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>Home >Basement design >How to pick a paint color

How to pick a paint color

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Picking paint colorChoosing a paint color and finish can be a challenge. There are so many colors available from the various brands that selecting a paint color can be a daunting task. Before you decide on a paint color and/or color scheme you need to decide on a finish. Semi-gloss or high-gloss paints offer the most durable finish, but too much sheen in a room will create unwanted glare. For more about paint finishes, see "How to pick a paint finish".

Oil based paints are generally more durable than latex (water based) paints, but those advantages can be outweighed by the longer drying time and difficult cleanup. For more about the advantages and disadvantages to using both oil based and latex (water based) paints, see "Oil or latex paint?"

Choosing a paint color is another way that interior design software such as Better Homes and Gardens Interior Designer can be of great help! For more about how I used Better Homes and Gardens Interior Designer to pick colors for my basement, see "Deciding on a paint color" in the "Our Progress" section.

Now that you've decided on the type of paint, and finish, it's time for the difficult decision- what colors to use in your newly finished basement!

An introduction to color theory
How do I know if colors match?

A difficult question for many of us to answer is "what goes with what?" How do you know for sure which colors match? While I'm certainly not an interior designer, (and don't even play one on TV) here's a bit of what I've learned along the way.

Take a look at the color wheel below. Generally speaking, colors that are across from each other (complementary) will match, colors that are next to each other (adjacent) will match, and colors that are a third of the way (three steps) around the wheel (tertiary) will match. Of course, lighter and darker shades (monochromatic) of the same color will match too!

Sample color schemes

A sample color wheel showing shade, hue, and tintMonochrome: Uses varying shades of the same color for use in the room. While other colors may be used sparingly as accents, the room will be primarily designed with varying shades of one color.

Complementary: Colors are selected from opposite sides of the color wheel. For example, a designer utilizing a complementary scheme may select violet and yellow, or blue and orange as the main colors for the room.

Adjacent: Using this color scheme, you paint the room using two or three colors that are next to each other on the color wheel. For example, in an adjacent color scheme, you may utilize blue-green, blue, and blue-violet when you paint the room.

Using custom color palettes

A Valspar color palette consisting of butternut, sweet sand, and brooklyn brownstone. [Click to enlarge]

Many paint brands have decided to take the guesswork out of the "what goes with what?" dilemma by creating color palettes and offering pre-set color schemes. They'll provide several variations on a color theme, and show a room sample of each.

Paint color chips

While you can't always tell exactly how a color will look from a small 1" by 2" inch chip, it can give you an idea of how the colors will look in your room. A big advantage of using color chips on the same card is that you'll know the colors will match. Manufacturers put several samples on a chip so you can select a darker one for the walls, a lighter one for the trim, and you'll know they'll match!

A Valspar color palette consisting of misty morning due, wisteria snow, and warm bluff. [Click to enlarge]

A color palette by Olympic featuring Guacamole, Winter Wheat, and Stoney Creek. [Click to enlarge]

Paint color selection tips

  • Decide on a general scheme first: Earth tones, primary colors, muted colors, or pastels?
  • Think about what furniture colors you've seen, and what colors of carpet and flooring appeal to you. You may not be able to decide on any/all of these items now, but having a general idea will help give you a starting point.
  • After you've narrowed your choices down to a few colors, consider buying a pint of each. Some brands of paint offer even smaller samples in a limited selection of colors.
  • If you find a color of paint you like, but it's a brand you don't want to use, sometimes you can get the same color in a different brand. Places like Lowe's have the formulas to match colors across brands.
  • To open up a room and make it look larger, make sure the wall color is a shade or two lighter than the carpet. To make a large room more intimate, use a wall color that is slightly darker than the carpet.

Check out for more information on using color in interior design!

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Design Topics

Design tips

Hiding pipes & poles

Closets and storage

Basement ceilings



Basement bathrooms

Basement design ideas

Interior design software

Oil based or latex paint?

How to pick a paint finish

How to pick a paint color

How to design a 'man cave'

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