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How to Choose Interior Paint Colors and What Each Color Means

By Dustin Montgomery July 15, 2021, 3:10 pm

The color of your walls sets the tone for your room, that's why color is so important! Using bright colors you can create a fun social space, using cool colors you can make a relaxing spot to hang out in, while neutral colors ooze elegance.

This guide will explain the effects colors will have on your interior spaces while providing tips for choosing interior colors.

Picking the Perfect Interior Paint Color: What Each Color Means

Blue: Relaxation and Productivity

Empty room with blue wall

People may not like feeling blue, but they certainly feel the color blue when it's time to paint the inside of their home. This is one of the most popular colors for interior spaces.

Blue has the capability to soothe and relax which makes it an excellent choice for bedrooms. However, that's only one effect blue can have.

Blue has also been shown to improve productivity and enhance creativity which makes it great for workspaces, workshops, or kids' rooms where they'll be studying.

Because blue is considered to be a clean color, it also works well in bathrooms and laundry areas. The one room that blue doesn't work super well in is the kitchen. This may have something to do with our primitive instinct to avoid blue foods.

Red: Energy and Excitement

Living room with red accent wall

While blue is a chill color that promotes relaxation and productivity, red has the opposite effect. This bold and bright color has been shown to increase the pulse, heart rate, and blood pressure.

Perhaps because of the excitement it elicits, red makes people lose track of time and stimulates appetites, which is why it is such a popular color in restaurants. To take advantage of this effect, you can use it in your kitchen.

Otherwise, because of how powerful and overwhelming it is, red makes a great accent color. If you love red and don't want to settle for it being a mere accent color, then try muted shades like orange-red and brown-red. These cozy, comforting earth colors will create a homey environment.

Yellow: Brighten Your Day

Two kids lying on their bed, surrounded by bright yellow walls

The thing about yellow is that people are either going to love it or hate it.

If you love bold, bright colors like me, then yellow probably tops the list of colors you'd want in your home. However, be warned, there are some downsides to yellow, like it causing the most eye fatigue of any color, causing people to lose their tempers, and even making babies cry.

That's not to say that yellow is a totally bad idea for interior spaces. It also makes people feel cheerful, energetic, and happy. Because of these effects, it's great for common spaces, not bedrooms.

Buttery and light shades of yellow are easier to live with than brighter shades. There are countless shades of yellow to choose from, all with their own effects and personality.

Green: The Natural Color

Study room at a school with bright green walls and floor

If you have a home with lots of natural elements, like gorgeous house plants and big windows, then green is a great paint color to create a wholly natural look. Just like blue, green tends to be a calming and healing color. Green promotes optimism, relaxation, and excitement.

For interior color schemes, use natural greens like olive and sage green, or lighter shades, which are easier to live with over a long period of time. These shades also pair well with many other colors you may use in furniture or as accents.

Orange: The Attention-Grabber

Rustic sofa in front of a bright orange wall

Knock knock. Who's there? Orange. Orange who? "Orange" you glad you read this guide?

Seriously though, orange is one of the most unique colors you can paint your interior walls with.

This wonderful color is warm and welcoming. It can be spiritual, energetic, attention-grabbing, and cheerful, however, it can also be loud and overwhelming.

Shades like melon, tangerine, and yellow-orange mango are bright, cheerful, and tend to improve appetite which makes them great as the primary color or accents in kitchens, breakfast nooks, and dining rooms. Because orange is an energizing color, it's not great in bedrooms or relaxing spaces.

Purple: Color of Kings

Bedroom with purple walls

If you want to feel like royalty, paint your walls with the color purple! Historically, purple was the color of kings and queens, and it's no wonder why. It may arguably be the most opulent of colors and often connotes mystery or spirituality.

A reddish-purple will dominate a room, demanding attention and intensifying emotions. Reddish-purples do run the risk of looking tacky or being overwhelming. A bluish-purple, on the other hand, is much more elegant and has calming effects.

One of the easiest purples to work with is lavender, because of its light color and the soothing yet elegant tone it sets for spaces. This gorgeous shade is perfect for bedrooms.

Saturated purples, which are dense and dark, work well in small spaces, like reading nooks, but definitely darken a room adding a gothic feel.

Black: Great for Accents

Black wall behind a white two-seater

It's very rare to see a room that's painted entirely black unless you are touring the space of a particularly angsty teenager. This in large part is due to black making rooms feel smaller, with a cocooning effect.

