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Choosing the Right Paint Colors

Paint is a quick and inexpensive way to transform a room. But many people wind up painting their walls white or off-white because they are afraid of choosing the wrong color. If you want to go from ho-hum to vibrant, use these tips in selecting and applying interior paint colors:

Determine the feeling you want to achieve. Colors are often referred to as "warm" and "cool." Orange, red, and pink are considered "warm" colors, while blues, greens, and violet are thought to be "cool." Knowing the theory behind color can help you select the right tone for the feel you want for your room.

Don’t decide on your color at the paint store! The best way to get a true view of a paint color is to look at it in many lights. Take the paint chip outside to see it in natural light. Then, take the paint chip, fabrics, and accessories to the room in which they'll be used. Check out the colors there. As a last resort, you might want to buy a quart of your chosen color and test it on one of your walls.

Here is the best way to test paint colors. Start with white walls because any other contrast will give you a false impression of the color you are testing. If the walls are not white, apply a coat of primer, which is naturally white and can be used later. If you are not pleased and drawn to the color, try something different.

Decide whether you will be using oil-based and/or water-based paint.  Alkyd, or oil-based paint penetrates wood better than latex (water-based) paint and won’t stick when you keep your doors and windows shut for the winter. For the bulk of most jobs, latex (water-based) paint is the better choice. It dries faster, doesn’t yellow andcan be cleaned up with soap and water when you break for the day.

Understand the difference between different types of paint finishes and which finish works best where:

* Flat finishes have no shine, making them ideal for hiding minor surface imperfections. While traditional flat finishes are not usually stain-resistant, some specialty paints are designed to provide maximum stain resistance while maintaining a beautiful flat finish.
* Eggshell or velvet finishes work in just about any room. They are easier to clean than flat finishes and offer a soft glow that warms up any room.
* Satin or semi-gloss finishes are easy to clean and are good for highlighting architectural details. They work well in kitchens, bathrooms, and on doors and trim.
* Gloss finishes are shiny and are scrubable, so they are perfect for doors, trim and specialty uses.
* Sheen terminologies vary by manufacturer.   Check with your paint store for details.

Don’t be afraid to ask. For helpful paint advice, go both online and to your local paint store. Tell the paint professional about your project and goals for your decorating project. Find out which paint products they recommend, and why.

Have your color custom mixed. If you want to achieve a perfect match or find a truly unique color, most paint stores and home centers offer custom color mixing. This makes it possible to bring in a fabric swatch, painting, or other color reference, and have a paint color created to be a perfect match.

Determine the amount of paint you'll need for a particular job.  The first step is to add the width of all walls in the room together. Multiply this sum by the height of one wall from floor to ceiling. Take this total number and subtract the total area of your doors, windows, archways, etc. to get the exact area of wall space you will paint. A flat surface usually requires one gallon for every 400 square feet. Take into account the number of coats you will need to do the job right. Blue and yellow are hard colors to cover up with just one coat

If buying more than one gallon of a store-mixed paint, make sure all gallons are the same color. To be sure all gallons are the same color place all gallons in the same container and mix them together.

Decide on the trim color. Use the same color on the trim if you are trying to disguise ordinary or unattractive trim work, or if you are trying to create a uniform, monochromatic look. Use a lighter or darker color to accentuate trim work or to add subtle hints or bold flashes of color to your room.

Deciding on the trim color can be confusing but is really easy.  You can keep it simple and the same throughout your home. Let's assume you have different colors on the walls throughout your home, whether they are subtle in difference or dramatic. A very unifying way to treat your trim and ceiling is to paint them in the same color. For example: Your master bedroom may be painted a pale blue, your daughter's room lavender, the study has a textured neutral wallpaper, the main living areas are painted warm beige, and the kitchen has a patterned wallpaper in blues, lavenders, and whites. You would now paint all of the trim in your home, white or a custom blend of very soft beige. Though the effect is subtle, it keeps all of the rooms related to each other. Let's assume you are painting your walls a neutral or light color, such as taupe, beige, cream, ivory, or pale yellow.   For your moldings and doors, etc. have the paint store mix a blend of your color choice cut with white. A common formula for this is one part color to three parts white. Remember to always test a sample before total application. This same blend of color and white will be perfect for your ceiling, too.

Don’t forget your ceiling. Light colors are usually most pleasing for a ceiling, because ceilings are seen in shadow. If you'd like the ceiling to match the wall color, buy ceiling paint one or two shades lighter than the wall color (on its color chip). Or, dilute your wall color with white paint in a ratio of 25% color to 75% white.

Don't worry about the white ceilings. Do not lose any sleep over having pure white ceilings. If your ceilings are pure white, then consider painting all your trim pure white as well. Sometimes this is more desirable. Personal preference plays a larger role in this decision, rather than decorating right or wrong. Although, if budget and personal preference leads you to using a color on the ceiling, use the above formula as a general rule. Using dark or contrast colors can give a wonderful look, but must be carefully considered and tested.

Color can alter the proportions of a room. Light colors such as white and yellow are airy, expansive and cheerful. Use them in small, dark areas that you want to appear larger and brighter. Dark colors such as blue or brown can create a cozy, sophisticated feeling in oversized rooms. A long narrow room can be made to appear wider by painting both shorter walls a darker color than the longer walls.

Generally, strong, warm colors like reds, oranges and yellows tend to close a space. These colors are known as advancing colors because they jump out and meet the eye. Conversely, receding colors like blue, green and violet tend to make a room look larger because they “stand back” visually. However, the darkest values of the receding colors, like navy blue or hunter green, also tend to have a diminishing effect on a room’s size. Small rooms are best made to appear larger by painting them white or a light neutral color.

Color can lower or heighten the ceiling. A dark color of paint on a high ceiling will make it seem lower. A lighter color will make the ceiling seem higher. It is customary to paint ceilings white or off-white. This creates the illusion of higher ceilings and a more open space. Medium to dark colors will create the illusion of lowering the ceiling, which can create a cozy look if the ceiling is higher than usual. With normal height ceilings, medium and dark colors could close in the area too much creating a cave-like appearance.

Some paints change color as they dry. Color change upon drying is most prevalent in lower quality flat wall paints. As these paints dry they tend to "lighten" since the dry paint film will be rather thin. Premium quality flat wall and semi-gloss paints, on the other hand, will tend to darker slightly upon drying since the latex binder is milky white when wet and clear when dry.

Over a larger surface area, most colors appear darker. It’s a good idea to choose colors a shade or two lighter than what you want. Clean, bright colors can appear either lighter or darker depending on the surrounding colors and lighting in the room.

My room has a chair rail and I am using two colors. Which one goes where?  If you want an open, airy look, always paint the portion of the wall below the chair rail with the darker color. This allows the lighter color to dominate.  

After you finish painting a room and the color is bolder than expected, the look may be able to be softened. Try applying a lighter or more muted color over the original color using a design technique such as rag rolling, sponging, or color washing.


Sources: RealtyNews, Chennaionline, PPG, Pratt & Lambert

 

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Additional resources for Paint Color Selection:
BobVila [related painted articles]
Paini Quality Institute - Color Trends
Paint Quality Institute - Decorative Techniques
Paint Quality Institute - Interior Ideas
Benjamin Moore - Personal Paint Viewer
Create Good Feng Shui in Your Kitchen
15 Beautiful Feng Shui Kitchen Colors
Feng Shui Color Guide: How To Use the Color Gray
Feng Shui Color Tips To Create A Beautiful Home

 

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