The One Mistake Everyone Makes When Choosing Paint Colors

With this simple trick, you'll never have to live with the wrong paint color again.

Paint Color Swatches
Photo: Frederike Peters / EyeEm/Getty Images

With more than a hundred variations of a single paint color and shifting levels of saturation, choosing the perfect shade of paint for your walls isn’t easy. Even the most basic colors (we’re looking at you, white) come in dozens of variations. White heron, anyone?

To make the process even more confusing, what you see on the walls may not stay consistent throughout the day. No, your eyes aren’t playing tricks on you: Different angles and lighting—natural or artificial—can dramatically transform a color.

“That perfect pale grey during the day can sometimes look very violet or blue at night, which will drive you crazy over time,” says Erin Gates, designer and the blogger behind Elements of Style: Designing a Home & a Life.

Gates recommends temporarily living with the new color for at least a couple of days before making a final decision, checking in on your walls morning, night, and day. “Paint a swatch that’s at least 12 inches by 12 inches on two or more walls,” she says. “And examine the color at all times of the day and evening, and from different vantage points in the room.”

No matter what you do, never trust a tiny swatch from the paint store. According to Gates, it’s the ultimate design deception. “What may appear like a light blue on the chip will most likely look at least two times more saturated when on the wall,” she warns. “Test, Test, Test.”

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