How to choose the best paint colors for furniture

How do you choose the best paint colors for furniture? This is a guide on what you need to think about and the tools to help you.

Whether you’re painting furniture for yourself or selling it, what colour you choose is one of the biggest questions. 

Yannis Papanastasopoulos paintbrushes

What to think about when choosing paint for wood furniture

Colour changes the entire feel of a piece. Do you want the fresh look to feel moody and dramatic? Or light and airy? 

Should it be a colour that you love or one that will easily sell? There’s a lot to consider. 

Of course, you can paint whatever colour you like. But if you’re guided by a few rules, it might make the decision easier.

So for today’s post, here are 12 things to think about sheen choosing your paint colour for furniture.

About you

What colours do you like?

If you’re painting for yourself, it seems obvious that you need to like the colour. 

But not just because you have to live with it. If you don’t like the colour, you won’t be inspired to paint it. It’s more likely to go down the to-do list and sit there while you do a more interesting DIY project.

But do you know what colours you like? Sometimes we’re so inundated with what celebrities, Pinterest and the experts like, we forget ourselves.

So, how do you know what colours you like? Here’s a great tip! 

Look in your wardrobe

Did you know that the first place to start is in your closet? 

Go to your wardrobe and see what the general theme is. Which different colors are repeated?

Lots of neutrals, greens, pinks? Those are the colours you like. 

Micheile.com closet colour scheme

No red in your wardrobe? Don’t paint the furniture red. You probably don’t connect to the colour.

If you like it enough to wear it, you might like it enough for your furniture.

Is the furniture for you?

If you’re selling your piece then this isn’t about what you like but what your client likes. It isn’t what’s a good choice for your home but for theirs. Apply these points to your customer and see what great colors are for them.

When it’s not a commission and you don’t know who your customer is, you have two choices:

  1. Choose furniture paint colors you love and hope someone likes it because they like what you do.
  2. Go neutral and appeal to the masses for the easiest chance of selling.
neutral grey chest of drawers

But, if your painted furniture isn’t selling, here’s how to solve the problem!

So, let’s assume that the furniture piece is for you and your home…

About the piece

1. the period it’s from

Firstly, let’s look at the period the piece is from. 

A colour choice that matches the era will make it a more natural fit. If you have Mid Century Modern furniture, some of the most popular colors are mustard yellow, orange and brown. 

You don’t always know why you like or dislike something. But a pink Mid-Century Modern piece might look jarring because it just doesn’t feel right. 

If you don’t know what a great option would be for the period, research it. Sherwin Williams, for example, has a colour palette specific to Mid Century Modern. 

close up of green nature-inspired bookshelf

2. the shape of the piece

Does it have straight lines or ornate curves and engravings? These elements could make a piece feel either traditionally masculine or feminine. 

The best color choice might combine a stereotypical colour and the silhouette of the furniture.

3. how big it is

It’s safer to use a bright color on small pieces. 

Such as this “luminous pink” stool!

A bold color could be overwhelming when on a large surface area. But on a smaller piece or when used as an accent, a pop of color could have a great impact. 

Alexandra Gorn image - best paint colors for furniture

About the location

Is there anything about the location that makes a difference in what paint colour is a great choice? 

What is the color palette of the room? Neutral, calm colours, so a bold paint would make a dramatic statement? Or will it be in a bright and ornate room, so light colors could be the best paint colors?

Spacejoy

Whether you want to make a statement or just give a fresh coat of paint and a new life to some furniture. Furniture painting projects aren’t just pieces in isolation. The best results are when the color combinations work for the setting that they’re in too.

What else do you want to do to it?

Is there a decorative element beyond painting that you need to consider? As you going to decoupage or use a furniture transfer? 

Here’s some furniture transfer inspiration…

Or will the furniture sit under a family heirloom piece of art? If that’s the element that will draw the focus, align the colour choice to that.

If there are other things that you will pair with the furniture then it’s an important factor in the color selection. Pick out the colours in those elements and think about whether you want to contrast with or complement them.

pink and gold bookshelf - how to choose the best paint colors for furniture

A complementary colour is the opposite side of it on the colour wheel. Red and green. Blue and orange. Purple and yellow. Those colours make for intense combinations.

A more calming feeling is created with analogous colours. Colours near each other on the color wheel. Red and orange. Blue and purple. Green and yellow.

If you have a purple flower in a transfer, do you want them to stand out or blend in nicely?

What is a popular color to paint furniture?

If you search for the popular furniture colour 2022, the top result is green. And that’s what I would have guessed. 

Green is always a best seller for me, but that’s because I love green. And if you do what you love, people can tell. 

Some paint brands and interior designers decide on a colour of the year. 

