Planning to Paint? Here's All the Design Inspiration You Need

Check out our guide to painting your home with expert ideas for color, tools, and DIY tips.


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Get Inspired to Find Your Perfect Hue

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No color whisperer on call? Our panel of experts weighs in to help you find your perfect hue.


Online "I always recommend clients spend time searching on Pinterest, Houzz or even Google Images," says Jonathan Scott, cohost of HGTV's Property Brothers and co-author of Dream Home: The Property Brothers' Ultimate Guide to Finding & Fixing Your Perfect House. "You'll start seeing common colors or themes of what you personally like emerge."


On the Road "When I'm on vacation, I'm always scouting paint colors in hotels and restaurants," says Cecily Mendell, designer and owner of Cecy J Interiors. "Ask what they used and be sure to write it down."


Magazines "Keep a dream file of magazine images that capture your emotion," says Susanna Salk, design expert, stylist and author of It's the Little Things. "Interior shots are great, but fashion spreads, ads and movie posters work wonders too."


Nature "Lately I've been drawn to faded palettes—nudes, heathered lavenders, gray blues and sage greens with a hit of blackberry to accent the combination—the kind of hues you would find in a bouquet of cream-colored peonies, jackpot blue thistle and eucalyptus," says Kishani Perera, designer and author of Vintage Remix.


Textiles "The color combinations in ready-made patterned fabric can give you a good idea of what colors work together as a palette," says Monica Pedersen, designer and author of Make It Beautiful.


Carpet "You can definitely pull a color from a rug to paint your space," says designer Andrew Howard. "Don't get too matchy-matchy. Go a shade or two lighter, darker, duller or grayer to find something complementary."


Favorite Object or Collectible "I brought a pair of killer orange heels to the paint store and said, 'Let's make this a paint color,' " says Mendell. "I got a few raised eyebrows, but I think it'll be great on a chair or another accent piece for an upcoming project."


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No-Fail Favorite Paint Colors

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Because playing favorites isn't always bad: five shades the pros use time and time again.


  • Serene Scene "This green-blue (Farrow and Ball Green Blue (84)) is gender neutral and easy on the eyes, so it's my go-to for bedrooms," says Nicole Gibbons, interior designer and founder of sohautestyle.com.
  • 50 Shades of Gray "Gray's not going anywhere," says Scott McGillivray, real estate expert and host of DIY Network's Income Property. "Sherwin-Williams Reflection (SW-7661) is the perfect neutral for a living room, whether your furnishings are classic or contemporary."
  • Not So Mellow Yellow "You can't go wrong with a white kitchen with bright yellow accents (Benjamin Moore Hawthorne Yellow (HC-4))—the look is cheerful and energizing," says Young Huh, designer and trend forecaster for the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA).
  • Rethink Pink "Benjamin Moore Paisley Pink (1261) is sophisticated and not too sticky sweet," says Susan Hable, artist, textile designer and author of A Colorful Home. "I've used this shade at different times in my office and dining room and even in a sitting room. It always creates this nice glow."
  • Feeling Blue "A powder room is like a little jewel box, so why not go dark and dramatic?" says designer Mona Ross Berman, owner of Mona Ross Berman Interiors. "Navy walls are amazing with gray or lavender." We recommend Valspar Mystified (4011-8).

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3 Paint Color Trends to Try

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Stay ahead of the color curve with these unexpected ideas.


Looking Up "A bold painted ceiling is the new accent wall and packs far more personality," says Dee Schlotter, senior color marketing manager at Olympic Paints and Stains. Above about 9 feet, you can start experimenting with more dramatic colors. The higher the ceiling, the darker you can go.


Deep Impact "Dark gray-browns and blacks have started popping up on interior baseboards, molding and window frames," says Sarah Fishburne, director of trend and design for The Home Depot. "These colors really accentuate your trim and millwork against neutral walls."


Monochrome Moment "Painting your molding the same shade as your walls is super chic," says Genevieve Gorder, designer, TV host and color ambassador for Valspar paint. "The continuity of color allows your artwork, furniture and plants to really pop."


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Order of (Paint) Operations

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Before you open a can of color, follow the three P's of painting.


