How to Paint a Room - Christmas Tree Market Blog

Home Décor 101: Painting for Beginners

July 29th, 2013

In our first Home Décor 101 post, we talked about how you can be your own interior decorator given the right knowledge and tools. Now that you know how to find your style, plan your home décor projects, and design for real life, let’s talk about one of the most popular and effective ways to make over a room: painting your walls.

Photo by Nomadic Lass via flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0


To get the amazing look you’ve always wanted, you need to make your walls work with the rest of your décor and in the most affordable way possible. Painting your walls not only helps bring the room together, it also helps make designing the rest of the room easier. In this post from the Home Décor 101 series, I’m going to show you:

  1. How to choose your paint color
  2. How to decide which paint sheen to use for your chosen project
  3. What are the tools ideal for the job at hand

I’ll be discussing the basics of painting and showing some examples from my bathroom redecorating project. Once you’re done reading this post, you’ll know your way around the different types of paint and how to make them work in your home, putting you one step closer to achieving the professional-looking interiors you want.

How to Choose Your Paint Color

There are many factors to consider when choosing your paint colors, such as the colors you like, the current colors that are being used in the room, and your budget. Before you can get any painting done, though, you have to decide on the shades of paint you like, and see if they work with the colors you won’t be able to change.

The Colors You Like vs the Colors You Have

It’s easy to figure out what colors you like, but when working on a project, what you want does not always coincide with what you have to work with. When deciding which color to paint on the walls, first take a good look at your room and see if there are any existing colors you need to work around. The green carpet you can’t afford to switch out probably won’t work well with the blue walls you’ve always wanted. Figure out what aspects in the room you don’t have the budget to change, and then take some time to test which colors you like will give the space the overall effect you want.


2012-07-16 20.03.07
Photo by Jennifer Lutz


A perfect example of this dilemma is my pink-tiled bathroom (not my first choice for tile color) with its floral wallpaper. Replacing the tiles required a bit more money than I had the budget for, so I was stuck with that pink in my color scheme. But, what I could do was peel off the wallpaper and replace it with a paint color that would tone down the pink tiles to make them better suit my personal style. All I had to do next was find that paint color.

How do you determine which color to use? Do some research! Look for inspiration online and be open to several options.

Important Tip: Talk to the people from the hardware store and ask for their advice. They’re filled with knowledge and can be an invaluable resource when it comes to choosing paint colors.

Use Your Storyboard to Research Suitable Colors

Your storyboard is a helpful tool when it comes to finding the right colors, since it combines all of the research you’ve done with the ideas you like. In my case, I found blogs dedicated to playing up the “retro pink bathroom.” But I wasn’t interested in doing that, so I kept an eye out for color combinations that work and don’t work online and in magazines.

I knew I liked the color gray but I wanted something a bit warmer to go with the pink, and I thought a blend between beige and gray (greige) might fit the bill well. My instincts were confirmed when in the course of putting together my storyboard, I found a greige and pink color scheme on Better Homes & Gardens — I now had a starting point in my hunt for the perfect color. That page of Better Homes & Gardens is still somewhere in my storyboard folder.


Photo by Jennifer Lutz


Experiment with Your Chosen Colors!

Once you’ve chosen your preferred paint color and your storyboard is all set, visit the paint store and get swatches or paint chips of the shade you want so you can check how well your color combination blends together. If you can get small samples of paint from the store, all the better because you can take them home and check how the light hits your chosen color. It is important to note that paint color changes under different lighting conditions. It could be darker, lighter, shinier, or flat, so it’s best to check the actual paint on your walls in natural light.

Why do this?

The first shade of gray I chose for the bathroom was Wood Smoke. However, when I set it against the pink tile, it was too dark and didn’t complement the tile. So I went with the lighter shade of Smoky Taupe. Experimenting with and sampling your paint colors allow you to get painting right the first time, thus keeping you within your budget.

pink and greige storyboard

Quick Hint: You don’t need to be limited to just experimenting with paint colors. You can also experiment with color by using objects you know will be going into the room. When I put together this little basket of hand towels in experimental color scheme of greige and pink and liked how it looked, I knew I had the colors that would work the best for my pink tile dilemma.

