9 Steps on How to Choose Paint Colors for Your Home Interior

9 Steps on How to Choose Paint Colors for Your Home Interior

Interior Design

Color is fabulous, but fickle! Before you pick up a paintbrush, let’s consider these following steps to help you save time, money, tears and above all, aggravation and frustration!

Step 1: Plan your Approach

Let’s begin by envisioning the finished look and how it makes you feel. When selecting paint, you need to consider the furniture, curtains, walls, floors, and doors to create a harmonious finish. But first, take a couple of photos of your room. That way, you can visualize how the colors and tones will look in the space.

Your walls will undoubtedly be the primary source of color in the room unless you are leaving them in neutral tones to highlight the colors used elsewhere. Lighting, whether natural or artificial, will play a key factor in your final color selections so don’t overlook this very important aspect. 

On the other hand, you may be using color to change the shape and size of a room. Remember you're not limited to an entire room in the same color. Instead, consider painting an accent wall in a bold hue or highlighting moldings in a contrasting shade or finish. And don't forget to look at and think about the ceiling.

Step 2: Consider the Floor

The color of your carpets or flooring will influence how the color of your paint is perceived, and lighter colored walls will reflect the color of your flooring.

Step 3: Fabric Selections 

Upholstery and drapery should be considered when determining what paint colors you may prefer. The combinations will cause the overall desired flow and balance in your space.

Step 4: Prioritize Your Lighting

Lighting (natural or artificial) plays a significant role in the color rendering of every room. Color Rendition (CRI) is the term used to describe the degree to which an object or surface color (walls, ceiling, furniture, etc.) seems "normal" when viewed under artificial light.

Color change from lighted area to shadow
Color change from lighted area to shadow. The left wall appears to be painted black.

The color on the walls pictured above is the same. The difference in the color is the lighting or absence of it. Notice the gradual change as you move away from the light?

Natural light streaming through your windows displays the most accurate representation of colors.

When relying on artificial lighting, look at the color temperature measured in Kelvins (K), which rates color tones. The Lower temperatures indicate warmer tones. Conversely, higher temperature bulbs emit cool tones and represent more natural lighting.

Left Side - Natural Lighting | Right Side - Warm Lighting
Left Side - Natural Lighting | Right Side - Warm Lighting (SOURCE: True Value)

Step 5: Determine How Much Paint You Will Need

Before you buy paint, find out exactly how much you'll need. A gallon of paint will typically cover 400 square feet. Precise paint needs will vary according to many factors, including application method and existing wall color and texture. Many paint companies provide paint calculators on their websites to make things easier.  

Step 6: Identify the Best Type of Paint for Each Location

When selecting paint sheens, the basic rule of thumb is: high sheen equals high shine. Flat paint has no shine, and in-between are eggshell, satin, and semi-gloss, each with its own practical and decorative job to do.

High Gloss

High gloss has a tough hard finish, is ultra-shiny, has high light-reflecting properties, is highly durable, and is the easiest to clean of all paint sheens. As a result, high gloss is a good choice for cabinets, trim and doors. In addition, high gloss shows every bump and roll, so don't skimp on prep work.  


Suitable for rooms where moisture, drips and grease stains challenge walls. Like high gloss, it is also great for trim work that takes a lot of abuse in kitchens and bathrooms.


The velvety luster of satin makes it easy to clean, so it's an excellent choice for high-traffic areas such as family rooms, foyers, hallways and kids' bedrooms. Satin's most significant flaw comes with the application that shows roller and brush strokes, making touch-ups somewhat tricky.


Between satin and flat, you find eggshell (think chicken egg). As a result, eggshell covers wall imperfections well. It is an excellent finish for gathering spaces that don't get a lot of bumps and scuffs, like dining and living rooms.

Flat or Matte

If your walls have something to hide, flat paint is your friend. Flat/matte paints soak up light rather than reflect. However, it's tough to clean and may take the paint off with the grime. Because of its medium to low durability, use this in adult bedrooms and other interior rooms that kids won't rough up.

