How to Decide What Color You Should Paint Your Room

Not sure if a room should be warm or cool when it comes to paint color? Some rooms look and feel best when painted in certain colors, but make sure the color goes with other elements in the room and is a color you like and can live with. 

The Power of Color


Color is probably the most important feature when it comes to decorating a room. Color can evoke a certain feeling or mood, make a room seem large or small, and make a space feel energized or tranquil. How do you decide which colors are best for the task? If you consult an interior designer or paint specialist, they will most likely talk about neutral, warm, and cool colors.


Remember Roy G. Biv? Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet make up the paint color spectrum. Different hues and shades result from mixing these colors together. Learning a little about color and what it can do will help you determine the best color choice for your room.


Warm Colors


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Warm colors are generally red, orange, yellow and combinations of these colors (pinks, browns, and tans). Warm colors make us think about warm things like the fun or a toasty fire. Visually, warm colors can feel comforting or cozy, and make a room seem smaller than it is. 


Cool Colors


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Cool colors are typically blue, green, and shades of violet. Cool colors remind us of things like water, ice, and the sky. Painting a room in cool colors will make a space seem larger than it is as cool colors tend to recede and visually make a room more airy and spacious.


Neutral Colors


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Black and white and all their various shades are considered neutral colors, but technically are not colors at all. White is said to be every color and black is the absence of any color. In the paint world, neutral colors are usually whites, ivories, beiges, grays, and blacks. Neutral colors are very popular for paint colors because they go with literally everything.


A neutral color is a good starting point for any kind of room because it can be updated by simply changing home decor and other colors in the room. A neutral color is a great backdrop and can go with with any type of color palette, whether warm or cool. Neutral colors can also have undertones which can range from warm to cool.


A good rule of thumb when it comes to any paint color is that light colors make a room feel big and bright. Darker colors tend to add drama and make a space more intimate and cozy. So if you have a smaller room that you want to make feel larger, stick to brighter colors. If you have the opposite problem and want a space to feel less empty, warmer colors will make the space feel more secure and comfy.


How to Choose a Color for a Room


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Thinking of repainting a room in your house? Most people have a favorite color, and they tend to gravitate toward that color when picking a new color for a room. Some rooms in homes were designed to have a certain feel to them.




Bathrooms often look best when painted in cool colors such as blues and greens. The association with water and cooling off in a shower makes these colors work. Neutral colors with cool undertones, like whites or greys, are also a good choice.




A kitchen can be painted in cool or warm colors depending on the cabinets and flooring. The color red is said to stimulate the appetite and yellow will instantly brighten a room. Yellow also makes a room feel larger and pairs well with white. Green is also a good color for a kitchen. There are many shades of green, from apple to mint, which all pair nicely with white appliances, and work well as accent colors to wood cabinets.


Living Rooms


A living room is often what makes a house feel like a home. The colors we choose for a living room can have a tremendous impact on the overall personality of the home. People tend to relax in their living rooms and it is also where we entertain and come together as a family. Depending on the atmosphere you are trying to achieve, a living room can be calming, or full of activity. It can feel old-fashioned, or modern and trendy.


Neutral colors are the most common for family room walls. Gray can make a living room feel spacious and sophisticated. It also enhances art and conversation pieces. Beige or off-white is a dependable color and provides a backdrop for more colorful items in the room. 


For people who are tired of neutrals, green is the color of harmony and life. There are many shades of green to choose from and it pairs well with wood accents and floors. Blue is also a color that goes well with wood. Blue can give a living room a calming feel and can set the mood for the rest of the house.


Know that you don’t need to paint every wall of a room the same color. You can choose one wall to be an accent wall and paint it in a contrasting color. Just take care to avoid colors that clash. Clashing occurs when two colors of different saturations are paired together, like a light pastel and an energetic bright color.




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A bedroom color can be a personal choice. Kids’ rooms should be bright and cheery. For adults, a master bedroom, guestroom or office should be a bit more subdued. Consider how you want the room to feel: Relaxed, romantic, tranquil? 


These moods will be created by the colors in the room. You can use a single color or combine complementary colors from the same color family. You want a room that is welcoming at the end of the day and a joy to wake up in.


Tips on Color Schemes


If you are undecided on a color for a room, look at existing objects and furniture in the room. You can use the color in a couch, a rug, or a favorite painting to start your color selection. Once in the paint store, select a color sample card that shows several shades of the color you have chosen. 


The darkest shades will be at the bottom of the card. Start at the bottom and work your way up to the shade that you like most. And don’t feel like you have to be limited to one color. You can always choose a secondary color for accents. A secondary color should be in the same temperature range.


Paint Finishes


With your paint color chosen, you now have several finishes to choose from. A flat finish will tend to show dirt and imperfections. A satin finish is best for walls because it is somewhat cleanable and hides minor blemishes. Semi-gloss and high-gloss finishes are usually for trim because they highlight the contours of molding. A high gloss or sheen will draw attention to the wall or trim surface. When used together, color and gloss can accentuate your room’s best qualities.




Light, whether natural or artificial, will affect the way a color appears on the wall. Light deflects and reflects color, changing its hues throughout the day. The color blue can look more gray under some lighting conditions or take on a reddish tint in another room.


Don't Forget the Ceiling


Although traditionally painted white, a ceiling can be a fifth wall. White makes a space feel open and airy, but the same effect can be achieved with a lighter shade of the wall color. Use your paint sample card and go two or three shades lighter from the chosen wall color for the ceiling color. In a small room, such as a bathroom, you can get away with painting the ceiling the same color as the walls.


Choosing a new color scheme for a room or several rooms might seem a little daunting at first, but once you understand how color can make a room feel, it should become an enjoyable project. Visit paint stores, bring home samples and swatches, and consider all the wonderful elements of your space before making your final decision.


Although there are some rules when it comes to color, the most important thing is that you like it. Trend colors come and go, so choose your colors based on how you want the room to feel.

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