Painting is one of those things that appear to be easy – it’s just slapping a color on a flat surface! – but is, in fact, a big freaking deal. It’s not just the act of painting that’s tough, but all the preliminary choices that need to be made to even get to that point, e.g. which walls to paint, period. None of those things happen without major internal (and, often, external) debate, due to the fact that the color of your walls will end up affecting not only the look of your place but how you’ll feel in it. No pressure. On top of sorting through endless paint chips and deciding between matte and high-gloss, there’s the technical stuff. How do you avoid permanent brushstrokes? What do you do with all the leftover paint crowding your meager closet space? So we’ve polled industry experts, tapped top brands, and delved deep into our own archives to get intel on every step of the painting process. Here’s everything you’ll ever need to know about painting your home:
How to choose a paint color:
1. Go with the popular vote
We asked Benjamin Moore, Farrow & Ball, Ralph Lauren Paint, Sherwin-Williams, and Valspar to share their bestsellers, which resulted in this list of 30 can’t-go-wrong paint colors.
Which shade is your favorite?
2. Stick with white – but not just any white
You could go warmer, you could go cooler, or you could just pick one from the top ten most popular white paints for sale right now from the country’s top brands.
3. Base your decision on the room you’re painting
These ten colors work great in bedrooms – some create a soothing retreat, others result in a space that’s going to wake you up fast. Redoing the bathroom is a whole ‘nother ball game. Try one of these colors instead.
4. Remember that the color will affect your mood
Yes, it’s true, according to the American Psychological Association.
5. If you’re totally lost, just trust Anthropologie
The brand recently curated a no-fail palette of Farrow & Ball paint colors, and many are shown in an Anthro-esque space so you see the color’s greatness in a real-life setting.
6. Regardless of your choice, tone it down a few notches
“The key to creating a home that looks sophisticated enough for an actual grown-up to live in is to select your color, then look for a SUPER DESATURATED version of it,” Orlando Soria, Instagram star and author of Get It Together ($40, Prestel), told us.
Photo: Gieves Anderson
7. Don’t forget the finish (yes, there are multiple)
You might be tempted to grab some eggshell paint and call it a day, but figuring out the right finish will impact a) the room’s vibe and b) how easy the walls are to clean.
How to actually paint the room:
8. Most importantly, don’t paint first!
Everyone who said you should get your whole place painted before you even move in was giving you bad advice. Painting should actually be the last thing on your to-do list.
9. For a basic paint job, follow our step-by-step guide
We broke down the painting process into 10 easy steps so you won’t drip onto your favorite sofa or leave ugly roller marks on the walls.
10. Stripes are easy if you have the right tools
Seriously, even if you can barely draw a straight line on a piece of paper, you can create crisp stripes on your walls. (A laser level will be your new best friend.)
Photo: Tessa Neustadt/Courtesy of Portola Paints & Glazes
11. Into ombré walls? Good news: They require just two paint colors
We have photographic evidence thanks to Portola Paints showing us the ropes. P.S. The process is easier than you’d think!
12. If you’re using textured paint, prep everything in advance
When Home Depot’s director of trend and design took us through the steps for applying textured paint, she made it clear it had to be a one-day-and-done project. “You want to make sure that you’re done with the [texture] before it dries and sets because that’s it,” she says. “It’s very hard to go back and blend.”
13. Chalk Paint looks best with a special finish at the end
The creator of Chalk Paint, Annie Sloan, gave us all the details on using her product, including the fact that applying wax is a game-changer: it’ll deepen and protect the color, and create a slight sheen.
14. It’s very possible to paint brick, as long as you deep clean it first
You’ll also need a specific kind of paint to get the job done right.
Paint tips and tricks for any and all situations:
15. Use paint to combat nonexistent architectural details
Paint a square of bold color to create a minimalist fireplace surround in minutes, or splash the bottom half of your walls with a deep hue to mimic paneling.
A sunny yellow fireplace surround (crafted using Levis paint) turns a literal hole in the wall into a relaxing destination.