washed out and removed the pale green colours that had obvious yellow undertones as these would look dull with bluish northern facing light.
Your hardfinishes get a say – I consider harmony and contrast of each colour against hardfinishes to see which colour works the best. If your hard finishes have undertones this is where they would have a say. Even white comes in five types of white (blue white, true white, off white, cream, and ivory).
My white base boards and trim are clean and bright which worked better with one of the two options I was considering.
4. Furniture and Decor
Your furniture and decor have a say – if you’re not redecorating your room then any old furniture and decor you plan to place back into the room should coordinate with the colour you pick. Likely you will want your funriture to contrast nicely against your wall colour.
I am putting in plain Montessori style blond wood furniture so I chose the whimsy mint green to add a nice fun touch to this room.
5. Test, Test, Test!
Finally, the most important step that many people skip causing them to picking the wrong colour is they didn’t test it. Proper testing is imperative. First, you want to test two colours because in order to see it’s true colour you need to compare it with another colour. Second, you want to test with a sample pot of the actual paint colour as paint shows differently than a small printed colour on a sample paint colour sheet. Third, you want to paint a large swatch on a board so that you can move the board around to the different angles in your room to see how it looks against different lighting. Fourth, you need to isolate the colours by leaving a large white boarder around them. If you paint the colour on your existing wall colour it will skew the colour and that’s not how your colour will look after you’ve repainted your whole room with the new colour and no longer see your existing wall colour. Fifth, you want to look at how the colour interacts with your hard finishes, furniture and decor as other colours in the room can either make your wall colour come alive more or make it appear more dull. Yes, colours interact! So this means you need samples of these finishes placed in the room with the sample test swatches to be able to accurately assess how they will interact together.
I picked up sample paint pots of both potential options and painted large swatches of them onto Bristol board and walked around the room to see different angles of lighting on all 4 walls.