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  • Fawn Baranko

Paint Selection Magic

Updated: Sep 9, 2021

My first paint sample fan deck felt like a magic wand of colorful happiness. Spreading this happiness on walls, however, takes some thought and can even be stressful. Not only have paint companies created thousands of colors, different sheen options and lighting affect the way they look. Follow these simple tricks and make paint color selection as easy as abracadabra.

Begin by omitting any color you don’t like. It doesn’t matter if that tan perfectly matches one of the colors in your new countertop or if your nosy neighbor adores it. There’s a reason you don’t like it, so don’t use it. Next, identify your favorite colors. Evaluate the art on your walls or a favorite fabric pattern and find common colors in each piece. Get tech help with Sherwin Williams’ Color Selection Color Tool. This easy to use (and free!) visualizer pinpoints colors and even virtually shows them on your walls. You may discover you like 3 different shades of blue or 3 completely different colors. Either way, you’ve found the colors that naturally attract you.

Use fan decks or paint strips to select the right versions of your favorite colors for your home. Typically, the bottom displays the most intense color in the strip. If you don’t like that color, you won’t like the lighter versions of it either; find other strips with colors you like. Compare them to the larger elements of your room like tile, countertops, and cabinets, and see which combinations you like best. Select your top 2-3 colors. Don’t over-analyze or try to be too matchy-matchy. Your immediate reactions provide the best guide for what you’ll like most on your walls.

After you’ve narrowed your color options, evaluate the impact of light on your choices. Each paint chip has a light reflectivity value (LRV) on the back. Not only does casually tossing this term into conversation about color make you sound like a genius, it provides great guidance on how paint color can illuminate (LRV closer to 100) or darken (LRV closer to 0) a space. You should also consider how you perceive color in the varying light of your home by seeing samples of it on your walls. You can purchase small paint samplers and test colors which risks mess, takes time, and creates collections of unwanted paints. Or you can eliminate those hassles and order 12” x 12” pre-painted peel and stick samples from Keep in mind different times of the day affect the way the color looks in your home’s natural light, as does whether the lightbulbs in your fixtures create a warm or cool glow.

When you want the same color to flow through different rooms, but it looks too dark or too light in the adjoining spaces, simply select the neighboring shade on the paint strip scale for that adjoining room. Like magic, the different colors will appear to be the same. Create another magic effect with sheen. Subtly brighten and enrich color with higher sheens that reflect light. Soften color impact with more matte finishes that absorb light. With the right color selected, it’s time to enjoy the best magic trick: The way you feel when you’re surrounded by the perfect color. It’s abracadabra awesome.


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