10 Tips For Choosing Paint Colours

Follow these 10 strategies to get the best look for your home before you start decorating

10 Tips For Choosing Paint Colours

Sample a range of colours on the wall to ensure you make the right choice

Selecting paint colours can be a very subjective, and difficult, process. But there are several practical considerations that can help to make your decision easier. 

Here are our top suggestions to help you pick out the paint colours and sheens that you’ll be happy to have on your walls for years to come. 

1. Use paint sample pots 

It can be difficult to tell what a colour is going to look like on your walls just by holding up small paint swatches, so many manufacturers offer sample pots of their colours. 

Depending on the brand, they’re available in 100-500ml pots, costing from about $6 to $12. 

They’re a good investment, as they may prevent you wasting money on a colour you later find isn’t right. 

And because colours can change dramatically under different lighting conditions, instead of applying the sample paint directly onto the wall, you can also try rolling it onto a large sheet of cardboard. 

This way, you’ll be able to move the cardboard around a room and view the sample in different spots.

use sample pots when choosing paint colours, handyman magazine, DIY
Buying sample pots can save you money down the track

2. Explore colour combinations 

Paint companies group their colours into families, collections, concepts and schemes. 

These are basically combinations of complementary colours that you may not consider until you see how well they all work together. 

There are room-by-room collections, white-only collections, colour combinations for children’s rooms, exterior paint collections designed for specific areas of the country, and lots more. 

So take advantage of the research that’s already been done for you by the colour experts. 

Check out paint brochures at hardware stores and go online to paint manufacturer websites, and Pinterest, where you’ll find hundreds of samples of interior and exterior colour combinations.   

colour chart with reds, oranges, mustard, handyman magazine,
Colours are grouped together based on skilled research

3. Complement existing colours 

Base your colour choices on the permanent furnishings in the room or the exterior features of your home.

Inside, consider the flooring, rugs, artwork, blinds and upholstery to help you form colour ideas. 

Outside, while the colours of existing elements such as the roof, gutters and brickwork rarely change, they should play a role in determining your paint choices for fences and other features. 

The landscaping is another factor, so select colours that fit in with the surrounding palette. If you have brightly coloured spring-blooming trees, or a sea of green foundation plantings, use complementary colours.

complement existing colours, handyman magazine, Select colours that will fit in with the interior and exterior features. Image: Alamy 

4. Consider the neighbours 

A clashing colour choice is a definite no-no. Painting your house purple with red trim may seem like a great idea, but your neighbours won’t think so. 

You’ll not only reduce the resale value of your own house, but you’re also likely to affect theirs as well. So remember, if you plan to sell, avoid using colour schemes that could turn off potential buyers.   

purple house, handyman magazine, choosing paint colours
An offbeat colour scheme can affect the resale value of a home. Image: Getty Images 

5. Keep the ceiling light 

A ceiling is generally seen in shadow, so if you are using a colour instead of white, it will often appear darker than on the walls. To match it, buy ceiling paint one or two shades lighter. 

Or, instead of buying another tin of a lighter shade, you can save money by diluting the wall colour you have with 50% white paint.

paint ceilings in lighter colours, choosing paint colour, handyman magazine,
A lighter shade on the ceiling will match the colour of the walls

6. Choose the right sheen 

When you select a colour, you need to choose the sheen as well. Most paint companies offer flat, low sheen, satin, semi gloss and gloss.

Glossier finishes are more durable and easier to clean, but they can also emphasise any imperfections on the walls.

While flat paint will do a better job of hiding imperfections, it will damage more easily than high gloss. 

Flatter finishes are generally best for ceilings and low-traffic areas like dining spaces.

All you have to do is wipe them down with a damp sponge, and if they get scuffed, they’re easy to touch up. 

The gloss, semi gloss and satin options can withstand moisture and grease, so they’re good for trim and cabinets and high-traffic rooms like kitchens and bathrooms. 

If you love the way flat paint looks, but you want more durability, try mixing it 50/50 with low sheen. 

It will still offer a nonreflective look, but the low sheen will make the paint more hard-wearing.   

choosing the right sheen of paint, paint stick, handyman magazine,
When you select a colour, you need to choose the sheen as well

7. Conceal any imperfections 

Lighter colours are more forgiving in terms of showing imperfections while darker colours show more detail. 

If you’re set on using darker colours, or a gloss sheen, and your walls are in rough shape, skim-coat them with a thin layer of plaster compound before you start painting.

Extremely dark colours also won’t handle the moisture very well in a bathroom and can look blotchy and chalky, so it’s best to stick with light shades in wet areas. 

If you’re planning to use a darker colour, reduce the number of coats by using a grey-tinted primer. 

Check at your local hardware store to find out which tinted primer is the best one for the wall colour you have selected.

conceal imperfections with paint, handyman magazine,
Apply a skim-coat to hide imperfections

8. Paint over fixtures 

Just as paint accentuates features, you can use it to hide the more unappealing elements of a room. 

Paint pipes, radiators, gutters and other fixtures the same colour as the walls so they blend in. 

You can also do the same with light fittings, switches and outlets, with spray paints now available for many different types of material.

paint over fixtures, handyman magazine, DIY,
Spray the fixtures in a room to help them blend into the overall scheme

9. Download a colour app 

Many manufacturers offer opportunities to paint your home virtually. 

You simply upload a photo of your house or a room and try out colours and schemes and products, or you can search for homes similar to yours. 

There are also apps that allow you to take a photo of a colour and match it with a manufacturer’s colour or palette. 

Be aware that colours displayed on different computers, tablets and phones may vary. 

10. Avoid shades that fade 

The more intense or dark a colour is, the more likely it is to fade and show dirt. 

After a few years, vivid blues and deep reds will become subdued and faded, and you may see streaks or splotches of dirt more readily. 

Dark colours also tend to absorb heat and sustain more problems with moisture than light shades. 

And because dark paint fades, it can be difficult to match exactly when you do small touch-ups. 

As a general rule, reds, blues, greens and yellows fade more quickly than earth tones like beiges, tans and browns. 

faded paint, handyman magazine,
The more intense or dark a colour is, the more likely it is to fade and show dirt

Vote It Up: 
Choosing Paint

See also

10 Tips For Painting Edges

To paint a room, start working around the ceiling, corners and trim first

Before you begin rolling the walls, painting the perimeter of a room with a brush, or cutting in as it is called, is an essential...
10 Tips For Choosing Paint Colours

Sample a range of colours on the wall to ensure you make the right choice

Selecting paint colours can be a very subjective, and difficult, process. But there are several practical considerations that...
Exterior Paint Ideas

Keep the walls neutral and paintthe trim white for a classic look. Image: British Paints 

A coat of paint is an easy way to refresh the front of a house to make it more inviting.  If your home looks great from the...
Removing ScotchBlue Platinum Painter's tape
Sponsored article When painting a wall, taping the edges to protect skirting, architraves and cornices is the key to getting a...
10 Tips For Painting Ceilings

Paint a ceiling the easy way with the help of an expert

They’re usually much larger than a single wall and are often illuminated with raking light that accentuates even the smallest...
How To Paint A Sisal Rug
A plain sisal rug can be painted to make a colourful striped ground covering. One of the toughest natural fibres, sisal is...