Finding Your Just Right: Do’s and Don’ts of Sampling Paint Colors

Tired of staring at the same old walls? It happens. The good news is that a new look is just a paint brush away. Before you crack open a can of paint, let’s talk about how to pick the right color. Properly sampling your new hue before you spread it on the wall will prevent any painter's remorse from setting in after the last drop of paint has dried. Here are tips to get you started on the right path.

Do consider the big picture.

Your room is one of several nestled inside your home. You may want to spiff up your personal space with a new palette, but don’t go too far off your own beaten path. What rooms will be visible from the room you’re painting? For example, will the color of your living room complement the shade of your kitchen walls? Think about what mood you’re looking to strike. Do you want a serene bedroom, an energized rec room or a focused in-home office? How about the existing furniture and accessories in your room; what color family is going to match those best? Start searching for your new paint in color ranges that work with the answers to those questions. Then hit up your favorite shop to purchase small sample-sized containers of your favorites. 

Don’t paint your sample directly on your wall.

You picked up a container of paint to sample, which was a good move; just don’t swath it on the wall itself. This presents two distinct problems. First, your painted on sample is limited to a single view. You won’t know how the color looks in the recess of the corner of your room when you’ve painted the swatch on the wall opposite your large picture window. Second, painting your swatch directly on the wall creates more work for yourself. In order to achieve a smooth finish for your newly painted wall, you’re going to have to sand and prime that sample space before you paint the whole room. 

Don’t settle for the 2x2 inch sample from the hardware store either.

The solution to not painting your sample on the wall isn’t to rely on the small wedges of color on a strip of color wedges. To make a truly informed choice of what the color looks like on your wall you need to see the bigger swatch size than those chips are going to give you.  I know what you’re thinking, “If I can’t paint my swatch on the wall and I can’t rely on that little paint chip, what exactly can I do?” You can create your own paint swatches using the sample paint you picked up and poster board or self-adhesive sheets. (You’ll find those at a paint store.) Apply your sample paint to the board or sheet and then hang your self-created swatch in the room. And don’t limit yourself to one space, either. Live with the sample on the wall across from that beautiful picture window for a day or two. Then move it to another wall and see what the light does to the color throughout the day.

by Anjie Cho