How to choose paint colors using Photoshop

Imantle colorsImagine taking a jar of butternut squash soup to a paint store to find the perfect shade of gold. It was a good idea I thought, at the time (it wasn't me, actually) ... and the painted dining room was fabulous, now days we can take an easier route and play with paint colors in Photoshop. This has REALLY saved me a lot of time and money in decorating, and is easier than carrying around soup.

Older versions of Photoshop work just fine for this type of craft, PLUS a photo of whatever it is you want to paint. The picture of above is the corner of a fireplace mantel I am working on, still on the workshop table. To the left is a picture of the fireplace that was generated by Photoshop, which is how I chose this amazing palette of cinnamon, turquoise and sage.Stephie Painting Parlor

This is a brief description of how to do this. I won't go into depth on how to use each Photoshop tool or command. If you are stuck on a particular step such as adding a layer, it's easy to fill in knowledge gaps by using Google. Type in your Photoshop question, such as, "How to add a layer in Photoshop", plus the version of the program you are using, and you will find step-by-step instructions.


In this example, the room is getting new honeysuckle yellow trim paint and we will use Photoshop to choose new wall color.

Step 1, take a photo of what you want to paint and upload to your computer

Room View 1

Step 2, Open your image in Photoshop and prepare it for this project, i.e., erase any elements not needed with the clone tool, make a panorama photo of a room if you want to see several walls at once, correct the contrast, etc. then, of course, SAVE your photo.

Here I have a new layer with the fireplace trim colored pale yellow to help visualize what the finished project will look like. I made it somewhat transparent (67%) so that I could see some of the detail beneath it. A second layer fills in the floor colors. Objects like the ladder and the space heater were roughly masked so as not to be distracting (the blob under the black plastic is our gas stove). No need to be fussy with the clean up. You really just need a rough mock up of your project to use this technique.

Duplicate your first layer, and work with the second, so that you can always go back to the original if need be.

Room mock up

Step 3, Use the Polygonal Lasso Tool to outline the object you would like to paint. You can ADD to your selection by holding the shift key with the Polygonal Lasso Tool. Or, SUBTRACT from the selection by holding down the option key. Here we've selected the wall above the wainscotting on the left.

Selecting wall area

Step 4, When you are happy with the shape and size of your selected area, SAVE the selection under the SELECT menu, and NAME the selection for future use. Here we've named the selection "Wall".

Save Selection

Here we are re-loading the "Wall" selection when we need it, using the Load Selection command under the SELECT menu.

Reload selection

Step 5, To review a paint color idea, add a new layer to your image. Load the selection of the object you would like to color, select a color from the color palette with the eyedropper tool, and FILL the selection using the Paint Can or menu selection for FILL.


Step 6, Change the MODE of the filled layer to MULTIPLY so that you can see detail, shadows, and highlights. Then comes the FUN part; use the change Hue/Saturation commands to try variations of the color. Here I've adjusted the color to an earthy copper color and I LIKE IT!

New Paint Color

Step 7, When you have made your final color choice, print out the photo as a reference, take it to a paint shop, and have the paint mixed to match, OR mix it yourself on location (that's what I do, and THAT's another story!)


More on this fabulous fireplace mantle for the above room, in future posts!