How to find the shade that works for you.
Olive green and petal pink paint swatches
Credit: Gentl & Hyers

Think About How You Use the Room

Consider deep colors for rooms used primarily at night—dining rooms, rooms where you watch TV. Look to light colors for spaces flooded with daylight; this will reduce eyestrain caused by strong contrasts. (Your eyes have to adjust each time they move from dark walls to bright windows.) Opt for skin-flattering, subtle colors for the main bathroom.

Test Shades Effectively

Hang large paper wall-color swatches (available at paint stores) right up against the trim, and paint a small length of trim so you can view the shades together. Or paint canvas squares from a craft store, then hang them up to see the effect. Keep competing palettes on different sides of the room, and observe all your options at various times of day.

Consider the View

When you’re painting an enclosed room, anything goes. But if you’re adding color to a space that connects to others, think about the adjoining rooms as well. If, say, your living room opens into the dining room, pick a living-room shade that complements the existing dining-room walls, or plan to paint the dining room, too.

Expect the Unexpected

If you’re making a big change, even thorough testing won’t completely prepare you for the results. “Be open to surprises and happy accidents,” says Eve Ashcraft, author of the book The Right Color (Artisan, due out in October 2011). “You might get something even more beautiful than you anticipated.”