Color consultant Jean Molesworth Kee used C2’s Delicata in the living room of a client’s home in Alexandria, Va. She said that the ripe squash color “washes a room in warmth.” Paint continues to be one of the least expensive decorating options out there, although it’s not always easy to choose.

By Jura Koncius
The Washington Post

Paint, the product also known as hope in a can, continues to be one of the least expensive decorating options out there. Although easy to use, it’s not always easy to choose. Consumers and designers struggle to get just the right shade of blue or beige. And manufacturers offer more types of paints with planet-friendly formulas than ever before.

Thank goodness paint is still an affordable addiction. About 650 million gallons were sold in this country last year, said Debbie Zimmer, spokeswoman for the Paint Quality Institute. “What else can you do in a weekend that will change your look for about the same cost as going out to a nice dinner?”

What’s new?

More full-spectrum lines. Full-spectrum paints are more vibrant because they are formulated with four or more pigments, none of which are black or gray. C2 Paint’s palette of 496 colors will be full-spectrum by the end of this year; Benjamin Moore’s new Color Stories line has 240 full-spectrum colors.

More eco-friendly. Manufacturers are developing ways to cut out more VOCs, or volatile organic compounds. Some of these compounds, which are off-gassed from certain paints, can contribute to smog similar to the way auto emissions do, said Harry Adler, co-owner of Adler’s Hardware in Providence, R.I., and a founding partner of C2.

Paint-primer combos. These time-saving formulas can eliminate the need for a primer coat. Caution: They’re not the best choice for surfaces with stains or for covering dark colors.

Application tips

Use the right brush. A high-quality brush will make paint go on easier. If you use a coarse brush, brush marks will show. A finely crafted bristle brush will produce an even finish. Potomac Paint in Virginia suggests the 2½-inch Corona Pro Cortez.

Prep the surface. Begin with a clean, smooth wall. Wash the wall, and then remove any loose or peeling paint. Nail holes and cracks should be spackled and then sanded until smooth.

Shop smart

Testers are a must. Whether you buy a sample bottle or an oversized paint chip, look at your prospective paint color in various lights at various times of day.

Most experts recommend 100 percent acrylic latex paint for the majority of jobs. This type of paint allows for soap-and-water cleanup and adheres well to a variety of surfaces. Look for formulations that are lower in VOCs. The formulation of oil-based paint has changed because of government regulations concerning VOCs. But its drawbacks are that it still must be used in conjunction with mineral spirits and disposed of as a hazardous waste, according to Adler. Certain brands are available in quart sizes for home use. Some consumers find that oil paint produces a glossier look and a more-durable finish.

Choose the proper sheen for your room. If you are painting a living room or dining room, you probably want a washable flat or matte paint, or eggshell, which has a light sheen. For a bathroom or kitchen, where moisture, mildew or grease would be a concern, consider eggshell, satin or semi-gloss finish. The higher the sheen, the more washable it is. The downside of glossier finishes is they can accentuate flaws in walls.

Tips on choosing paint colors

Jean Molesworth Kee’s architectural color consulting business, the Painted Room, has been around for 10 years. Kee, who blogs about color at, works primarily with homeowners. Here are a few of her color and painting recommendations.

Go online for color inspiration. Kee is using Pinterest ( to organize ideas. She keeps boards on the major colors she uses in her jobs. Tools such as Flickr and Google Images, as well as design blogs, help people visualize what colors look like in homes.

Test several trim and ceiling colors. There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all white. Kee has a go-to list of white paints she finds versatile. A few of her favorites: C2 Cotton, Sherwin-Williams Alabaster and these by Benjamin Moore: Acadia White, Simply White, Cloud White, White Down, White Dove.

Consider painting the ceiling the same color as the walls. Using the same paint on both surfaces gives a contemporary feel.

In tiny spaces, think about a shot of bright color instead of an entire room. For condominiums and apartments, consider using blocks of color to define space. She suggests painting interior doors and, on occasion, accent walls.

Factor in wood-floor color. Wood-floor stains have different undertones. When selecting a room’s color scheme, put paint samples and fabric swatches next to the floor, and check them in various lights.

Use high-quality paint chips. C2’s poster-size Ultimate Paint Chips (18 by 24 inches, $8.99) can help you visualize what a color will look like in a room. Because the chips are painted rather than printed, Kee said, they show the true color as you look at them in various lighting conditions.