Choosing paint colors
Just as with exterior painting, picking the right color scheme for interior spaces requires a certain amount of imagination and creativity. Simply thinking about what color would look best on a wall isn’t enough to ensure a positive paint job. Virtually any color will look good on a surface as long as it is applied correctly, but choosing the right color involves looking at an interior space with a very critical eye.
The floor and ceiling surfaces cannot be ignored, as they are crucial elements of color combination. Most ceilings are traditionally painted white for a number of reasons — particularly for their ability to keep rooms looking bright and to avoid taking attention away from the walls. Lighter ceiling colors can also help to make a room appear larger and more open.
Deviating from white ceilings is a great way to change the overall appearance of a house, but since darkening a ceiling can steal some of the light and visually shorten the height of the room. Ceiling colors should offset and complement the walls and the floor instead of calling attention above.
The easiest way to choose a color scheme is to look through color catalogues or at paint samples. Most hardware stores and paint depots keep catalogs handy for customers to take home. Painters should take their time looking at the spaces in these catalogs and comparing colors to their existing floors, carpets, curtains, blinds, furniture and decorations. It’s important to look at fabric and upholstery first and then look at the other aspects to see if they coordinate with your color choices. Consider the prominent color in this coordination for the walls.
Of course, if you're getting ready to sell your house, realtors advise against bold colors. But if you plan to stay and just want to make your home cozier, do what pleases you.
Each color has certain properties and psychological effects that can influence the mood of the interior occupants. Some of the most popular colors used for interior painting include:
Black and gray
While black is usually associated with somberness and malignity, it can also represent sophistication, reverence and physical attraction. Interior designers have traditionally shunned black paint, but homeowners increasingly choose it for trim and accents that are meant to be dramatic and striking. Black is the perfect match and contrast for white, and the amount used can range from trim areas to an accent wall. With the right furniture and décor, black is ideal for living rooms, bedrooms and ultra-modern kitchens.
Gray is a timeless color, but it could also be considered drab if not accessorized with bold colors. Anyone who has grown tired of looking at white paint on walls for years should consider gray tones. Gray paint is cooler than its white counterpart and more versatile, as it manages to blend well with most decorations. It is an ideal color for all interior spaces and provides the perfect backdrop for color bursts.
Brown denotes a personality that is earthy, realistic and trustworthy. This classic earth tone can be applied to living and work areas alike, as it evokes a feeling of being well-rounded and connected with nature. Terracotta and dark mustard brown combinations are perfect for Latin American and Santa Fe-style décor. Brown hues are great for interior spaces that get a lot of sunlight. Lighter shades of brown, such as beige and taupe, are neutral colors that particularly work well in homes that are being shown to potential buyers.
The psychological effect of green is largely dependent on the tone or hue. Some green hues create a positive, natural atmosphere. However, darker hues or pale olive green can seem militaristic or ill. Multiple shades of green can serve different purposes and set different moods. Maritime greens are ideal for studios and offices as they inspire concentration, while cool forest greens can be used in bedrooms and bathrooms.
Red and pink
Unlike pink, red is the color of passion and can create drama in any space. In the past, interior designers mostly chose red as an accent color, but it is now increasingly used in stylish living rooms and bedrooms. Flat red is modern and inviting, cherry red is youthful and darker red conjures up feelings of warmth and loyalty.
Pink is also a soft romantic color, but it can also denote innocence. This is the traditional color for baby girls, but it's also used in women’s spaces, such as in makeup rooms, bathrooms and bedrooms. Hot pink must be used with care in spaces that get a lot of sunlight, as it can make the room feel dark.
Yellow is generally a happy color that increases confidence. Similar to gray, yellow can be very versatile. Pale yellows used in sunlit rooms with flowery decorations are very inviting, especially in the morning time. Darker yellows can add warmth to a room even in the winter time. Bright yellows help reduce the amount of illumination needed in a space and are ideal for any room in the house.
