Have you ever painted an entire room only to discover the colour was wrong? Really wrong? I have! I wrote a post about it so please have a read and don’t make the same mistake.

The leading manufacturer of paint has three thousand five hundred paint colours to choose from. It can be a daunting task for a seasoned pro! Why homeowners think they are okay to go to a paint store and have an untrained sales clerk help them choose a paint colour, from a teensy strip, under fluorescent tube lighting, who has no training in colour theory, and no design experience, and WHO HAS NEVER SEEN THEIR HOME is beyond me!

We do colour consultations all the time and it is still often a struggle, but when we are done, it is THE RIGHT colour for your room. How do we know that? We are highly trained (thank you Maria Killam) in reading the undertones of colours (and materials), and work with professional paint samples that are 11″ x 14″ so we can actually see enough of the colour to make an informed decision. You can buy a set here, or if you want, just jump all in with one of her courses. I cannot recommend them highly enough!

There are a few strict rules we live by. We’d like to share those so you don’t make any more disastrous mistakes.

Here are our tried and true steps for how to pick a paint colour.

Firstly, pick the paint colour last!

Our number one rule is to pick the paint colour last. The reason there are so many paint colour choices is so that you can get exactly the right hue for your room. We have homeowners asking us all the time to pick a paint colour before they have made any selections for their home. That is backwards. Pick your fabrics, rugs, draperies, or countertop, backsplash, etc. and then find the perfect colour that will relate and tie everything together. That is its purpose.

Yes, we hear from homeowners moving into a new space and wanting a fresh coat before they move in. In those cases, the hard finished in the space will dictate what colour will work best.

Trust me on this. For a stellar result, pick the paint colour last!

Analyse the room for overall colours

Look at your room to get an overall sense of the colours in it. Consider what sort of mood or effect you want to achieve. Will it be bright and cheery? Dark and moody? Rich and earthy? Soft and classic? Wall colour sets the tone, but the hard materials and the furnishings will play a role. Consider everything together before picking a paint colour and look for a hue that blends with everything best.

Determine the major undertones

Pure clean colours don’t tend to make good wall colours. Nuanced neutrals will recede and provide an elegant backdrop for your artwork and furnishings. By a process of comparison you can learn to hone in on the best colour for your home.

paper with paint chips sorted by colour

Work out whether the neutrals in your room read more grey, blue, green, pink etc. Neutrals, and even whites are a mix of pigments and will have an undertone. Working that out ahead of time will point you toward the right colours to consider. Here’s how we look at fabric and hard materials using Maria Killam’s colour wheel:

Look at inspiration photos

Pinterest, magazines, Instagram are all great places to look at photos of rooms for something similar to the look you want to achieve. Make note of what you like, and what you don’t like. Most people are drawn to either warm colours or cool colours, light, or dark rooms.

Pick the colour, in the room, with your things in it!

You can’t pick a paint colour in the paint store. Okay, maybe in certain situations if you have gathered your samples and brought them to the paint store, but it is certainly not ideal. To get the colour right, you should be selecting a colour while in the room you want to paint.

Paint large samples

Once you have narrowed down to a couple of options, paint a large sample so you can see how it looks when you see more of it. Do not paint it directly on the wall. That is a mistake many make but there will be interference from the existing colour bleeding through, but also paint colour is influenced by what is around it. If you are painting a mustard yellow wall a fresh turquoise, you can not possibly get a sense of the turquoise if you paint it on top of mustard. Is it too blue? Is it too green? Is it too bold? You get the idea! Paint on a separate piece of poster-board, or I use heavy weight watercolour paper for best results.

These are the paint samples we use when doing a professional colour consultation. We purchased them from the colour queen herself Maria Killam after attending her workshop. She knows EVERYTHING about paint colour! We like to learn from the best and couldn’t possibly pick a paint colour with any confidence without her professional paint samples!

Paint a sample of the trim colour

The wall colour will appear differently if you break it from the surrounding materials with the trim colour you have selected. That trim is there for a reason and has to be part of the process.


Finding the right paint colour is done by comparing. Don’t hesitate to paint a few sample boards so you can narrow down the choices to what is the perfect colour for your room. Compare, compare, compare. Picking the right colour is a process of elimination. You can only do this if you have sorted out the main undertones and selected a few paint colours with those undertones.

Hold the paint sample parallel

Hold the sample parallel to where it will be used. If you are painting a wall, for example, hold the sample vertically. You will be surprised how different it looks as you move it around. Hold it vertically to get an accurate sense of how it will look on the wall.

Isolate the colour

To narrow down the right colour you need to block out any surrounding colours that may influence it. Easy to do, all you need is a large white board to place behind the colour sample you are considering. Then you can see the paint colour without anything else influencing it, as it will appear in your room.

So there you have it. We take our time to get the paint colour right. Learning to read the undertones of all of your materials, and of the paint colours comes with experience but with patience you can get the colour right.

If not?

we can help you with that
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