Figuring out how to choose paint for your upcoming project is not always an easy feat.
Paint comes in a variety of sheens and finishes, and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to choosing the right fit, whether that’s for the interior or exterior of your home, or for a piece of art.
To help take the guesswork out of the process, we’re sharing expert tips on choosing the right type of paint and picking paint colors, with need-to-know advice that anyone can use to narrow down their options and get to work.
How Do I Choose the Right Paint?
The first order of business is choosing the type of paint that will work best for your project. You’ll get a very different finish when considering a paint like eggshell vs. semi-gloss, for example, and depending on what you’re painting, certain types may not be right for the end result you’re after.
Which Paint is Best for Home?
There are five types of paints, each varying in terms of reflectiveness (the more reflective the paint, the more light will bounce off of it).
Flat (or matte) paint absorbs light, which makes it a good choice for areas where you need to hide imperfections. It’s less durable than other paint though, so stick to low-traffic areas like ceilings or powder rooms.
Slightly more reflective are eggshell paints, which are more durable than flat while still hiding bumps, nicks, and other slight imperfections. They’re best for low- to medium-traffic areas—think hallways, entryways, and dining rooms.
Satin paints are the most common interior paint finish, providing a slightly pronounced sheen that’s both durable and easy to keep clean. Higher reflectivity means more visibility though, so you might end up with more obvious brush strokes (and the need for more coats).
For a shiny finish, semigloss may be the way to go. Semi-gloss paints are super durable and reflective, and they’re also mildew-resistant, which makes them a popular choice for bathrooms and kitchens.
High-gloss paint has a mirror-like quality that can add an extra touch of drama to your space. Because it’s highly durable, high-gloss is often used in exterior applications, but prep work is required because there’s no hiding imperfections behind this glossy surface.
Artwork: What is the Best Type of Paint to Use?
Choosing paint for art is different than choosing paint for your home. Instead of sheens, you’ll want to pick the right medium—generally oil, acrylic, or watercolor.
Oil paints are rich and highly saturated, and are great for realism and detailing. They’re quite delicate though, and can crack or dry out over time.
Acrylics are fast drying and vary in viscosity. Depending on how thick your acrylic is, you can achieve a thin, ink-like quality or a thicker, more textured finish.
Watercolors are naturally thin, and can be layered for various degrees of transparency. They’re quite forgiving, though they seep into paper making it difficult to fully correct mistakes.
Choosing Paint: How to Pick for Each Project
Now that you know the types of paint that are available, let’s talk about how you narrow in on your best fit.
Deciding between eggshell vs. semi-gloss or oil vs. acrylic comes down to a few key factors:
- What type of surface you’re painting
- How durable you want the finish to be
- What overall look you’re after
Use the descriptors above to figure out what type of paint checks off the right boxes, taking into account both where you’re painting (interior, exterior, canvas, etc.) and the integrity of the surface (are you trying to hide imperfections?). Once you do that, you can get to the really fun stuff, like picking paint colors and actually getting started.
How to Choose Paint Colors
Color brings your painting project to life. For artwork, the colors you pick will depend on what you’re painting and the feeling you’re trying to invoke. Things get a bit trickier though when it comes to home painting. Here are some quick tips on picking out colors, depending on what you’re looking to paint.
How to Choose Interior Paint
“How do I choose interior paint?” is a question that interior designers get all of the time. Ultimately, the colors you choose for your home’s interior are a matter of personal choice, but there are also some rules to keep in mind.
- Look at the color wheel. Color wheels show you colors that work inherently well together. These can be analogous (colors that are next to each other on the wheel), monochromatic (varying shades of one color on the wheel), complementary (colors across from each other on the wheel), and so on.
- Warm vs. cool. Warm colors are vibrant and stimulating, while cool colors are tranquil and refreshing. Consider these in context with the room you’re painting—for example, if you’re decorating a home office, you might want warm colors to keep you happy or cool colors to keep you serene. It all depends on what you want to achieve.
How to Choose Exterior Paint Colors for Your House
Curb appeal is the name of the game. That means less variety and room to go bold, but also (hopefully) makes the decision process a little easier. Here’s what to consider.
- Light or dark? Within standard exterior color groups, there’s still a lot of variation in shade. What shade you choose may depend on your home’s architectural style, but you should also keep energy-efficiency and levels of sunshine in mind.
- Pay attention to your neighbors. Are you trying to fit in or stand out? Either option is fine, but try not to variate too much so you don’t accidentally venture into eyesore territory.
When choosing color, don’t forget about the importance of absence as well. White and black play an important role in interior design and art, and are just as essential as your bolder, brighter hues.
How to Pick Out the Perfect Colors for Your Home’s Interior
Interior Design Essentials: Creating a Color Palette.