Choose Paint Colors Backwards

Choose Paint Color Backwards

This column is about how to choose paint colors if you want to start with a wall color first. You know that doing it this way is choosing paint colors backwards,  but so many of you insist on doing it I thought it might help to stop telling you how wrong you are and instead tell you what to do after you paint the walls and don’t know where to go next.

The first thing you need to do is identify the color you have chosen and get to know its subtleties. This means you need to determine what the main color is, what the undertones are, if the color is warm or cool and whether it is clean or dirty.

A color Wheel
A color wheel is a necessary tool

When you know these things you will be able to knowledgeably choose coordinating colors. For that you need a color wheel. Go to the local office supply store and buy one or print one off from Dr. Google.

Identifying the color should be fairly self-evident, but some colors — like variations of blue and green —  can appear very close to each other.  If you think your color is green, hold a pure green next to it. (Pure colors are those on the color wheel) If it stays green, go with green. If it appears blue, go with blue.


green and blue
Learn to see the true color and avoid costly paint color mistakes.

Put one color at a time next to yours, use colored construction paper or take a painted sample-board into the fabric store and work in the broadcloth section. Buy some one-tenth of a meter samples and test the colors at home.  Make color decisions in the room where the colors will live; you know how different colors can be from the store’s light to your home’s light.

Undertones. This is the basic color on which yours was built. Undertones get particularly confusing when we talk about the neutrals, like gray — which can have either a green, blue or violet undertone.

For example, a pink-beige carpet is not good matched with a blue gray sofa and green-gray walls. Everything will look a bit dirty.  Find your undertone by holding true colors beside yours, one will look best and that is the undertone.

You must learn to see the undertones.
You must learn to see the undertones


Do not mix undertones in a room color plan.

Don't mix undertones in one room.
Don’t mix undertones in one room.

This is the place where the most mistakes are made when choosing room colors. If you can’t say for sure what the undertone is, get some help; this is the make or break part of the color discussion.

Your homework is to identify the color you have chosen, and know it’s undertones. Next column we will continue the process.


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