Painting your walls can be so transformative for your space. Luckily, you already have a general paint color in mind. But just looking at all the paint chips in that one color gets you feeling overwhelmed. How do you pinpoint the final wall paint color for your space?
Previously, I outlined the steps I use in choosing the general color for my spaces:
- define the space – kitchen
- define the intended function of the space – family, morning use, all year round
- define the intended mood of the space – soothing, relaxing to start the day
- pick a general color based on the answers to the previous steps – green
But that only gets you part of the way! The next three steps help you fine tune your choice.
PAINT COLOR Step 5: Pick the Undertone
As you can see from above, each of the greens (“mass color”) are slightly different. This is due to the variance in their “undertone” colors – or the next dominant color used to create the mass color. Undertones can be categorized as warm or cool in “temperature”. Again, this goes to associating a feeling with color. A warm undertone indicates that there is a dominance of red, yellow, or orange and a cool undertone indicates blue, green, or purple. The closer the undertone is to the mass color, the more “pure” the color. Thus, even the undertone of your mass color needs to match the feeling you want to create. Soothing and relaxing are more often linked to warmth while energizing and vibrant can be linked to coolness. So, for a kitchen where winters can be dreary, there is a strong preference for a warm green.
My kitchen cabinets are made of wood that has a natural red undertone to it, regardless of the color of the stain used. Green is a complementary color of red. Complementary colors make the other stand out. So pure green walls would increase the red undertone of the cabinets. However, I wanted to downplay this aspect. Thus, choosing a warm undertone in my green wall paint not only enhances the mood I want to create but also helps to keep the cabinets looking more neutral.
Importance of Undertone in Whole House Color Schemes
To make your space feel more cohesive, all undertones in the space do not need to be the same color (like all yellow undertones) but should at least adhere to the same temperature (either red, yellow, or orange undertones). This includes undertones in floors, cabinets, furniture, and accessories. If not, then the color that is of opposite temperature will stand out amongst the rest. You can certainly do this with intention – just make sure the item is worth the limelight!
Need help deciding the undertone of a specific paint color? Check out the Style Library for 3 great tips!
WALL PAINT Step 6: Pick a High or Low Saturation
You might often hear about muted colors. These are colors that have low saturation – or more grey in them. The grey essentially dulls the color. Hence, most people associate more muted colors with lower energy feelings. Muted colors are used as a means to connect more with the natural, relaxed elements in Mid-Century Modern or Arts and Crafts design styles. This is the style of my own home, so the green I choose for my kitchen was warm and muted.
In contrast, many Global design styles incorporate high saturation colors to add vibrancy to their rooms. A gathering place like a family room or outdoor patio lends itself well to a space with saturated colors used to add energy.
FINAL WALL PAINT COLOR Step 7: Pick a High or Low Brightness (Value)
Believe it or not, a muted color need not be dark and dreary. Muted colors can also be bright when they include a high amount of white. Again, think of the feelings you want to invoke in your space. Bright is a term associated with light, airy, refreshing, crisp, even cleanliness. For this reason, you will quite often see bathrooms in bright colors.
Just how bright you choose your wall paint color will depend on the other furnishings in the room. Are they bright as well? Do you want to add contrast to increase drama and energy? If not, maintaining the same brightness in your wall paint as the other furnishings and accessories will create a more calming feel to the space.
Still confused about the different elements of color? The graphic below should help you get your bearings with understanding color saturation (dullness) and value (brightness) within each mass color (hue).
PAINT COLOR BONUS STEP: Lighting
Any of the steps above should take into consideration your lighting in the space. Do you have plenty of natural light? Will the natural light hit it when you are most likely going to be using the space? Are you relying mainly on artificial light? Is it incandescent or LED? Did you know that even LED lights come in both warm and cool options? Yup – just look at our living room ceiling lights!
It was driving me crazy so we are changing them around to different rooms so at least in the public areas they are all the same 😊 But natural, warm, or cool lighting certainly makes a difference in the visual undertone of your colors.
As does the sheen. Did you know that paint chips are produced in a flat sheen? A different sheen such as eggshell, satin, or glossy will reflect a different amount of that natural, warm, or cool light, affecting the final visual color from what you see on the paint chip. That’s why it is so important to put up well sized (2ft x 2ft) paint samples in the sheen you are going to use in the intended space in a vertical position. That’s right – the angle of that light makes a difference too!
FINAL COLOR CHOICE
As for my kitchen color, I chose Benjamin Moore Georgian Green for my final wall paint color. It has a yellow undertone that works well with the yellow wall paint found in other spaces in my home. Notice how the left picture was taken in the afternoon when sunlight is most prevalent in the space, bringing out the warm undertones more than the right picture. That photo was taken for another post about symmetry. However, it was taken in the late morning. A great example of how lighting affects your color choice and why I did not choose a cool undertone for those midwest winter mornings!