Choosing the Right Paint Color

How hard can it be to select the right paint color?  You know what you like.  You can visualize the paint on the walls of your apartment, condo or home.  You even saw the exact color on the paint chip card in the paint store.  What could possibly go wrong?  EVERYTHING!

The Right Paint Color?

paint colorYou see the color (upper left) on a paint chip in the store and love it.  With your furniture in place this shade of blue will be perfect for your room.  You have the person at the paint desk mix up a couple of gallons and you head home, ready to paint.

paint colorYou spend the day painting your walls.  When you are finished and the paint is dry on your wall, it looks like the lower chip to the left.

Our first reaction is the paint store person gave us the wrong paint or mixed it wrong, or….

You take a look at the sample on the top of the lid.  Most stores will spread a little of the mixture on a sticker to show the color.  It looks a tiny bit darker than what you thought, but not nearly as dark as your walls.  So, what went wrong?

Paint almost always looks darker in your home than in the paint store.

There are several reasons paint looks darker on your walls:

  • Lighting is very different at home than in the store.  The store is flooded with fluorescent lighting to make the store bright, something we do not have in our homes.  If you checked the paint chip in the sunlight, it probably looked even lighter.
  • There are shadows in the home that are not in stores.  Again that goes back to the flood of fluorescent lights in the store.
  • Your walls are much larger than the paint chip.  This often shows the true color.  When you look at a small chip with a light surrounding and background, the chip looks lighter.
  • You may not have prepped your walls.  We have all tried to take those short cuts.  But, painting a swatch on a white paper in the store versus painting over another color or even an off-white on your walls can influence the final color.
  • Paint will be slightly darker when completely dry.

Put all the possibilities together and you have the perfect paint disaster.

How to Avoid Paint Color Mistakes

First of all, do not believe this will only happen with lighter colors.  I had a friend who wanted to paint a rather large room red.  She picked a beautiful color (in the store) but the finished walls looked almost burgundy.  (And, painting with red is a whole other story without making a mistake in color choice.)

Before purchasing the full amount of paint you will need to complete the room, the best thing to do is to purchase a pint (or less) of the mixed paint. While you are in the hardware store pick up a piece of sheet rock.  You probably will not need to purchase a full sheet (4′ x 8′).  Most stores have pieces that have been cut or broken that they will give you.  Make sure you get a piece that is at least 2 feet square, larger if possible.

You might want to purchase a little white paint or primer to paint the sheet rock with before you apply your color of choice.  Since sheet rock is usually a gray color, painting directly on it can show an altered finished color.  Paint your sample white or use the primer.  Let the dry thoroughly before sampling your paint choice onto it.

Paint your selected color over the entire sheet rock sample square.  Let it dry for at least one full day.  I know.  I know.  We want to do it now! But, waiting a day is often the difference between a color you love and one you cannot live with.  Paint does have a tendency to darken as it dries.

When your sample square is dry move it about the room to be painted.  Look at the sample in a dark corner.  Look at it near a window.  Look at it over the sofa.  In other words, look at it in a variety of areas in the room.  You will have a better idea about your color choice.  BUT, remember, even with all the trial placements you are only handling a relatively small sample.  Consider the entire room being that color.  And, maybe select a shade or two lighter when you make your final paint purchase.

One last thing.  If you walls are not white or off-white, take the time to prep them.  Use primer or just a coat of white paint to lighten the walls before you spend your time and energy painting with the right paint color.


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