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It’s Painting Season. What Colors Should You Pick?

Paint colors may have psychological effects. Choose carefully.

Whether you live in the Northern Hemisphere and it’s about to be winter in your part of the world or in the Southern Hemisphere and it’s about to be summer, painting may be top of mind. You may be thinking about giving the walls inside your home a new coat of paint before the weather gets so cold/hot that you can’t leave the windows open while the paint dries.

Here are some ideas, drawn from the scientific studies, to keep in mind as you choose paint colors for your walls:

  • Light colors make walls seem a little further away than they actually are while dark colors create the impression that they’re slightly closer—so if you’re painting a room that would be a little more pleasant if it seemed to be a different size, choose accordingly.
  • Warm colors on walls make a space seem physically warmer and cool colors make it seem to have a cooler air temperature. Using a warm color on a sun porch that’s drenched in lots of tropical sun is probably not a good idea.
  • Looking at warm colors can make us feel hungry, which can be a good or bad thing. If you’re always trying to get kids to eat, a breakfast nook painted a warm color may be in order.
  • We’re drawn to warm colors; so adding them to the far wall of a long hallway can make it more likely that we'll actually make our way to the end of that corridor.
  • Seeing the color green has been linked to enhanced creative thinking, so it’s probably a good choice for a home office or a writer’s nook.
  • Looking at the color red has been tied to degraded analytical performance; so it’s a good idea to keep it out of home offices, study areas, etc.
  • We get a burst of strength from seeing the color red, so it’s probably the best color for a wall you’ll look at while weightlifting or doing something similar.
  • Across the planet, people’s favorite colors are shades of blue; so if you’re selecting colors for someone else or plan to put your home on the market soon, select them. The least liked colors are yellow, yellow greens, so be wary of using those hues in the same situations.

Selecting wall colors using science-based insights makes it a more likely you’ll find that your color selections are, in the words of Goldilocks, “just right.”

More from Sally Augustin Ph.D.
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