Emotionally speaking, orange is a very stimulating and happy color. Pastel oranges are irresistible and great for interior spaces where skin is more likely to be exposed, such as bedrooms and bathrooms. Bright orange is the antithesis of gray and can be lively, while darker and burnt orange tones have a similar effect as the brown hues and go along great with southwestern décor.
Blue is the color of calmness, productivity and masculine sophistication. Baby blue will always be a popular color choice for young boys, while different hues of cyan can be used to great effects in children's bathrooms to create an underwater mood with the right decoration. When applied to a ceiling, a light blue can conjure images of a cloudless sky and increase the sense of space. Pale and medium blues can be painted around the house to achieve a cooling effect.
Shopping for the right paint should go beyond collecting paint swatches or choosing a shade from the catalogue. Purchasing inexpensive paint samples and small brushes to bring home for testing is the best, because it's the only way to really ascertain whether a color suits the décor. The goal is to paint a small section of the wall — a square with an area of just a few inches is sufficient. Allowing the small painted patch to dry and observing how it looks under the lighting conditions at different times of the day should clear up any painter’s color dilemma.
Wall painting ideas include painting one wall to create a focal point in a room. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Sadie S. of Henderson, Nev.)
Types of interior paint
Once you’ve picked the perfect color, you still have to decide on what type of paint you want for the space. Whether you’re looking for an elegant, refined finish or a material that will wipe clean after an impromptu mural from your little one, there are paint types to suite every situation. When it comes to selecting interior paints, several popular options include:
Primer: While technically not paint or a finish, the use of primer is crucial in interior painting. Failing to use primer on a porous surface, such as wood or concrete, can lead to imperfect paint coatings that could end up peeling away from the walls. Primer is also a must if covering up a darker color, as it will take fewer layers to cover the old paint.
Matte: This is a flat paint that has a calming, non-reflective effect on color. It is generally not washable or recommended for bedrooms. Flat enamel is more durable and it can be used in highly trafficked areas such as hallways.
Eggshell: This is a more attractive version of matte. It can be cleaned and has just a tiny bit of shine.
Satin: This is a favorite of doors, playrooms, trim decorations, kitchens, bathrooms and other spaces that get a lot of traffic and usage. If applied correctly, satin finish paint can withstand washing.
Glossy: This finish is highly reflective and dramatic. It is preferred for modern-looking décor, and it requires careful preparations, as it does little to hide imperfections.
Painting tools and supplies
For every interior painting job, you will need a variety of tools. You will undoubtedly need paintbrushes, rollers, paint trays and stirring sticks. It’s also a good idea to have a good amount of drop cloths, painter’s tape, can opener, putty knife, sand paper, goggles and gloves.
Professional painters often disagree on the topic of using foam brushes versus their traditional bristle cousins. Foam brushes are inexpensive and can be used multiple times as long as they are properly cared for and cleaned. Foam brushes and foam rollers are easy to use and are great at holding paint and preventing drips.
Since foam brushes are angularly shaped, they are useful when it comes to working on corners and edges. For more delicate paint work, however, edging pads and edging rollers work even better and are highly recommended for painters who are less experienced.
Painting supplies can be purchased individually, but many home improvement stores offer pre-packaged kits for basic painting jobs.
Bring rooms to life with interior paint colors. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Sadie S. of Henderson, Nev.)
Paint preparation & application
The ideal preparation involves moving all furniture out of the space to be painted. If this is not possible, the painter should drape the remaining furniture and carefully work on one wall at a time. Fixtures and hardware such as door knobs, electrical outlets and light switches should also be removed.
The walls must be properly cleaned prior to applying primer or paint. This involves using a mixture of soap and water. Nail holes, chips, cracks or other small imperfections should be filled in and evened with plaster and allowed to dry before the entire surface is lightly sanded down and wiped again. Once the wall is clean and dry, you should apply painter’s tape over surfaces you do not want painted. Be sure not to overlook ceiling corners and edges, baseboards and trims and moldings.
