Best Way to Choose Colors

auggie1020May 22, 2012

Hi All: I bought a house from the bank. It came with an added bonus--squatters who won't leave. That is being worked out but I know that I want to paint the inside and out. Does anyone know of a good site that I can upload a picture of the house to and then try different colors. I though I uploaded a pic of the house here, but not sure. If so, any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.


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Lori A. Sawaya

I've been painting houses virtually for several years and I think I've tried every option available.

All the paint-a-room virtual painters have issues. They all have a learning curve that often proves too steep for some. If you're tech savvy, should be able to figure it out rather easily.

If you use one brand's offering for paint-a-room software, you're stuck with only their palette to work with. I would never BUY a brand's paint-a-room software.

Color By Numbers (CBN) from costs $40 but it gives you oodles of paint brand's palettes to work with. Plus, it's easy and intuitive to use. Downside is it's only for PC not MAC.

A lot of colors to work with is important because painting virtually is in the additive color space - emitting colored light beams to your eyeballs. Real paint color is in real life which is the subtractive color space - reflecting color to your eyeballs.

Emitting vs. reflecting. The two color spaces NEVER sync up and match. Best you can do is try to ALIGN color you see on your monitor in those paint-a-room thingys to in-real-life color chips. And this is where having a bunch of colors to choose from comes into play.

My top three tips for painting virtually:

1. Zoom is your friend
2. Ignore paint color names, they mean nothing. Pay attention to what you're seeing, not reading.
3. Nothing you see virtually colorwise is take-to-the-bankable. Meaning the colors you see on your monitor are only loose representations of hue. It doesn't match anything or any part of in-real-life color. Use virtual color with caution.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2012 at 12:39PM
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I have used every method I could find, to try and save time and money.My time is thier money. And I am back to where I started, with a giant sherwin williams fan book.
Once you learn how to use it, to pick the colors you dont want, it takes minutes a room for homeowner to decide what they do want.
#1 open up the fan and see all the colors
#2 quickly they will know all the shades they DON'T want, fold these back into the cover
#3 your options will now be under 30
#4 once those are put beside anything they are using in the space, they choose the ones that DON'T match, fold these back into cover, should be under 10 now
#5 use something else going into room do the same
#6 the color they want will be obvious, and they will never question the decision, it was based on comparison, not a guess in the dark. Client 100% satisfied from start to finish.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2012 at 12:25AM
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otislilly, I'm in awe of your ability to find clients for whom color decisions are obvious and who never question their decisions.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2012 at 9:35AM
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Graywings - Part of the success of that method lies in the way it is "framing the question" and encouraging decision-making.

Instead of an open-ended "what do you like" with a world of choices, it's systematically and quickly excluding unsatisfactory choices and getting that color out of sight.

It's similar to this one except that this method deliberately tries to not pre-judge colors, but it's also doing a deliberate winners and losers strategy.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2012 at 5:08PM
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well we never know about the next one, but it is pretty much foolproof. Excuding myself from any decision making,( or resposibility of) I dont try to steer anyone in any direction. I give them the tools and means to find thier own colors. this eliviates doubt in what you told them was the best choice and them questioning your decision. I have yet to have somone question thier own decisions, because in thier mind, they went with the only choice that was left, when they excluded the ones that would not match.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2012 at 10:04PM
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Lori A. Sawaya

The yahoo link is stupid.

"at least you know that whatever color you select, your walls will look good with the sofa."


In other words, "Let's set the bar extraordinarily low and try to meet it by aimlessly collecting a sh1tload of paint chips."

    Bookmark   May 24, 2012 at 10:26PM
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Interestingly, I hired someone who worked that way and I wasted my money using him. It was a disaster.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2012 at 6:01PM
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I've had colors that looked like they would work on a 12"x12" sample board, but then looked terrible when painted on several walls. Best way to choose a color is to budget extra and be prepared that it might not work and you will have to repaint!!! All the wall prep is done so putting up that second color choice is a bit easier!