Once you commit to black as the color of your walls, you're stuck with it. It's notoriously hard to paint over, taking more than two coats of paint.

As an accent color, black can be timeless, classy, and sophisticated. There's a huge amount of color combinations black works with, as a basic color.

One current trend is mixing a neutral room with some pieces of black furniture. The effect can be very elegant and provides a contemporary tang to traditional rooms. Not to mention, mixing black and white in rooms looks very modern.

Pink: Perfect for Children

Girl sitting cross-legged on her bed with pink wall in background

As a child, I BEGGED my mom to paint my room pink and had to settle for one pink wall and 3 cream ones. This was because my mom feared that having too much pink would give me a headache or grow irksome over time.

She was partially correct. Initial exposure to pink can have calming effects, but if you are exposed to it for an extended period of time, it can make you irritable. This was proven in a study done with prisoners.

This joyful, feminine color is most commonly used in the spaces of children, particularly young girls. However, a light shade of pink can work well in common spaces, since it is energizing but also can reduce stress.

Grey: Neutral and Modern

Laptop standing on desk in front of grey wall

While grey may seem boring, paired with interesting furniture and bright accents, it can actually be a really interesting backdrop color for your spaces.

This neutral color, when used correctly, can create a super modern atmosphere. As a neutral, grey provides an unobtrusive background for an infinite number of color combinations. Greys can be buttoned down and traditional, modern and contemporary, or beach house friendly.

Because of how muted it is, grey is a color that's easy to live with for an extended period of time. The downside of grey is that it can be energy-sapping and when not used with interesting furniture and accents, can even be depressing.

Brown: Soothing and Natural

Living and dining room with brown-ish walls

Just like green, brown is a natural color that works really well in spaces that have a lot of natural elements. While green is more energizing in its naturalness though, brown is more soothing.

It creates a feeling of security, reassurance, and strength. However, on the flip side of that, it can also make people feel isolated. Because of this, brown is great in social spaces, like family rooms.

Dark browns work particularly well with other warm colors, which bring out its warmer tones. Light browns, on the other hand, look really good with neutral colors.

Combined with unexpected colors like pale blue, Fuschia, or chartreuse, browns can be exciting and sophisticated, depending on what shade they are.

How to Choose a Paint Color

While the benefits, effects, and uses of the colors described above may have painted a clearer picture for you about which one you want to use in your home, it still can be super difficult to pick just one.

To help you make the perfect paint decision, below are some helpful tips on how to choose a paint color.

Items in Your Home

When you decide to repaint your home you're either doing so because you're redesigning a space from scratch, or because you're updating the color of a space, but leaving your furniture and artwork in it.

If the latter is the case for you, then be sure to take into account the furniture and artwork in the space before choosing a color. Think about what colors will look good with your items, and which will clash with them.

A fun way to pick out a paint color is also to take your art into account. The most put-together rooms I've seen have art that plays off of the color of the walls they are hung on. Using this method you can turn your room into a masterpiece!

If you are redoing a room from scratch, but you know some furniture pieces you absolutely want to include in it, then take those into account! Another great thing to take color inspiration from is patterns on furniture fabric or curtains.

Paint Color App

One of the easiest ways to choose a paint color is by using a paint color app on your phone or tablet. I know, there's LITERALLY an app for everything now.

Paint color apps let you identify and match colors you see anywhere. They also can offer color palettes around the color that they identified.

Some of our favorite paint color apps are listed below:

Use Your Home's Exterior for Ideas

Your home's coloring should be a continuous experience, so it's a great idea to use your home's exterior colors for inspiration when painting the interior of your house. A cohesive home, with similar colors on the outside and inside, is truly impressive.

Bring the outside in, not only pulling from the colors on the exterior of your home but also the environment outside it. If you live in the woods or have a gorgeous garden outside, use lots of browns and greens. If you're near the beach use pale yellows and blues. If you're in the desert, red and warm colors will work stupendously.

Final Notes on Choosing Your Interior Colors

My best piece of advice would be to remember that choosing the colors for your home should be a fun experience! When it starts to feel stressful, just remember that you're bringing a bit more joy, relaxation, mystery, or elegance to your space.

If you found this guide helpful, please share it when you let your friends and family know which colors you chose and why.

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