Every Colour Under the Rainbow…How to choose?

Recently, The TBBs were asked a question from a follower regarding her difficulty between choosing one of two colours that she liked.   Of course we answered her question, but it occurred to me, that this is a common dilemma for many people.  Choosing paint colours for your home should be an easy task, but there are many variables that can alter the colours you are looking at.

  1. The lighting in the room
  2. The other colours in the room
  3. Undertones of the colours in the room vs the colour you are choosing

I could give you a very scientific colour lesson, but this would be an infinitesimal task which would not only put me to sleep, but you as well.

How fortunate that I was able to snap a shot of this rainbow (complete with second one beside it) the day I was composing this post!

In design and decor there is really only one element, COLOUR, that has science attached to it.  We all know that colour is light, colour  has spectrums, prisms, refractions ….. yada yada yada.  However, all the other elements such as scale/ proportion, texture, rhythm etc. are very subjective and are chosen emotionally.  Proof of this …. 10 different designers will never have the same concept for a space.  Although colour theory has it’s origins in science , colour selection is primordial … an emotional task.  We choose colour on the basis of  ‘it’s my favourite colour’, ‘it goes with my duvet,’ ‘I saw it in a magazine’, ‘it’s totally on trend’ …..  But when it comes to choosing the perfect wall colour, and there are a BAZILLION different colours on thousands of different paint company fan decks, you can quickly spiral down into the colour choice abyss.  I have seen this happen many times, and I therefore urge you to limit the number of fan decks and paint samples at your disposal.


  1. The lighting in your room will affect the colour you are looking at.  Natural light, general overhead lighting, and time of day must be considered when choosing a room colour.
  2. It is ALWAYS wise to choose the wall colour AFTER you have chosen the fabrics, textures and finishes in the room.  Remember, there are a BAZILLION paint colours to choose from, but far fewer window treatment, upholstery fabrics and rug colours to choose from.  Pick these items first, then choose your wall colour to coordinate.
  3. How to determine undertones…scary business.  Very simply, choose two colours from a fan deck with similar value  (light /dark) … hold them next to each other and compare the undertone … ie: pink, yellow, green … they may be difficult to distinguish, but comparing to other similar colours should make it easier.  I would venture to say that more incorrect wall colours are chosen due to incorrect undertones.  If your sofa has a yellow undertone, you will not like the wall colour with the pink undertone … guaranteed.  Often homeowners know that something isn’t working in their room.  They love the sofa, coffee table, artwork etc, but something is off.  It is usually the wall colour with an offensive undertone.

FREE TIPS (because we love you)

  1. When looking or comparing paint chips, always look at them vertically as if on the wall.  Do not look down onto the chips, unless you are painting your floor …. that would require an entirely different blog post.
  2. Always look at your chosen paint chips against a white background.  Placing them directly against a wall colour will completely change your perception of the intended colour on the paint chip.
  3. Place several paint chips (on white backgrounds) around the room being painted.  You will be able to determine how the various light sources affect the colour throughout the day.
  4. Don’t go all TRENDY on us.  Choose colours that you relate to.  Trends die quickly, but if you truly love a colour today, you will likely  love it beyond tomorrow too.
  5. If in any doubt … hire a professional decorator who will give you honest and expert advice.  That is what we are paid to do.

Maureen thumbnail Maureen


Donna says “These are great tips Maureen!  And once you pick up on how to recognize colour undertones, you’ll be seeing them everywhere.”


Mary Anne says “Great summary Maureen! These are tips that cannot be repeated often enough. Even though they seem like common sense, they are crucial to getting those colours right. Who wants to paint a room four times?”


 Lisa says: “Great post Maureen and so true if the undertone is wrong, it will feel wrong.”

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[…] miss these great tips on choosing paint colours from the […]

Audrey - September 2, 2013 - 10:10 am

Thank you for posting this! I will definitely keep this in mind when the time will come to paint! :)

Maureen - September 2, 2013 - 10:29 am

thank you for popping by Audrey. I tseems like a simple task, but choosing colour can certainly bog people down.

mara - September 2, 2013 - 5:47 pm

These are really great tips for choosing paint. I’m pretty good at it, but I think now I’ll be even better.