    Bookmark   May 25, 2012 at 10:54PM
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Auggie - The best the software can do is give you a rough idea of what the house might look like, but it's using their computer's idea of what the color is and sending it to your monitor, which has very little to do with your walls and your lighting. When the paint hits the plaster, all bets are off.

They are fiddly, can be annoyingly hard to learn, may require you to subscribe to the site and the ads, often very limited (they use their house, not yours), etc. Not worth it, in my opinionated opinion.

A paint program and several copies of your house picture would do you as much good.

You need to decide whether you want high-contrast either in hue (color) or value (light/dark), or whether you want something less contrasty with either shades of the same color or close relatives on the color wheel. Do you prefer "clean" or "dirty" colors (clear or muddied)?

Also, does your house architecture have a traditional color scheme you could respect? Farmhouse white with green shutters? Adobe tan with purple and blue lintels? San Francisco polychrome gaudy? HOA limited palette?

One way to do it is with Pinterest or Houzz or old magazines ... just collect a lot of images of houses and rooms with color you like and those you don't like (the ones you don't like are important!).

When you sort them out, analyse why you like or don't like the color. The images in each group will have things in common ... maybe many of the ones you didn't like were in a certain color range, or were monochromatic. That will get you on the right track.

Maria Killam's website has a lot of useful information on colors. She's a bit annoying with her relentless self promotion, but she does explain things like undertones, clean/dirty colors, and why beige and grey are such a hassle to work with (it's all about the undertones)

    Bookmark   May 26, 2012 at 7:53AM
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Personally I think grays are the hardest neutral because they have so many undertones and can look blue or green depending on light. There are some nice BM neutral tans that I think look nice everywhere and tend to just complement most color schemes - Manchester Tan and Bleeker Beige. Also, SW Rice Grain is a nice pale neutral that I have used in many rooms and always got compliments on. For the exterior, you could start with some of the computer software programs to narrow your pallette, but then trying swatches would be a good way to narrow. Go ask the designers at the Ben Moore store - they always have good palette suggestions. We looked at a combo of BM Thunder (a pale warm gray) for our exterior with Macscarpone (off white) trim and a black door. It as a nice palette. It ended up being a little too close to what we had to we went with Galveston Gray with the Macsarpone trim and it looks great. It's a true warm gray, no tan or blue undertones. Just some ideas for you. Good luck!

    Bookmark   May 26, 2012 at 11:33AM
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Funcolors - You don't "aimlessly collect a boatload of color chips".

You are running a binary decision tree at first with yes/no answers. Reducing the first rounds of the selection process to a simple binary choice - Ewww or OK - gets around the human inability to make multiple decisions. Ask someone if the chip looks OK with the couch and they can give you a yes or no answer.

You systematically collect a wide range of colors - deliberately not excluding any. This prevents you from going into the rathole of wrong undertones because your starting point was influenced by your friends' color choices or your favorite decorating forum's currently hot baby turtles or grey owls.

Each color has to pass the same test on whether it looks good or not with the target.

You systematically and permanently exclude chips that fail the test condition. there is no sense wasting any time on a chip that was Ewww with the couch, because even if it looks fabulous with the drapes, it's not going to ever look good with the couch.

At the end of the first round with all the test objects, what you have are colors that passed the Ewww test for every object ... they collectively are where your best colors will be found. They made it through the qualifying heats to get into the final race.

Then you start comparing the colors against each other as well as the target ... in the context, which ones aren't as good as the others.

But then, I'm a geek and hang out with programmers and engineers. This is how we think ... decision trees.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2012 at 4:45PM
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Lori A. Sawaya

I've been married to an engineer for 21 years. Not that being married to one or hanging out with one matters.

Restating the same method doesn't make it any less inane. The link does indeed suggest collecting a sh1tload of paint chips -- from more than one store, actually.

