Finding the right color can be tricky, and for reasons that aren’t quite obvious at first. Your trip to the paint store will be much easier if you keep a few things in mind:
Most paint chips aren’t made from paint. Shocking, isn’t it? With the exception of C2 Paint, most national brands have their chips printed with ink – and ink is a transparent medium while paint is an opaque one, and light interacts differently with these two mediums. Therefore it is almost impossible to replicate the color on the sample chip to the color that comes from the can. If you have ever wondered why the color on the chip didn’t match the color on the wall, now you know.
Color chips have another disadvantage – they are small. When you look at the size of even a single wall, you quickly realize that a paint chip is too small to accurately give you an impression of how the color will play in a full-scale setting. If you understand that color chips are very handy tools to take you to the next step, they can be very useful. Color chips provide a very quick method for winnowing out the obviously wrong colors and finding those three or four colors that might work. Your next step is to sample the actual color.
Before we roll on some color, let’s look at one more issue: Lighting. If you are trying to make a color choice while standing in a busy paint store or staring at some samples on a computer screen, you are at another disadvantage because you are not looking at your color under the correct lighting conditions.
Preferably, you want to see what happens to your paint color in a series of lighting situations – morning, noon and evening. Each of these different times of day affects the way the color reads, and you want to make sure you like it at all times. Sometimes a color will ‘mud out’ at night (we can spend a lot of time discussing tinting recipes and why this happens… but later), or intensify to the point of looking neon, or wash out and look almost white when you thought it would be a soft taupe, or you find that charming coffeehouse color looks heavy and sluggish. Color does not always do what you expect it to. And if you live in a grove of trees or near the water, testing becomes imperative.
Ideally, you want to try your color with the other design elements that are going into the space like sofas, rugs, art, etc… C2’s Ultimate Paint Chip, which is a poster-sized chip made from real paint, is one option if you aren’t ready to get paint on the walls, or you can try a 16 oz. Sampler or Test Quart of paint (depending upon the brand you are using). Paint AT LEAST an 18’ x 24’ patch on the wall. More if you can. Apply the color on the darkest wall, the lightest (usually opposite a window), and in a corner. This allows you to see your color in all room and lighting situations.
Another major benefit of testing your color - it keeps those unfortunate color mistakes from becoming landfill. And we can all feel good about that!