Denise Wilson: Pigments of your imagination |

Denise Wilson: Pigments of your imagination

Paint chips come in various sizes. Once you’ve narrowed your selection, ask the clerk at the paint store if larger chips are available in the shades you’re considering.
Submitted Photo |

Choosing the right paint color is hard.

They’re all so alluring in their little 1 inch by 1 inch squares on the paint strip.

But it only takes a mistake or two before you become skittish and white seems to be the only safe option.

Here are some tips to help banish your fears and reintroduce you to the wonderful world of color.

How to look at a paint chip

I cup my hands around the square I’m considering. This prevents the bordering colors from influencing my eye.

Then I try to discern if there’s an underlying tone beneath the hue I’m considering. For example, greens often have a yellow, blue or gray undertone. It’s important to figure this out because that undertone will affect how the paint appears when spread over a large area.

Paint colors will look different in your home versus anywhere else. You can hold a paint chip under the various light sources at the paint display (fluorescent, natural, etc.), and the color will still look different in your home.

Always take the chip home. Tape the chip to the wall and look at it at various times of day.

One recent afternoon, a client and I selected a color for her living room. We taped it to the wall and I left. She called the next day to say she forgot that the only time her living room got sun was late afternoon (when we chose the color); the majority of the day, there was no natural light and the color was positively too dark.

Some colors actually change throughout the day. A green might look mossy in the morning then morph to gray in the evening.

Pay particular attention at night when artificial lighting will profoundly affect the color.

The ceiling

Believe it or not, the same color will look radically different on the ceiling from the wall.

Haul out the ladder and tape the chip to the ceiling. Then follow the procedure above.

Don’t edit too heavily at the paint store.

The chips I’m skeptical about often end up being the ones that work. You can always return the losing chips.


Flat, matte, eggshell, semi-gloss, and gloss are typical options. Each will affect the color.

If you’re getting a sample, try to get it in the sheen you intend to use.

Keep in mind, surface defects will be less noticeable with flatter, duller sheens.

A safe bet is eggshell for the walls, semi-gloss for trim. Whatever the sheen, make sure it’s washable.

Reducing risk

A lot of popular shades have a brown or gray undertone. This mutes their intensity and makes them safer choices. If you’re going for a vibrant pop, however, this isn’t for you. You’ll want pure colors with no dulling undertones.

Last note: don’t try to combat a dark room with light colors. You will lose.

Instead, embrace the darkness and consider deep colors that will enhance the cozy atmosphere.

You can create interest by using reflective surfaces such as mirrors, glossy ceramics, and glass in the room. In fact, a dark room often shows off these elements better than a light-filled space.

Happy painting!

Denise Wilson is owner of jane in Grass Valley and a veteran interior and exterior home designer. She specializes in helping people work with what they already own to create unique, comfortable spaces that are not only beautiful but functional as well.

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