How to Sample Paint
Picking the right paint color can be the most difficult and frustrating part of any design project. Yet it may be the most important task – the paint color serves as the design foundation and is often the first thing anyone will notice when entering the room. Not only does the color need to work with the items in the room as the lighting conditions change from day to night, but it also needs to flow with the colors in adjoining rooms. In our 80 years of experience selling paint, we’ve learned how to help people choose colors they will love. In this article we pass along a bit of what we’ve learned to help you find your perfect color.
One of the most effective things you can do to find the right color is to create and test color samples. Determining how a color will look from a tiny paint color chip or color swatch is practically impossible. Colors appear much differently when covering a large area than they do when covering a small area. You will drive yourself crazy agonizing over a bunch of little color chips wondering which one is right for you. Sampling colors removes the doubt. Testing a really big color sample will give you a fantastic sense of how the color will actually look on your walls.
The larger the paint color sample is the better. Ultimately the best way to know how a color would look in your room would be to paint the whole thing, but buying several gallons of paint and painting the whole room isn’t necessary. Testing paint color samples enables you to get a good sense of how colors will look with much less time and expense. It will also save you from ending up with a room painted a color you don’t like. Starting with a quart of paint will enable you to get a very good idea of how the color would look in the whole room.
Begin by selecting some starting colors based on existing (or soon to be installed) fabric, furniture, flooring or artwork. You can even start with a color you saw at a friend’s house or some favorite colors in general. Get a color fan deck from your favorite paint brand. Most of these contain 1,000 to 2,000 colors and will normally be sufficient to get you started. Use this fan deck to find colors that look good with the colors of the other design elements in your room. You’ll know colors go well together if they just look right. You’ll know if it isn’t right when you see certain aspects of the colors start to come out. For example, you may be looking at a beige that looks “too red” or “too green” when held against your flooring. This is typically a sign that the color isn’t right.
Selecting colors is an iterative process. You pick a starting color and work to improve from there. As you evaluate each color, figure out what it is you don’t or do like about it. If it is “too dark”, look for the next lightest color in the group, if it is “too red”, look for a color that is a little less red and so on. Once you’ve narrowed your selection to the best 3 to 5 colors, you are ready to buy some samples and start creating sample boards.
There two ways you can sample colors: paint it directly on your wall or onto a sampling board (such as plastic sheets or foam boards made for color sampling). We recommend using sample boards. Painting the wall is fine, but it limits your ability to compare different colors in the same spot. Look around and you’ll see that the same color looks different around the room due to the lighting conditions and adjacent colors. Also, when you have multiple sample colors on the wall, each will influence the other making it difficult to get a true sense of what each would look like on its own. Creating samples on boards enables you to move the samples around, compare different colors in the same spot and isolate the color from influence from other samples. And if you decide not to paint for a while you can simply put the boards in your closet whereas you’d have to live with the samples painted on your wall (and everyone would know you are a procrastinator :).
Once you create your samples live with them for a few days. See how the colors look during the morning, day, afternoon and night. Notice how they interact with other colors in the room and in adjoining rooms. If the color isn’t right, figure out what is wrong and try again. Each time you will get closer to your perfect color. MyPerfectColor.com is the only place that enables you to create sample paint colors in lighter or darker increments. This gives you a great degree of control over your color selection.
Important Note: When sampling colors, use tunnel vision to isolate the color and remove the influence of neighboring colors that will no longer be there once the room is painted. For example, if your walls are already painted a very dark color, even a medium tone color could look “too light” when viewed next to this darker color. On the other hand, if your walls are white, the same exact color may look “too dark”. In truth, once you paint the whole room and no longer have the comparison, the color could be perfect.
Remember that paint color is not an exact science. There will always be some slight variation between color chips and the paint, and from paint can to paint can. Since all color chips are affected by age, light, heat, and mechanical coating processes, paint color chips may vary slightly in color, or finish from the actual paint in the container.
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