How to Choose Paint Colors, Part 2

Charlotte@Living Well on the Cheap  —  March 12, 2012 — 2 Comments

Last week I went through the process of taping 5,000 gray swatches to my wall and painstakingly narrowing them down. You can read all about it in How to Choose Paint Colors, Part 1. This weekend I took the giant, exciting leap of moving forward with Part 2. I took my two swatches (the finalists!) to Lowe’s and had them match each to a sample pot of Olympic paint. There are two things here that are very important:

  1. Bring the swatches to be sure they’re matched accurately. The big stores have all the colors in their system and can pull up the formulas without the swatch but sometimes it doesn’t come out right (hence the table of paint labeled “mistint” and sold at a discounted price–my favorite spot to peruse while they mix up my paint). I think this is what went wrong with my Gray Mirage.
  2. Use the same brand of paint as you plan to use on your project. They don’t let you choose finish or exterior/interior or any of that, but at least you can get one step closer to envisioning the final result by sticking with the same brand. I like Olympic. Dunno why. Probably the pretty packaging. I dig the green and white on their Premium cans.
So just step on up to the paint counter, hand the nice people your swatches (make it clear which ones you’ve chosen), and ask them to mix up a sample pot of each in your favorite brand. I think the lady at Lowe’s thought I was a little nuts because under the harsh fluorescent lights my two swatches looked exactly the same, but she humored me nonetheless. 
Step two of the plan is to get home and slap some of that paint up on your walls. Don’t bother painting straight out of the pot, it’ll take you forever with a brush that small. You want a big honkin’ swatch, so pour that paint out into some leftover plastic container you’ve got lying around and use the widest brush you’ve got to slather a big ‘ol swatch on there. I like to just keep going and going until it looks like I’m about halfway out of paint, then stop and save the rest for a second coat. In this case each pot was enough to paint two coats over a band about three feet wide across an entire wall.
I’m not gonna lie. They looked pretty dang similar on the wall, as well. The difference is much more pronounced on camera than in real life. On the left is Classic Gray, on the right White Drifts.

Painting such a large area really helps me get a sense of what it’ll be like in real life. This angle lets me see that both colors play nicely with the color in the adjoining living room (Overcast by Benjamin Moore).

And while the bathroom paint color is significantly warmer (Quail Egg by Valspar), it doesn’t clash either.


If I had to choose between two colors that were so similar I’d struggle. Luckily for me, I already had my heart set on Classic Gray going into it and the White Drifts was just there to contrast it against. I can see now that Classic Gray is not too light, not too dark, not too green, not too blue, but juuuuust right.

If you’re trying this at home, I advise you to not do what I did and paint each color on its own wall. One wall faces a window, the other does not, and so the different lighting on each makes it difficult to get an accurate comparison. If I had it to do all over again I’d probably paint each wall half and half. That way you could really see the two colors right next to each other under similar conditions.

I’m so excited to have chosen a paint color for the nursery! It feels so much more official now. I’m gonna have to sit on my hands to keep from rolling all the walls before my cutting-in assistant comes to visit me in a few weeks. Especially since I’ll be abandoning my typical lap-mark-immune flat paint in favor of something a little more wipeable for this project. Can’t have poop stains on my little boy’s walls!

Charlotte@Living Well on the Cheap


2 responses to How to Choose Paint Colors, Part 2

  1. Hooray! The choice has been made.

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