Pantone is one such company who do this. They state that “The Pantone Color of the Year is one moment in time that provides strategic direction for the world of trend and design”.

in 2022, Pantone chose the colour, Very Peri. Described as dynamic periwinkle blue hue with a vivifying violet red undertone blends the faithfulness and constancy of blue with the energy and excitement of red. 

pantone-color-of-the-year-2022

Should you paint the colour to be trendy? Or is it just marketing? 

If it’s trendy because lots of people have decided to love a colour, that’s one thing. If brands have created the trend, then maybe not. 

Unless you love the colour, then it doesn’t matter.

Tools to find the best paint colors for furniture

Swatch pops of color online 

I regularly show the swatches of coats of paint in my videos. It’s a great way to double-check a variety of options because I can’t easily visualise how something will look. 

But what do you do when you don’t have the paint yet? Do it virtually!

There are lots of tools that help give color ideas. For example, PPG paints let your upload a photo of your furniture and choose your own or suggested colours. It applies these colours to the furniture to help you visualise what works.

PPG to edit furniture colour

Similarly, an app for your phone, Pixlr, is more flexible. It allows you to change the hue and saturation of an image to get a different feel. It’s a versatile color selector and opens up lots of possibilities to find the right furniture paint.

pixlr to edit hue and saturation to test the best paint colors for furniture

It’s a great place to start for an inexpensive way to do a trial run of your favourite paint colors.

This wouldn’t be an ultimate guide to color inspiration without mentioning the P word.

Pinterest for best paint colors for furniture

Pinterest is a collection of things that you’re attracted to. 

You might not know or be able to express what you like, but Pinterest can help you discover that. 

So, how should you use Pinterest to find your paint colors for furniture? There are three steps.

1. Start by saving pictures of anything and everything you like. Furniture, decor, travel pics… Anything goes.

2. Next, create a secondary board. Narrow down those original photos to relevant images. They could be rooms or pieces of furniture. More specific to give you a focus on what you’re looking for but still broad enough that there doesn’t need to be a theme.

3. Then within that second board, look for the repetition. What keeps showing up? A colour, a style, a shape? Narrow it down to those repeating themes and create a hyper-focused board with only those elements. 

pinterest search green table - best paint colors for furniture

In that final Pinterest board is your colour choice.

That’s how you use Pinterest. Firstly, see what generally appeals to you. Secondly, make it relevant. Finally, find the common theme.

It doesn’t need to take a long time. Don’t overthink it. Even the smaller projects will reveal favorite paint colors. 

You’ve chosen a color. What next?

So, you’ve chosen the colour you want to use. The final step is to Google it. 

Let’s say you’ve selected the chalk paint, Country Grey, by Annie Sloan. 

If you Google that colour, you’ll find photos of how everyone else has used it. Then you’ll see all the different ways it can look. How it shows in bright light, poor lighting, dark wax, with a gloss finish etc.

Annie Sloan Country grey search - best paint colors for furniture

It’s those details that will tell you if you’ve chosen the right one. 

A swatch from a paint company is a general guide to its colour. It looks different on different screens. 

So for a better idea of how it has been used in real life. With many different finishes, photo editing and variations. If you still like it, then it’s the winner.

So, what is the best furniture paint color?

The general rule of thumb is to look around your home. At your decor, and your wardrobe and see what makes you happy. The best choice for you is the color that makes you want to start painting.

Is it a good idea for you? For your home? Would it work with your living room lighting?

There is no one perfect paint color. Light neutrals are a safe option for many but completely uninspiring to others.

Be inspired, be excited and be realistic.

The right paint for your next furniture painting project is the one that you get started on.


If you enjoyed this post, you might also like to read these tips for painting furniture from the professionals!

Or check out how I bring these colours to life on my Youtube channel.


FAQ

What type of paint should I use?

It doesn’t matter if it’s water-based paint or oil-based paint. or latex paint, acrylic paint or milk paint. Those are different decisions that can narrow down your paint brand but not the colour. You can often colour match your favorite colors to a brand you like.

Does the finish change the colour of the paint?

Whether you’re going for high gloss, a matte finish or satin, the finish will change the look of the paint slightly. A matte finish will have the least impact on changing how the colour looks in the light.

Pin it for later – best paint colors for furniture

best paint color for furniture pinterest pin
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Rachel started painting furniture in 2018. She created this site to share her favourite transformations and the many tips she has learned along the way.

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By Rachel

Rachel started painting furniture in 2018. She created this site to share her favourite transformations and the many tips she has learned along the way.

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Maria
2 months ago

We’ll be painting two pieces of furniture for my daughter’s bedroom makeover and this was a very helpful article to read. Such a good idea about narrowing down what you like with boards on Pinterest.

Marie
2 months ago

Picking a paint color can be such a mystery! I like the idea of looking in your closet!Great ideas.

Tammy
2 months ago

Rachel, you have wonderful tips here in this post. I enjoyed reading it.

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