Best Interior & Exterior Paint Buying Guide

Choosing a color is where some folks start. Color-matching systems have improved to the point where you can get close to the exact color you crave in just about any brand. The sheen can vary, however, and that can affect your perception of color. So decide which sheen is needed for the job (pros and cons are spelled out below), find a color you love, and then choose the best paint for your budget. Fun fact: Despite all the colors available, whites and off-whites remain the top-selling interior colors. With dozens to choose from, zeroing in on just the right white can be tricky. 

Look at the biggest paint chips the store offers. A store’s lighting affects your take, so step outside to get another look in natural light. Once home, place the chips on the wall, next to the trim, and look at them at different times throughout the day as the natural light changes. Do this over the course of several days, removing colors that aren’t working. Keep in mind that indoors, color tends to intensify over large areas, so it’s generally better to go too light than too dark in a given shade.

Once you’ve narrowed your choices, buy small containers for testing. Paint sample colors on large sheets of heavy paper so that you can move them from place to place without having to paint the walls. Live with them for at least a few days. Throughout the day, observe the effects of changing light on the color, both natural light and light provided by bulbs.

For exteriors, warm, neutral palettes continue to be widely used because the brick, stone, and other fixed elements are warm materials. That said, as blues and grays became popular colors for a home’s interior, they’re popping up on exteriors, too. And it’s smart to take a cue from other homes in the neighborhood, although you don’t want a color that’s too close to the homes next door. 

Paint sample boards with each color you’re considering, and place them on different corners of your home. Again, observe the color at different times of day as the natural light changes. Once you’ve narrowed your choices, paint a swatch on the front of your house where it’s in full sun—not on the porch or under an overhang, where there are shadows. Look at the color at different times of the day.

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