Paint samples and boards help you choose a color you’ll ultimately love, not hate.

By Mary Lynn Bruny

While we’re hunkered down at home, many people are using the time to spruce up the joint, including painting. To start, a color must be selected. How hard can this be? If you answered, “Easy-peasy,” then you’ve never picked paint colors before or simply have always used basic white (a solid good choice). If you answered, “It’s a mind-numbing, painful process involving many, many trips to the paint store which ultimately end in disappointment, sometimes tears and often regret,” then you’ve picked paint colors before.

Everyone knows that paint packs a lot of punch for the money and effort. This punch can be pleasing, or one that grinds away at your eyeballs and makes you want to turn away in disgust. In other words, you want to get it right.

You may be thinking: I’ll go to the paint store, pick up a few sample strips, hold them up to a wall, choose a color, and have the painter do their thing. That’s about as hopeful as a woman ordering a bathing suit online. The majority of the female population can tell you from personal experience that this rarely ends well. Despair is the usual result. If only things were this simple.

Using this method you will come home after your painter is done, look disbelieving at your home and say, “That’s not the color I chose!” Someone messed up, but of course not you. Your calm painter (they’ve been through this before) will show you the paint can that proves, yes indeed, it is what you chose. On some level you still will not believe it’s the same color as the strip. Probably because it isn’t, not really: Paint looks different wherever and on whatever it is placed. It looks different on a teeny paper paint strip than on a huge wall. And it looks different in various sheens.

Here’s the method I’ve developed after tormenting myself through five remodels: First, buy a few (in my case, a dozen) small paint samples (which most paint companies sell) of colors you think you like and paint them on poster boards. Then move these around your home at different times of day. Paint is funny: In one place, at one time of day, it looks one way. Then it changes, chameleon-like. Mainly this is due to light. You need to like the color at all times of day in all the areas you’re using it in.

When you’ve picked one or a few colors you like from the boards, get quarts in the sheen you’ll be using and paint parts of various walls (one-foot by one-foot patches or bigger), especially against the trim. If you’re trying many colors, your walls may start to look like a camouflage pattern. (My children when young thought we should paint all the walls like this: “Cool, mom, camo!”)

Seem excessive? What’s more excessive is paying your painter to repaint over a bad choice. Or even worse, living with your horrible selection for a long, long time until you can justify painting again. Slow, constant, visual torture mixed with remorse.

At this point if you have a partner, they will be trying very hard not to roll their eyes at you and sigh in exasperation, and friends who see this process will think you’re slightly kooky. By this point you probably will feel so. But when you ultimately make your final selection and the paint looks wonderful, all will be forgotten – that is until you go through the same wacky process for another part of your house. We have months. Go for it.

By Mary Lynn Bruny. Mary Lynn is a Colorado freelance writer. Contact her at [email protected].