WRITTEN BY Rachael Medina
Rachael Medina is the staff writer and content manager for California.com. She was born and raised just outside the Mojave Desert in Southern California and moved to the redwood forests of Humboldt C…See full bio
Whether you recently became a new homeowner, a new property manager, or the person in charge of restoring a historic building, finding the perfect paint color has never been easier.
Though it can be stressful trying to decide which color schemes will maintain the resale value of the property—while also preserving a personality that greige just cannot communicate—when inspiration strikes, there are dozens of ways to translate the ideas into practical solutions. From old paint cans, to fabric samples, to paint chips from the local hardware store, colors can easily be recreated.
So take a deep breath and try not to panic because there are plenty of ways around knowing the exact right shade:
If you found a great color while looking at other houses throughout the home-buying process or saw your dream living room shade at a restaurant, eyeballing it is a great way to end up with a hue you love. This method will likely not present an exact match to the color that initially drew your attention, but it ought to be a shade that you will love nonetheless. The guessing method does have its downfalls, however, and should not be used to match an existing color in the house, as the two shades will probably end up being quite different.
If you painted the house in the past but cannot read the label, there are many ways to figure out the exact shade. First, try to remember where the paint was purchased; sometimes, a store can look up a guest’s account and find the colors even without a receipt or the paint can. If that is not a possibility, but you have found a paint can that matches the walls, take it to the local paint shop. With a one-square-inch example of the color, spectrophotometer machines can often pick up the right combination of hues to recreate the same shade.
Inspiration can sometimes come from unexpected places, such as a carpet sample, catalog, spool of thread, pillow, or blouse. In this case, take an item that has the exact color you are looking for to a paint shop. Employees may be able to find the match just by looking at the color, and if not, the in-store spectrophotometer has the ability to break down color into the various wavelengths that combine to make the shade. After determining the exact pigments needed, a paint can be created that perfectly matches the hue you desire.
Larger pieces of furniture do not always lend themselves to being taken in to the paint store, so how do you match their color? Start by taking a picture of the item or finding a photo of it online, and then head to the paint shop. With the basic color in mind, pick out all of the paint chips that could be similar. Particularly with photos found online, the actual shade may vary somewhat in natural lighting compared to the artificial lighting used in photoshoots, so make sure to get a good range of chips along the same spectrum. Once home, compare the chips to the item in a variety of lighting situations to determine the best match, and hang them on the wall to make sure that it is still appealing in a different application.
Many large paint companies have developed their own apps to make matching paint a very easy task. These paint-matching apps allow you to snap a picture in natural light and quickly find similar colors in currently available paints.
If you don't want to download yet another app, it is possible to take a picture of an existing paint color in natural light and take that to the store to have it matched. It is best to have a printed version that you have checked against the painted wall to make sure that it is a proper match; with phones, the pigment and screen quality vary, leading to more possibility for error. The store's spectrophotometer should be able to determine the color regardless of the method you choose and create a similar shade, if not an exact match.
Since there is some variability, be prepared to paint the entire wall rather than only a small section to make sure the color blends properly.
Though color analyzers also work in conjunction with apps, they remove the margin of error from the equation. By pressing the sensor against the color that you would like to recreate, the sensor is able to determine the exact shade. Since it blocks out all external light sources and uses its own internal light to get a proper reading, the app is able to populate your results with all of the closest shades currently available, allowing you to choose between brands and characteristics. In addition, these analyzers often come with the capability to create entire color palettes and find design inspiration, making it even easier to figure out complementary shades.
Paint may literally be falling off the wall, particularly in old homes, so take advantage of this existing situation to peel off one square inch of paint and take that in to the paint store. Similarly, if the exterior of a building needs renovating, collect a paint chip before scrapping the old wood in order to maintain the historical integrity of the building.
If the paint is not falling off or being taken off the walls, choose an area that is typically out of sight and scrape off a section of the top layer using a knife. Be careful not to gouge out a large section of the wall; since only the top paint color is desired, it is not necessary to cut into the drywall.
Getting the right paint color is more complicated than simply matching a color. If you want the paint to act the same as an existing color, figuring out what the base is made from can greatly help the end result. Pick a portion of the wall that is inconspicuous and clean it with a damp cloth and household soap. Allow the section to dry completely, and then dip a cotton ball in rubbing alcohol and gently scrub the same area with it. If the alcohol does not remove any paint, the existing color is oil-based, but if it does, then it is latex-based. Ask the paint store to mix up the new paint color with the same base ingredient for a more cohesive look.
Finding an exact match to an existing wall color can take a lot of time and effort, so make sure to get a sample of the color before fully committing to it. Even if you think the color will be a perfect match, the level of gloss in a paint can drastically alter the way it appears on the wall throughout the day. Paint a small section of the wall with the new color, wait until it dries, and see if the color is a match. If it is not, take the sample back with the additional notes and make the adjustments with the paint, trying it as many times as necessary in order to have a flawless blend of old and new.
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