Which Type of Paint Sheen to Use


Types of Paint Sheen

Paint sheen refers to the way the light reflects on the surface of your paint, affecting the way the color looks against your walls and your overall décor. There are five types of paint sheens, classified according to their ability to absorb light.


Types of Paint Sheens Finish and Ability to Absorb Light Suggested Rooms
Matte Smooth and flat finish since it absorbs light the most; holds dirt, making it difficult to clean Hallways; can also be used to paint flat and popcorn ceilings or homes without kids
Satin Soft sheen and elegant finish; can be scrubbed clean Kids’ rooms
Eggshell Low-sheen, meaning it reflects little light; has a washable finish Living room and bedroom
Semi-gloss Smooth, mid-luster sheen; easy to wash and clean Kitchen, bathroom, and kids’ rooms
Gloss High-sheen finish and reflects the most light; shows imperfections the most Smooth surface areas, trim work, doors, and windows


Choosing the Paint Sheen that Works for You

With four kids running around the house, I need an easy-to-clean bathroom, something that can quickly be wiped free of smears and hand prints but not too shiny. I chose semi-gloss paint since it’s convenient for scrubbing and cleaning, but this type of paint shows imperfections that come from peeling off wallpaper. An oil-based primer helped me hide the nicks and scratches from removing wallpaper so that I’d have a smoother finish for the walls.

What Tools Are Needed


For the Preparation

  • Drop cloth – protects your furniture and floor from paint drops
  • Tape – masks off areas which should not be painted
  • Sponge – used to clean walls and ceilings


Photo by Keith Williamson via flickr, CC BY 2.0


For the Walls

  • Brushes (roller, angled brushes, small brushes) – come in different types as they serve different purposes
  • Primer (base paint) – keeps the paint color level
  • Paint
  • Ceiling paint – hides stains and imperfections; different from wall paint
  • Extension stick – is attached to rollers in order to reach high ceilings and far corners
  • Paint tray – carries several paint cans
  • Ladder

In choosing your tools, make a list of what they are for. A good angled brush is perfect for corners, a short nap roller brush is ideal for your walls, and you’ll need a heavy nap roller brush if you have popcorn ceilings. Extension sticks and ladders are great for reaching high corners.

Painting the Room

Before the painting process, make sure that you prep the room. Peel excess wallpaper and wipe down the walls with a sponge to get rid of dirt. Then paint-proof the floor, windows, trim, and furniture the room might have. Tape off your trim and windows, and make sure you cover your floors and furniture with drop cloths.

What Next?

Don’t forget to put a coat of primer on your walls to maintain the color and sheen of your final paint. Eggshell and semi-gloss paint show imperfections, which primers can hide, giving the final coat a balanced appearance. Only after the walls have been coated with primer can the actual painting project begin.

Paint the ceiling first then let it dry overnight before painting the walls. For your walls, use two coats of paint to maintain a uniform appearance and to make sure that you don’t miss a spot.

How My Bathroom Project Turned Out

When we worked on our bathroom, we were lucky that my in-laws took our kids for the week. The entire project took two days to finish, which includes taking down the wallpaper, priming, trim work, and painting. Without the kids in the house, we didn’t have to worry about them getting paint on their clothes and hair, and we finished the project as scheduled. Seriously, can you imagine 3-year-old twins, and a 5- and a 6-year-old running around while we tried to paint?

This is what the bathroom looked like after we painted it.


Photo by Jennifer Lutz


Painting Basics in Review:

  • Define the paint color you want while factoring in the colors you need to work with.
  • Choose the paint sheen according to your needs and convenience.
  • Prepare the tools and supplies you need for the project and start painting the room.

I rounded up the design with white window sills and cupboards. I also added simple curtains to the windows as accents. With better window frames, the floral wallpaper gone, and a toned-down pink, our bathroom painting project is a success.

What about you? Can you share your painting experience with us?

We have more Home Décor 101 posts to come, so keep reading the blog!

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