"Visit paint stores and the paint department of home improvement centers and take as many paint color sample chips as you can. Take one of every color the paint department has. Then go to another paint store and take one sample chip of every color they have."

    Bookmark   May 26, 2012 at 11:51PM
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funcolors, please explain what is "inane" about it?

How do you do it, and why is your way better?

It's like collecting tile samples and propping them on the countertop to choose a backsplash ... is that "inane"?

    Bookmark   May 27, 2012 at 8:37AM
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Lori A. Sawaya

Sure. We can say it's just like collecting tile samples. Except I bet visiting tile stores and the tile department of home improvement centers and taking as many tile samples as you can. Taking one of every color the tile department has. Then going to another tile store and taking one sample tile of every color they have is a lot of work.

But if taking home one color sample of everything, tile, paint, or whatever, is the preferred method then that's definitely what should be done.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2012 at 8:20PM
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not exactly on point but plenty of paint experts posting on this thread--

is there any rule of thumb about how much you can knock down a color to lessen the intensity of it before it changes to a different shade altogether...

There is color we want to use in guest bedroom of the house in FL we are having painted
Honolulu Blue--very strong color from BM---
but the room is small---probably 110 ft w/ 8 ft ceiling
painting it full strength will be totally dominating
can we decrease by 50% and still have the "true" color--
I don't want a pastel---too much baby blue color--
our friend will be using this room the most probably and she loves this color...has it in guest room at her house --- "the beach bedroom"
and it is full strength and just a little too much

    Bookmark   June 4, 2012 at 10:14AM
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Lori A. Sawaya

When you alter intensity you are creating a new shade. Same hue, which is blue, but adjust intensity and you create a new shade, a new color.

Knocked-back, toned down, muted, dulled all mean the same thing with regard to color characteristic. And they all speak to the same method or process to arrive at a color that is described as knocked-back, toned-down, muted or dulled.

In theory it's referred to as shade. Shade a color and you knock it back from its original intensity.

The method/process to change the shade of a color is to use color complements (sometimes referred to as mixing in chords), or add black, or add gray.

Honolulu Blue is from the BenM Color Preview deck. The Preview deck is one of the few 'let-down' collections. The term let-down refers to a deliberate - and more conscientious - approach to mix colors.

It means starting with a quantity of colorant and then decreasing - and at the same time adjusting colorant to the amount of whiteness in a particular can of base - in order to create a range of new colors from the original color. Because of the adjusting that has to go on to translate the color from pastel base to deep base, for example, you can't really call it cutting the formula. Rather, it's a let-down.

So, in the case of Honolulu Blue, the next color up, Light Blue, is mathematically less color or chroma than Honolulu Blue.

But it's not less intense - while the saturation and value on the strip goes dark up to lighter, the intensity, tone, degree of grayness doesn't change.

Cutting Honolulu Blue is going to get you in the neighborhood of Light Blue.

I think what you want is Honolulu Blue, same value meaning lightness darkness but you want it less intense. So that's what you want to ask for, don't want to cut the formula.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2012 at 11:24AM
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Paint samples are your best bet. I'm in the process of repainting our base color from a tanish/yellowish to a deeper tan. We went to the store and got a few paint samples of similar colors. They are only $2.98... but it's cheaper than buying a gallon or more if you don't like the color.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2012 at 12:09PM
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To lazygardens. I have been reading Maria blog and have enjoyed and learned from it. I am not in the design field, just want to get paint, fabric, etc right when decorating my home. Have you downloaded her ebook and if so, did you find it useful? Is it a rehash of her blogs (1st chapter appears to be). I noticed it was dated 2011, so I guess that's the revised edition. Also, checking the web earlier price was $30 and now it's $45. Only finding reviews by other bloggers in the business, etc so not sure if they are impartial. Thanks

    Bookmark   July 20, 2013 at 12:52AM
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