Purchase Running out of paint mid-project is a total bummer. Most manufacturers offer calculators on their websites, so you can figure out what you need based on square footage. When in doubt, round up so you have extra on hand for touch-ups.


Protect Remove all lamps, accessories and outlet and light-switch covers in the room. Move furniture to the center of the space and cover with a plastic drop cloth. Line the perimeter with canvas drop cloths.


Prepare Patch nail holes and minor wall cracks with a small dab of Spackle and sand smooth. Vacuum the room, then sponge- bath walls and trim with water and dish soap to remove dust, dirt and grease. Rinse with clean water. How much taping you do depends on your comfort level. Some pros tape around ceiling, windows, floors and trim to ensure crisp edges. Others, like Bill Nunn, president of William Nunn Painting in Minneapolis, save time by taping only baseboards and chair rails, which tend to "catch the most spatter." He then paints carefully around the other areas.


Follow these steps to get the perfect coat of paint, every time.


1. Start with the ceiling Working from one side of a room to the other, paint along edge of ceiling with a 2- or 21/2-inch brush (about 3 to 4 inches wide) for about 10 feet—a technique known as "cutting in." Pour paint into the well in your roller tray. Dip your roller in, then move it back and forth across the tray bed until it's evenly coated but not dripping. Working in 5- to 6-foot square sections, roll next to where you painted, overlapping your strokes. Continue cutting in and rolling until ceiling is finished.


2. Cut in a wall When the ceiling is dry, choose a wall and cut in the top line along the ceiling. Then cut in any windows, doors or moldings on that wall.


3. Roll the wall Paint a large W next to where you cut in and, without lifting the roller, fill it in with vertical strokes—this helps distribute the paint evenly. "Rolling right away, while the cut-in paint is still wet, makes it easier to blend in your strokes," says Nunn. Continue, working top to bottom, until you've completed the wall, then cut in and roll the next one.


4. Tackle the trim When the walls are dry, tape off the trim and brush on paint. "Rolling will inevitably spatter some paint on the trim," says Costolloe. "If you save the woodwork for last, you can cover those mistakes." Your baseboards should be the final thing you do.


Note: Most formulas require at least two coats. Homes built before 1978 should be tested for lead paint before you undertake any project.


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Tools of the Trade

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With the right supplies and a stepladder, you're ready to roll.


Drop Cloth To protect floors, invest in a heavy-duty canvas model, which absorbs spatters and can be used repeatedly. Four-by-12-foot runners are handy for placing alongside walls. Cover furniture and counters with inexpensive plastic sheeting.


Metal Roller Tray Placing a disposable plastic liner inside the pan makes cleanup a snap.


Roller A 9-inch size works for most jobs. For smooth Sheetrock and plaster walls, choose a sleeve with a 3/8-inch nap. Select a 1/2-inch nap on more textured plaster and a 3/4–inch nap on stucco or brick. Purdy White Dove 9" roller sleeve, purdy.com for stores, $6 to $17


Telescoping Extension Pole The best way to create long, smooth strokes on a large ceiling or high walls—no climbing up and down tall ladders required. The Wooster Brush Company Sherlock 4' to 8' Extension Pole, homedepot.com, $25


Painter's Tape The key to clean lines between the wall and the ceiling or trim. FrogTape Multi-Surface Painter's Tape, shurtech store.com, $6 to $10 per roll, and ScotchBlue Platinum Painter's Tape, scotchblue .com, $12 per roll


5-in-1 Tool Pro painters swear by this for unscrewing switch plate covers, opening paint cans, removing chipped paint, tearing tape and cleaning roller sleeves.


Brushes For all-around use, invest in a good-quality 21/2-inch synthetic- bristle angled brush that lets you easily "cut in" straight lines against trim and moldings. For fine details, such as the dividers on French doors, add a 1-inch synthetic-bristle angled brush to your arsenal. Purdy XL Series Brushes, purdy.com for stores, $12 to $15


Spackling Paste, Putty Knife and Medium Sandpaper (120 to 150 grit). The essential trifecta for filling minor holes and small cracks in walls.