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Interior Design & Decor
Picking a colour to paint a room is a daunting task! If only it was as simple as choosing a colour from a rainbow... Typical rainbows have only seven colours, with expanded rainbows having up to 12 colours. What is the number of possible colours you can choose from when painting the walls of your home? More than 10 million!
To help, here’s how to pick paint colours like an interior designer, plus some tips and tricks on how to make smart choices when it comes to the type of paint finish for each component and room in your home.
While you don’t have to be an expert in colour theory, understanding a few concepts and terms will certainly help when it comes to picking the right paint for your home.
For instance, there are two types of colours: primary and secondary. Primary colours are always the three same colours: red, yellow and blue. These are the base colours. All other colours (both in the rainbow and in the world) are known as secondary colours.
The variety of colour is known as a hue. For example, aqua is a hue of blue. On the other hand, a colour tone describes the process of adding grey pigment to a primary or secondary colour. Adding grey tones down a colour, making it softer; removing grey helps make the colour pop, making it brighter. Like tone, tint is used to describe the process of adding white to a colour. Lighter tints have more white than darker tints. On the flipside, a shade is a term used to describe the process of adding black to a colour.
Colours are also described as either warm or cold. Warm colours are typically hues of red, orange and yellow — colours often associated with fire, the sun and other cozy or warm images. Cool colours are typically hues of blue, purple and green — colours often associated with images of water and nature and remind us of relaxed, calm scenery.
Why are all these terms important? Quite often, we select the colour of our paint based on the mood we want to feel in each individual room. If you want a tranquil bathroom, you may choose a cool colour; if you want a cozy, tranquil bathroom, you may opt for a cool colour that is darker in shade or with a more subdued tone.
That said, don’t be surprised if you gravitate towards a shade or hue of white. Of all the paint colours for walls, bright white is still the most popular choice. It makes small spaces feel lighter and bigger, and it easily pairs with almost any other colour in your home’s decor.
Once you know the theory, it’s time to put it into practice. To help pick the perfect colour for each room, follow these tips:
#1: Bring it home. Don't make a decision based on how a colour looks in the store. Pick up a colour-swatch card (or two or three) and take it home. Stick it on the wall of the room you want to paint and turn lights on and off, while opening curtains and shades. You want to get an idea of how this colour (or all colours) look in your home.
#2: Paint a sample. The best way to choose a colour is to try it out. Invest in a quart and apply the colour to a two-by-two-foot piece of foam board (available at paint centres and art supply stores). Position the panel in several parts of the room at different times of the day. Doing this allows you to see how the colour looks throughout the day, with the changing light, and whether or not it evokes the imagery and feelings you are looking for.
#3: Match what you love. Do you already know the colours you love? Match it. Every paint store and local hardware store that sells paint should colour-match for free. Just bring in a piece of the fabric, textile, wallpaper or even magazine page. Keep in mind that to properly colour-match, your sample must be able to sit flat and have at least a half-inch square of solid colour.
#4: Go online. Take the guesswork out of picking colours and use a computer. These days there are a variety of free programs that let you try out colours on virtual walls.
Once you’ve narrowed down your colour palettes, it’s time to select paint. But, wait! Before you commit to any brand, you need to find out if you’re selecting the right paint finish.
Selecting the right finish is important: each type will vary the look and feel of a colour. Selecting the right type is also important because each finish has its advantages and drawbacks, which makes it suitable – or not – for each type of room or use.
To help, here are the various types of paint you can choose:
This finish is best used for walls with many imperfections. It’s also the best option for ceilings and walls in bedrooms, dining rooms and living rooms. One of the reasons it’s such a popular finish is because it’s an easy finish to touch-up, but it’s a hard finish to clean. Keep in mind, the better the paint, the easier it will be to clean.
Do not use: This is not a good finish to use in kitchens or bathrooms or any other room where moisture and humidity can vary dramatically.
This low-sheen finish is a great choice for living room or bedroom walls, since it’s an easy finish to apply touch-ups to, and wipe clean.
Do not use: Don’t use it in high-traffic areas such as hallways, since the delicate finish can mark easily.
This paint finish has a silky, pearl-like sheen, making it a good choice for woodwork as well as walls in the family room, a child's room, the laundry room, kitchen and bathroom. As a paint finish that adds a bit of warmth to a room, it’s a great option for rooms that may require frequent washes of the wall.
Do not use: In rooms or in areas that will require touch-ups, since any differences between an old and a new coat of satin paint will be visible.
The semigloss finish is a popular choice for trim and mouldings as it’s a tough finish that is both durable and easy to clean. As a result, a semigloss finish is also ideal for kitchen and bathroom walls because it is more resistant to humidity and withstands stains, chipping and scuffing.
Do not use: In rooms or in areas that will require touch-ups, since semigloss is more difficult to touch up; the difference in sheen will show up easily.
Unless you have a perfect wall, don’t use gloss-finish paint. This paint finish is spectacular but will show imperfections, just like a mirror does. For that reason, it’s typically used on woodwork, trim, mouldings, and any other surface that is perfectly smooth and requires high durability. The good news is that gloss is the easiest to clean.
Do not use: While gloss is the easiest to clean, it’s the most difficult to touch up. For that reason, do not use in rooms or areas where touch-ups will be required.
Now that you know the basics of how to choose colours for a room, as well as the right paint finish, it’s time to put these tips into practice. Explore and experiment when selecting the right paint colour — play around a little to help bring out your unique personality in every room.