November 2015 Final Issue
Home / Food & Home / Paint—The Importance of Color and Quality

Paint—The Importance of Color and Quality

How many times has your decision on paint been an afterthought, just a color you like, or selected based on the cost of a gallon of paint? As a designer, working in the trade for a long time, I ask you to reconsider your thought process next time you are making selections for your home or office. The impact on the final results can be phenomenal. It can be downright life-changing. Paint05Color is a powerful and important communications tool in design. Color can play the role of a background element or it can stand out as a bold accent. So when designing a space, I first have to decide what overall feeling is preferable, softer tones or contrasting bold tones. Color is used to create a mood, but in simple terms, to enhance your life, because it is about how you feel when you are in a space. Yes, one of my main objectives is how the space functions and how it will provide for your needs as you live in it. But coupling function and color can transform how one feels about a space, making it a very desirable habitat for living or working. Have you ever been in a room and gotten an uneasy feeling or maybe had an urge to vacate it, sensing something is just not right? Maybe the color of the walls is too bright. Maybe it is muddy or dull or too dark. Maybe it doesn’t make sense to you. Design and color is about making sense and working properly. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Color has been studied in-depth for years but to put it simply, it is as much about the feeling a particular shade evokes as it is anything else. Take as an example the colors in nature. As we look at the planet from any angle, it is apparent that the Creator understands color. The background, the part with the most visible surface, is neutral for the most part. The color of earth becomes the palette for all the beautiful colors in the spectrum, from the grasses and flowers to the animals and insects that inhabited it first. Even the sky and water become backgrounds for other brilliant, deeper color variations. The sky and water also operate in a highly reflective manner, changing as they are affected by surrounding areas. When you think about it, man’s skin is a shade or tint of neutral, while one of the tiniest areas within the body, the eye, can be a brilliant blue or green. So take your cues from the colors in nature where the many combinations are flawless. When designing, I think about how I want the space to feel based on my client’s input and how the space speaks to me. Then I go through a specific process each time I need to select a color. You will be more successful in  choosing  the desired color if you do the same. Some things to consider are the clarity of the color and the leaning of it toward the warm or cool part of the spectrum. I like very neutral colors, those that contain equal amounts of tint, unless I am trying to move the color scheme more in one direction or the other, for example warmer or cooler.  Paint01Most people will feel comfortable in  the more neutral colors and they make for a soothing background emphasizing other design elements in the space. I find that in some cases, it is advantageous to have the tone of the color on the gray side to make it warmer. This means a bit of gray has been added to the pure hue to make it duller or softer while maintaining the integrity of the color itself. When selecting a color, always pick three or four different color options. Look at the samples alongside the other elements in the space, the texture or pattern in the upholstery or window treatment fabrics, the flooring or rugs, and any finishes that are prominent, such as wood tones. You should instantly see how the color is fitting into the total scheme, leaning toward the warm or cool side. Now you can eliminate those colors, one color at a time, that do not result in the desired look. Beginning with several samples will allow you to immediately see which ones turn too yellow or green, too pink, or too blue. Too many people pick a color because they simply like it and they think it will look good on the wall.  There are too many other elements in a space that impact the color or vice versa. A color even changes a bit when it is placed on the wall. If you spend time looking at it horizontally, you will be surprised how different it will look vertically on the wall. The surface will reflect light differently from each direction. This is why I tell my clients, if need be, to purchase samples or quarts of paint and lay the color down on white poster board leaving a wide white border around it. The poster board can be hung on any color wall and the true color can be seen within the white. Without the white border, the new color will look different because it is affected by the old color surrounding it. The color should be examined in the morning hours, full daylight hours, and the evening hours to see how it changes throughout the day. This process proves to be quite effective in making final selections that are desirable, eliminating costly mistakes. Part of my job is to walk my clients through the process to make the right choice. Not everyone is knowledgeable about color or simply cannot see the individual colors that make up each color.  This process should give you some idea of the importance of the choice of paint color in your life. Paint06The quality of the paint is equally important. I have clients who once thought that a gallon of paint is just paint; it is color on a wall. They ask, “what is the big deal?” Because I work with color every day, I see a difference in the make up of color in one paint to the next. This is one of the reasons I specify Benjamin Moore paint. Their colors are clear and bright, not lack luster and muddy. The importance of research for their color formulas is evident visually as well as in the other properties that make this paint one of the best choices. Two of Benjamin Moore’s paints I use predominantly are Regal (standard) and Aura (premium.) Regal, mostly used in residential settings, has Advanced Particle Technology using 100% acrylic resins making it durable and highly washable. Other characteristics include easy touch-ups and mildew resistance. Its VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) count is less than 100. VOCs are toxins emitted from the paint into the environment.  Some people cannot tolerate the unseen toxins and have reactions. Benjamin Moore has effectively reduced these. In comparison, Benjamin Moore’s premium Aura selection is by far more advanced using a Color Lock Technology system to enhance even more the quality of Paint03results. This system uses waterborne resins and colorants that lock-in the color particles throughout the paint, not just on the surface like other paints on the market. It becomes more durable, dries faster, looks fresher longer, and is fully washable. Its coverage is excellent and the touch-ups are seamless. My painters testify how easy Benjamin Moore paint is to apply. All these characteristics are very important aspects for application and longevity, saving time and money in the long run. Finally, Aura’s VOC rating is less than 50. Because of its quick drying time and dramatically reduced smell factor, it is commonly used for office projects where you need to get the job done during a weekend and have the client return to the workplace without the sometimes irritating smell of paint. So Benjamin Moore is leading the way in helping to protect our environment and your family. Another consideration in paint selection is the finish. For walls I recommend the eggshell finish for most installations. It is a bit brighter than the flat, but not shiny.  It comes across as more elegant and sophisticated. Always use the semi-gloss finish for trim and doors for durability and ease of cleaning. The slight glossy look compliments the eggshell finish on the walls next to it. Selecting paint is no simple task as you can see but oh so important. My clients tell me about their many trips to the paint store before we start working together. When I guide them through the process, they come away with a better understanding of how to get to the desired color and the proper paint quality. Spend time with color, get to know it, look at it with every other element in the room and I know your paint selection experience will be perfect.
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About Grace Nelson

Grace Nelson
Grace has a BFA in Interior Design. She serves her clients by providing them with a unique, personal experience paying close attention to detail. Her goal is always to fulfill their needs, solve their problem areas and make it all work beautifully. She loves working with people to help them love their space. She is married to Jan and has raised three young men who are the delight of her life. You may contact Grace at her email or her linkedIn website.


  1. Betty Ringeisen
    Betty Ringeisen

    Glad you liked it Tracy. I wish I had this information a while ago. Perhaps, I wouldn’t have a bunch of unused paint in my storage room. 😉

  2. Wow! A lot of good and useful information in there. A lot of aspects of color I hadn’t thought of before. Thanks!

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