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4 Tips to Paint like a Design Pro

Photo Credit by Living Space Designs

Do you feel…

Frustrated because you want to paint the interior of your house but feel overwhelmed about what paint colors to choose?

Uncertain about where to put up paint samples?

Confused about what paint sheen to use?

Clueless if you should prime your walls especially if you are using a similar color palette?

If you want to learn how to paint like a pro, it is important to understand painting your home is a process that is comprised of several steps.

Please continue reading to learn our four fabulous tips so you can approach any painting project like a design professional!

Tip #1: Choose the Right Color Palette

When tackling a DIY painting project whether it is the whole interior or just one room, the key is creating a cohesive look throughout your house. You want your space to feel inviting and have a visual flow.

Photo Credit by Sherwin Williams

If you are painting the whole interior and you want to incorporate color into different rooms, a good rule of thumb is to use no more than three colors for a 2,000 sq/ft. space. It is best to have one neutral color running through the main living areas, foyer, and hallways, and choose complimentary colors for adjacent areas like powder rooms, dens, and bedrooms.

Please be aware when using one neutral color for your main living areas and hallways, the color can look quite different in each area due to how much natural lighting is in each space as well as the general configuration of the area. It is common for the paint to appear as if it is a completely different color.

When choosing multiple paint colors, be sure to use the same temperature--all warm tones or all cool tones to create a cohesive look.

Use a color chart or paint chip sample that feature several colors in the same palette starting from lightest to darkest. This ensures all colors will flow together.

Painting an accent wall is an effective way to introduce color into a room without it overwhelming the space.

Bring in colored accessories and decor in the main living areas to match the paint color in adjacent rooms to tie the whole look together

If you are redoing your flooring or carpeting, make sure to pick it first before you are choosing your paint colors.

Photo Credit by Benjamin Moore

Tip #2: Be Strategic Where to Put up Paint Samples

Test at least two or more samples per color you are considering. Make your samples 12”x12” if possible.

Photo Credit by The Spruce

Make sure to put up the samples directly on the walls and not on poster board. Although it is not visually appealing to see several samples on the wall, you get the most realistic idea of how the paint will look since it adheres differently to the wall then it does to the poster board.

The existing paint color on the walls will affect what your sample looks like. Be aware colors will appear darker against a light wall and lighter against dark walls.

Put samples up on multiple walls within one room focusing on the where the light hits different areas. Look at the samples in the morning, midday, and evening.

Use two coats of paint when putting up your samples, and if you are testing a saturated or bright color like red, purple or orange use a primer first.

Tip #3: Use the Correct Sheen

Sheen refers to how shiny your paint appears when it is on the painted surface, and you want to use different sheens based on what you are painting.

Choosing the right sheen can be confusing since each paint manufacturer has different names for their sheens. In a nutshell, the lower sheens are the least stain resistant, hides the most imperfections, and used most in painting interior walls. The higher sheens have the most stain resistance, show the most imperfections, and are used for accents like trim, baseboards, and doors.

See below our recommendations for sheens for interior painting:

Ceilings: Flat (the lowest sheen).

Interior walls: One up from flat (referred to as eggshell, velvet, or matte depending on manufacturer).

Baseboards, trim, interior doors: Two up from flat (usually called satin with most manufacturers).

If you have young children or other extremely high traffic areas, you may want to use a sheen two up from flat since the walls are easy to wipe down and clean. Be aware with this sheen it will produce quite a bit of shine.

Tip #4: Know When to Use Primer

Primer essentially acts as a foundation layer for your paint giving your completed painting project an even appearance, but it is not always necessary. If primer is needed, general rule is using one coat of primer if using a high-quality product and two coats of paint.

If you have fresh drywall, use primer because the drywall mud absorbs paint more than previously painted surfaces.

If you have any patches over 2” in diameter or multiple patches, the primer will give you a smooth look before you apply the paint. Think of a person who has facial blemishes. If she applies foundation to her skin, it will hide much of the imperfections. Primer achieves a similar result.

Bright, saturated, and primary colors require priming because the paint has higher concentrations of pigment which does not provide good coverage. In other words, the more pigment, the less coverage the paint will give you. The same goes for if you are painting over bright, saturated, or primary colors. You do not have to get your primer tinted if you are painting a neutral color.

Use primer when painting over walls that are shiny since the higher sheens do not absorb paint as well.

If you are painting over oil-based paint, you must use a primer. If you are not sure it is oil paint, take a rag with nail polish remover containing acetone and rub a small circle for about 10 seconds. If paint stays intact but is mildly sticky, it is oil paint. If it gets gooey and comes off, it is latex.

Photo Credit by Becca Interiors


Hopefully, you now have the confidence and knowledge to tackle your interior painting projects like a design professional after learning our four tips.

1. Choose the Right Color Palette.

2. Be Strategic Where to Put up Paint Samples.

3. Use the Correct Sheen.

4. Know When to Use Primer.

Remember to keep us in mind if you are ready to remodel any of your interior spaces in 2022!


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