Paint follows the laws of gravity, so painters should start near the ceiling and move down. Applying paint is a process of learning and observation, a skill that is quickly acquired by careful execution. The most important aspect of painting is to not use too much paint.
The right paint stroke to use in interior painting is highly debatable. It's not a talent as much as a skill that is learned through practice. Many experts paint in a “W” pattern when using foam rollers, but others simply roll up and down then sideways with either brushes or rollers. The motion isn’t as important as making sure that the application is even and drip-free across the entire area. However, technique is important when you're covering over wall repairs.
Painting interior walls is a task better accomplished with foam rollers, because they are easy to use and can evenly cover large surface areas quickly. Foam rollers and brushes should never be overloaded with paint, as it can create drips, uneven coverage and can take longer to dry. It’s easy to get frustrated when the paint is fresh and does not look like a photo from the paint catalog, but remember: that’s something that usually happens after the second coat dries.
Most interior painting projects will present corners and edges. Corners, trims, splashes and accents will require cutting in — which generally requires the most patience, preparation and skill. There is a lot of debate among painters whether it is better to cut in before or after applying the roller. Solo painters may want to prepare the surfaces first, apply painter’s tape where required and cut in before applying paint to the rollers. Painters working in teams can split cutting in duties in sections while other team members are applying paint with rollers.
In the case of trims, splashes and accents, it is recommended that the lighter color be applied first in case there is some bleeding through the taped areas. The corners of matching walls should be no match for painters using foam brushes, as their tips already form corner edges. Other useful tools to use are corner rollers and edging pads.
Just like with roller paint application, painters are not limited to using just one stroke when cutting in. It is important, however, to work towards the edge of the corners applying even pressure. If time permits, painters should allow their cut in work to dry completely before applying paint with rollers, keeping in mind that light touchups on corners and edges will always be required at the end.
Hiring a painter
Painting is one home improvement task many homeowners can do and do well. However, there are several reasons that it might be a good idea to hire professional interior painters — experience, tools and responsibility.
Professional painters have done this before. It’s how they make their living. Through experience, they have learned tricks of the trade and the techniques used to get quality results. They are familiar with the type of paint to use in each situation, know what quality paint is right for each task and know how to achieve a perfectly straight edge – with or without the use of painter’s tape.
A professional paint crew will have the right tools for the job. Quality tools can make a difference in paint application and bear noticeable results. If you are only painting one room or do not plan to paint any additional areas of your home, it might not be wise to invest in tools that will only be used once. Professional painters will also have enough drop cloths and other protective equipment to ensure the area is kept clean.
A true professional understands that it is his or her responsibility to provide a quality job for the homeowner. Professionals also know that attention to detail is a part of the job. While a homeowner might leave a bit of paint on the window pane, a dedicated interior painter for hire will make sure that these small details are handled properly, because a perfect job is the best calling card.
The interior painting profession is not as tightly regulated as other trades, such as plumbing and electrical jobs. A license or certification is rarely required. Members can search for highly rated painters on Angie’s List and read member reviews of recent services, in addition to other research before hiring.
Don’t be afraid to ask the painter for references or for testimonials from previous clients. These references should give the prospective client a picture of how the work was done, the quality of the painting provided and timeliness for completing the contracted task.
Even so, it might be wise not to take a written letter at face value alone. Contact information should be provided so that you can interview the previous client on the phone or in person. It might be possible to go to the actual site and see the results for yourself.
It’s a good idea to ask about service after completion. For instance, if the homeowner discovers an area that wasn’t painted properly or was missed, they need to know how long after completion they are able to report this and have it corrected at no charge. If damage is discovered, what recourse for remediation is available?
While a license may not be required, the homeowner should only consider a painting company that is insured and bonded. The insurance should cover any injuries suffered by employees on the job, as well as injuries that might be suffered by the homeowners and their family members as a result of sloppy workmanship.
Bond insurance protects the homeowner from intentional destruction or theft of property by the painting company’s employees and owners. Fiscal responsibility may also include information on the company’s warranty policy on their work.