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How to Paint Your Room Like a Pro

By Josie Swindler

Often, one of the biggest problems with a new apartment is not what it’s missing but what it’s got: white, sterile walls that can feel a little more “insane asylum” than “awesome post-grad pad.” With the cinder blocks of the last four years a distant nightmare, you now have the freedom to personalize with something better than Che Guevara posters: paint. It’s a liberating thought, but like motorcycling through Argentina while suffering from severe asthma, great freedom brings great responsibility.

Start with a plan. If thinking about Roy G. Biv makes you feel uncomfortable, there are a few tools to help you pick some colors. Take a personality quiz to help select colors to suit you. Or, since different hues can influence your mood, pick a color to steer your psyche. Another option is to use an online paint preview tool to see how certain colors might look in your room. And if none of that works, check out a current issue of Architectural Digest, Domino, or Dwell to snag some ideas from the pros.

Once you’ve chosen a color, it’s not a bad idea to see a sample in your room. Farrow & Ball sells $6 sample pots of its paint colors, as do most paint manufacturers. Purchase a piece of poster board, apply paint, and then tape it to your wall. You’ll get an idea of how it will look, and won’t have any cleanup if you decide to pass on the color. Once you’ve officially chosen, use a paint calculator to make sure you order enough.

If hundreds of shades of off-white don’t excite, try a bolder, more functional alternative. One speciality paint allows you to turn a surface into a black or green chalkboard, or create your own chalkboard colors. There are also primers that make regular paint magnetic, and others that will transform your wall into a magnetic chalkboard. To get really trippy, there’s black light paint that goes on clear and shows its color only under the stoner’s nightlight. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box that is your room in order to think inside of the box that is your room.

When you’re ready to paint, check out how-to videos from Ralph Lauren Home and this helpful list of painting links. And before your first stroke, be sure to double-check your lease — often, painting requires the written consent of the landlord. Or at the very least, a commitment to paint all of the walls stark white before you leave (easier said than done).

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