Part 1: A Painting Primer 

Exhilarating or overwhelming? 

For some people, walking into a paint store feels like being a kid in a candy store – so many delicious colors to mix and match to perfection. For others, the sheer volume of choices leaves them paralyzed. 

If you fall into the second category (and many of us do!), this blog’s for you. We spoke to Ann Pailthorp, Color Consultant for Regal Paint Centers. Ann and her team of design consultants help customers just like you narrow down their choices and pick the perfect paint. Ann is also an artist and designer, so she has a keen eye for what looks good. . . and what doesn’t. 

Ann broke down the process into steps, so whether you’re repainting, renovating, or building from scratch, you can pick the right paint with confidence.

1. Choose your paint product

Paint companies produce a variety of products, each one best suited for specific materials and conditions. Choosing the right product will give you a more beautiful, longer-lasting result. Therefore, Ann’s consultants begin with two questions: 

  1. What material are you painting? Common materials can be kitchen cabinets, molding, drywall, or masonry. 
  2. Was the material previously painted? This helps determine whether you need a complete primer and topcoat system or not. 

With that information, a paint professional can guide you to the best-fit product for your paint job. 

Pro tip: Choose the best possible product that your budget allows. Painting takes time, energy, and effort. Invest in a quality product so the paint job will last.  

2. Choose a sheen

Now that you have your paint product, you can decide on its sheen. “Choosing the right sheen for a project is about striking a balance between aesthetics and performance,” says Ann. 

Pro tip: Sheens going from least glossy to most glossy are: 

Flat -> Matte -> Eggshell -> Satin -> Semi-gloss -> Gloss 

Take woodwork, for example. “When it comes to woodwork in a home, some people love a timeless gloss, but the majority of our customers choose a semi-gloss or even a satin finish,” explains Ann. “All will perform well on woodwork, so it’s truly a matter of aesthetics and personal preference when choosing between these three options.” 

The same is true for walls. There’s no right or wrong but make an informed decision. The more matte the finish, the more it will cover imperfections on the wall. The glossier the finish, the more durable and easy to clean it is. 

Ann says that most customers choose an eggshell finish for their walls. “It has enough sheen to reflect some light, creating a soft glow while also being washable. It’s a beautiful and practical choice even for high-traffic areas.” 

But don’t rule out other sheens. A matte finish can be an excellent choice for low-traffic areas like a dining room or bedroom. On the other end of the spectrum, gloss on the walls can create a stunning effect, like a lacquered jewel box. But be aware that painting walls with glossy paint isn’t a DIY job. The wall needs to be perfectly smooth, and the paint is applied with a sprayer.  

Blue Living Room

Figure 1: The high gloss paint in this room beautifully reflects light from all angles. Photo credit: Benjamin Moore

3. Choose a color 

Now you have your product and your sheen, and you’re ready to move on to color. Once again, Ann begins by asking questions: 

  • Are there any architectural elements in your home that you want to highlight? 
  • Are there any architectural elements whose visual impact you want to diminish? 
  • What kind of artificial light is in the room? 
  • What direction does the room face? “South facing rooms are a dream to select colors for. Just about any color will work, but in cooler North facing rooms, colors can easily fall flat,” says Ann. 
  • What other colored elements will be in the space, such as rugs or furniture? 

And the most important consideration is always a person’s likes and dislikes and the feel they want for the space. 

Figure 1: The orange paint (see wall on the far left) is a bold choice to complement the shower accent tiles in this Touchstone bathroom remodel.

4. Create a color scheme

It’s important to realize that you’re almost never choosing just one color. For every wall, there’s, at the very least, molding and a ceiling to consider. And more often than not there are door frameswindow frames, and other features. You also want every room to fit into the bigger picture of your home.  

How do you create rooms that coordinate or flow? Ann has three suggestions: 

  1. One way is to match the “weight” of colors in different rooms. Pastels are light colors, while deep blues and reds are heavy. “You could use a selection of light and airy pastel colors for a series of bedrooms,” suggests Ann. “From afar, they are all a similar weight, and this creates a natural flow. Or pick deep, dramatic colors to paint a series of rooms on the ground floor.” 

Pro tip: You can’t color match a picture on a phone! 

  1. One of Ann’s favorite tricks, especially when working with neutrals, is using the entire color value scale. Most color swatches will have a gradient of the same color, going from lightest to darkest. Every color choice on a single swatch has the same undertones and weight, but the darker shades have more gray in them. 

“You could take the lightest color on a strip and make that your home’s dominant wall color. Then move halfway down the strip for a mid-tone colored living room. Finally, use the darkest version for a contemplative office space.” 

Figure 2: Each paint swatch features different values of the same color. 

  1.  A similar option is to repeat a color throughout your home but in different proportions. For example, you could match a mid-tone blue from a lamp for a wall in a living room. Then a lighter version of the blue could become the ceiling color in the neighboring dining room. Finally, the color returns as the kitchen island color. “Playing with color in this way creates a cohesive repetition that is easy to live with and has a natural flow.” 

5. Test it out

Skipping this step is one of the biggest mistakes Ann and her team see people make. Unless your house has industrial fluorescent lighting, the paint color you saw in the store will not look the same at home. You MUST try it out at home. 

Ann suggests buying a sampler jar of paint and painting a board with two full coats. Move the board around the room to see how it looks on all the walls.  Test it in the morning with natural light and in the evening with incandescent light. Do you love the color at the time of day you use the room most? 

Pro tip:   Always look at your color samples in isolation (away from other paint colors) because our perception of color is impacted by the colors surrounding it. 

“For customers who aren’t up for painting their own sample, we offer peel and stick samples in our top 40 best-selling colors,” adds Ann. 

Paint Swatches

Figure 4: Try paint samples on your wall to see how they look in your environment. Photo credit: Benjamin Moore

If you sample the color at home and it lives up to your expectations, congratulations! You’re ready to go full steam ahead with painting your room. 

Pro tip: Know which applicators to use for which paints. Thinner shed-resistant roller covers are for walls, and thicker high-capacity rollers are for ceilings and flat paints. 

Outdoor paint jobs 

So far, we’ve only discussed indoor surfaces. Outdoor painting is a world of its own.  

Ann recommends only 100% acrylic paints for exterior jobs. Acrylic paints are durable, have excellent UV resistance, expand and contract well, and resist chalking. 

Even limiting yourself to acrylic paints, you’ll still have many choices. When picking the right product, ask yourself these questions: 

  • What material are you painting? 
  • Is it already painted? 
  • In what condition is the current paint? 
  • What are the paint’s performance requirements? Some examples of requirements are being UV, mildew, or rust-resistant. 

Pro tip: Prepping the surface is important for any paint job, but it’s extra-critical for outdoor painting. First, do any necessary repairs. Then make sure your surface is firm, dry, dull, and free of dirt, mold or mildew, grease, efflorescence, or chalk. 

Are you ready to refresh your walls with a new coat of paint? Contact us, and let’s get started painting your beautiful home.