Jen @ Go Green - September 2, 2013 - 9:12 pm

When we were picking the colour for the main part of our house I got a whole bunch of paint chips and put them up in different parts of the rooms and then went and looked at them throughout the week, all at different times. I put a check mark on the paint chip if I liked how it looked at that time of day. The one with the most check marks won.

Terri - September 2, 2013 - 10:02 pm

Awesome Tips :) I have plans to paint my house thru soon so this will be a big help

Dani @ lifeovereasy - September 3, 2013 - 2:02 pm

great tips, thanks!

Maureen - September 3, 2013 - 2:21 pm

please let us know Mara if these tips were usefule for you.

Maureen - September 3, 2013 - 2:24 pm

you were smart to do that Jen. It is amazing how different light sources and intensities can affect colour.

Maureen - September 3, 2013 - 2:25 pm

Good to know Terri. Thank you for the comment.

Maureen - September 3, 2013 - 2:26 pm

Thank You Dani. Choosing colour correctly can be a challenge for some people.

Bronwyn MayB - September 3, 2013 - 2:54 pm

That is such good information. I picked a paint colour I thought I was going to love, but it looked like a tomato in the sunlight. I had wanted something more wine coloured! Thanks for the tips!!

Carol@TheBrightBoxBlog - September 3, 2013 - 4:42 pm

Great, great advice Maureen. Being able to accurately detect undertones will change your life. Your tips are super helpful:)

Mama and the City - September 3, 2013 - 4:54 pm

Seems easy but it’s a hard task.

When we got our place I got sample palates from Home Depot and test them against the light in each room.

Then, from the choice, I bought small samples to confirm the look n feel. Best choice made ever.

I have been happy with those colors at my home.

Inspire Me Heather - September 4, 2013 - 7:49 am

Great post – thanks for the tips on choosing colour!

Karen@NourishWithKaren - September 4, 2013 - 1:02 pm

Great tips, maybe I will get hubby to give them a read… we often have a difference in opinion when it comes to colour choice! Thanks for sharing

Janelle @ Two Cups of Happy - September 4, 2013 - 5:37 pm

Great tips! Wish I would have thought about the different undertone/lighting thing before I picked my room colour. It’s just a smidge too blue & I wish it were more green — but on cloudy days and at night it looks perfect. Haha. I still love it!

Lauren @ WallpaperUpdate - September 5, 2013 - 2:30 pm


The second tip you mentioned was extremely dead on! You need to pick out your room decor (fabrics, furniture, etc) before you think about your wall decor. Its a headache to pick out your wallpaper or paint, use it on the wall and then be obligated to match every decor item you buy in the future with it.

Heather - September 6, 2013 - 4:07 pm

Great tips! I never remember to look at a chip on a white background. I need to remember this!

Laurie @ Vin'yet Etc. - September 7, 2013 - 8:47 am

Hi Maureen,
Awesome tips… the dreaded undertone, should be evil music playing when one says that! 😉

Maureen - September 7, 2013 - 2:00 pm

HA Laurie…I agree. undertones can really bog down the choosing paint colour process.

Maureen - September 7, 2013 - 2:02 pm

you will remember Heather once you realize how different the paint chip looks on a wall colour vs a white background. Good Luck!

Maureen - September 7, 2013 - 2:06 pm

Lauren, If I had a nickle for eveytime I have had to convince a client to choose window treatment fabric, or rug or furniture before pickong a wall colour….well… The only time you might not be able to do this is for a new build, in which case you often have to repaint after 2 years anyway.

Maureen - September 7, 2013 - 2:08 pm

If you love your room colour Janelle, I would not think to change it. But I believe you already understand what my tips are about from your comment. There’s always the next room to be painted.

Maureen - September 7, 2013 - 2:10 pm

Good luck Karen with painting with your hubby. But I would avoid wallpering with your hubby…any hubby… at all costs!!

Maureen - September 7, 2013 - 2:10 pm

thank you for the comment Heather

Maureen - September 7, 2013 - 2:12 pm

Sounds like you did a great job in picking your paint Mama and the City… I also recommend either the large paint squares or the sample pots…a few dollars that can save big mistakes.

Maureen - September 7, 2013 - 2:14 pm

thank you Carol….this seems to be a common problem. Glad I could help.

Maureen - September 7, 2013 - 2:15 pm

Yeah Bronwyn…you now know exactly what I’m talking about. Thank you for leaving a comment.

Mid-week musings - April 29, 2016 - 2:51 pm

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