Tip for Choosing the Right Sheen

Darker and richer paint pigments have more colorant, which boosts sheen. If you don't want a super shiny effect, step down at least one level on the sheen scale.  

Step 7: Choosing the Right Colors and Light Reflectivity (LRV)

Room color is an integral part of your daily life, because it can affect your mood and energy level. The colors in your home also serve as a direct reflection of your personality. Color also can change the shape and size of furnishings and rooms.

Equipping yourself with some basic information about color and its' effect can take the difficulty out of the process. The trick is to blend the colors you like into pleasing combinations. In general, it's preferable to limit yourself to three colors and then experiment by using variations and adapting them.

When selecting paint colors, refer to the Light Reflective Value of each color and consider how much natural light and what kind of artificial lighting will be in the space.

What is LRV:

LRV, or light reflective value, refers to the percentage of light a paint color reflects. For example, when measured on a scale of 0%-100%, an LRV of 0% represents black and doesn't reflect any light, while a value of 100%, pure white, reflects all light.

Light Reflective Value (LRV) Scale

Where to Find the LRV Number When Choosing a Color?

LRV numbers can be found on the back of individual paint chips, separate paint cards in a paint deck, or online.

Where to Find the LRV Number When Choosing a Color
SOURCE: Cobb Brothers

When selecting your paint color, keep your LRV in mind and remember:

  • The higher the LRV number, the lighter the color is, and conversely, the lower the LRV number - the darker the color. LRVs can significantly affect your room depending on how much natural or artificial light your room gets.
  • LRV above 50 are lighter and will bounce back more light than absorb. These shades help create a "daytime," expansive feel to the room.
  • LRV lower than 50 will soak up more light than they reflect and appear and have a dark and moody feel.

Step 8: Test Your Colors

1. Paint Directly on the Walls

  • Your walls have their own texture and imperfections, so paint the wall and not a piece of wood.
  • Paint 1’ x 1’ or larger swaths side by side leaving spaces between each one.  
  • Existing wall colors will affect how the paint reads, so a white background is recommended to depict the actual color of your selection.
  • Colors intensity will change if placed next to a lighter or darker color. A lighter color appears lighter next to a dark background. A darker color will appear darker against a lighter backdrop.
  • A wall typically needs two coats for good coverage and color accuracy.

2. Paint Multiple Walls

  • Colors will read differently depending on the amount of light that hits them.
  • Paint walls that don't get direct sunlight and ones that do because it will change the paint color.

3. Consider Outside Landscaping and Lighting

Look at the photo below and check out how the outside landscaping changed the appearance of the interior paint. See where the green from the trees outside changed the gray wall color to a greener hue? Notice how the natural sunlight streaming through the window changed the gray on the fireplace wall to a lighter shade.

The effect of natural light and exterior colors on interior colors
The effect of natural light and exterior colors on interior colors


  1. Consider the amount of time you will be spending in each room and what time of day. Then, make sure you check out the color at those times to see how it appears.
  2. Identify the source of the best natural lighting in your room, either from doors or windows to decide where to place additional artificial lighting.

Step 9: Own Your Style

By experimenting and looking at things from different perspectives, you'll develop an eye for what works for you. Nature is a great source of visual reference regarding color, so look around and get inspired!

We hope these tips will help you choose the right paint colors for your home interior. Color is more than a visual experience. It’s a classic form of communication that can project your personality and set the tone in each room of your home.

If you are thinking about a paint refresh and just not sure which direction to take, book a free introductory call and let’s talk about your project!

Book Introductory Call
Certified Living in Place Professional
Interior Design Quiz

Design Style Quiz

Discover what home furnishings are perfect fits for your lifestyle. This two-minute quiz is going to give you all the direction you need to make the big, bold interior design decisions you’ve been putting off...

Take the Quiz