My Entire Process for Choosing Paint Color

My go-to process for selecting color with confidence
How to Pick Paint Colors: My Comprehensive Guide To Choosing Wall Color with Confidence. the best paint for bedroom, dining room, bathroom, guest room, home office and more

As I dig into more and more cabin renovations and home decor projects, it all starts with one thing: PAINT! I’ve heard from so many people that it can be really stressful to select a paint color. I totally understand why this can be intimidating, especially because painting can be a lot of work. Not to mention a big investment in your home’s aesthetic and value! Because of this, I wanted to take some time today to walk you through how to pick paint color, including some overarching rules to make the decision process easier for you.

How to Pick Paint Colors: My Comprehensive Guide To Choosing Wall Color with Confidence

There’s so much to discuss when it comes to selecting the right paint color for your home, so this post is a great overview to get you started! I’m also working on a few more drilled down posts about selecting paint colors for specific rooms including bathroom, living room, dining room, bedrooms, and more. If you have any specific questions or need any advice, definitely leave a comment on this post!

Pull inspiration

Whether it’s a secret Pinterest board, saved Instagrams or even screenshots, I always start the paint selection process by pulling inspiration. There are so many ways to get inspired for your home decor goals, so pick whatever works best for you. Here’s my step-by-step process as part of my overall interior design process:

  • Create a secret pinboard for the house with sections for each room
  • Save inspiration to each section without too many rules, just save ideas without setting a time limit or being too picky
  • Once you have a lot of ideas on the board sections (30-40 pins for example), scroll through and look for reoccurring themes

This is the thought process I had while brainstorming how I wanted to paint our living room, for example. I noticed that I’d saved a lot of pins where the trim was either painted an accent color OR where it was green. You can also use this as a way to brainstorm fun ideas for painting a space, such as color blocking, accent walls, etc.

Make a folder for your home

If your home is already partially painted, I recommend keeping paint swatches in a folder so that you can cpmpare them to your potential new colors. For example, I have a folder that contains swatches of our green trim color, white wall color, and green bedroom color. When I go to select another paint color for another room, I keep those on hand to make sure the overall color palette looks good. I also include fabric swatches for things like our custom shades, as well as anything else that plays a major role in the overall look and feel of the space.

Then, if you ever sell your home and move, you can leave the folder or binder for the new owner. I did this with our bungalow so that the new owner had records of all the paint colors for touch ups, for example.

Select the right finish for your room and walls

Paint comes in so many different finishes… eggshell, satin, glossy, semi-gloss, flat. There are so many! Before selecting a paint finish, keep in mind where the paint will go including which room and which part of the room. Here are some general rules of thumb to keep in mind regarding paint finish!

When to use different paint finishes:

  • Flat — great for ceilings to make them look higher, but definitely only for an area that’s low traffic. Many people use it in bedrooms because of this. The most forgiving of imperfections and surface texture, but the least durable.
  • Satin/eggshell — easy to wipe and clean, stands up to high traffic. Forgiving of imperfections and surface texture. Recommended for living room, family room, hallways, and dining room.
  • Semi gloss — typically moisture resistant and easy to wipe clean. Recommended for bathrooms, kitchens, window trim and doors.
  • High gloss — easiest to wipe clean and most durable. Recommended for kitchens, window trim, and doors.

My general rule of thumb is to go with eggshell because it has just enough sheen to bounce light around and make a room feel bigger. But it also isn’t so shiny where any little flaw on the walls will be noticeable!

How to Pick Paint Colors: My Comprehensive Guide To Choosing Wall Color with Confidence. the best paint for bedroom, dining room, bathroom, guest room, home office and more

Pick paint chips… a lot of them!

Maybe it’s because we live in such a rural area, but I always pick wayyy more paint swatches that I think I’ll need because you never know how they will look once you get them home. And no one wants to make multiple trips to the hardware store or paint store! Also, if possible, I recommend asking for a full deck of paint swatches so that you always have it on hand when you’re renovating.

Once you have paint chips in hand, tape them up on the walls and then observe the how the color shifts throughout the day. Color can change in morning light to look bluer or warmer in afternoon light. So definitely be sure to check out the paint options throughout the day. Also be sure to move the chips around to different parts of the space, especially if there are brighter or darker portions.

Paint a swatch

Most paint companies offer sample pots where you can literally paint the color options on your wall to see how they look! I recommend painting a piece of board so that you can move it around the space and judge in different types of light. To do my swatches, I take a piece of scrap board, paint my various options and label each option with the name on painter’s tape. That last part is key so you actually know what you’re looking at! My swatches are usually pretty big, at least 5×5″. Also be sure to do two coats so you can judge the depth of the color.

Some people recommend painting the swatches directly onto the wall so you’re able to see how the color works with the texture of your walls. For me, it’s more important to see how colors work in different parts of the room because our cabin has such a unique layout. For example, our dining room is very bright in some spots, but a cave in others! Usually the sample paint pots are in flat finish so that it’s cheaper/easier to produce, so that will affect how a color portrays texture with your swatches.

This step of the paint selection process is truly where I spend the most time. It can take me DAYS to select a color because I want to judge it in a lot of different scenarios including time of day and weather. Make sure to take your time, think it through, and feel confident in your decision!

How to Pick Paint Colors: My Comprehensive Guide To Choosing Wall Color with Confidence. the best paint for bedroom, dining room, bathroom, guest room, home office and more

Work with a color consultant

If the entire process is still overwhelming you after allll this, you could always book time with an expert! That’s what we did with Dunn Edwards for our living room paint colors. It was hugely helpful because they helped to narrow down the options and steer me into a direction where I felt confident in my selections.

So what do you think about these tips?? I hope that these tips help you pick paint color with confidence!

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Behind The Blog

Joanna Hawley-McBride is a Pacific Northwest-based social media strategist, content creator, and former textile designer. Joanna is the founder and editor-in-chief of Jojotastic, a lifestyle blog focused on Joanna’s work-in-progress cabin, finding the best pair of underwear through #UnderwearThesis, and empowering women to explore nature — all in her signature unfiltered style. Her work has been featured in Domino, CNBC, and Eating Well.

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Leave a Comment


  1. 5.23.23

    Thank you for explaining that you should use a 5×5 paint swatch. Our painters want to know what paint color we want to use in our home so they can get started. I’ll be sure to try this out so we can choose a color that we’ll love.

  2. 9.26.22

    Thank you for your advice to use a pretty big swatch. I’ve been wondering about how to choose a good paint color for our home. I hadn’t thought about the swatch size, but I can see how that would help us to get a better idea for how the color would work in the space.

    • 9.27.22
      Joanna said:

      So glad you enjoyed the post and my tips!