How to color match wall paint.

Interior walls with mars and scuffs quickly look worn.  And one wall generally takes all the abuse. Nail holes and random spots might need some cosmetic clean up.  So using some spackling paste  or 3m patch plus primer compound, a putty knife and some primer is a great start.   So you want to match the color and touch it up…

Can you locate the original paint?  Start looking around to see if you can find the original can or maybe even a quart of left over paint. The original can be very helpful.  Even if the paint is dried up, it will give you the color, the product, the sheen and the right place to go buy more. And sometimes it looks dry in the can, but the top layer may just have dried and it can be cut out and there maybe paint encapsulated in the bottom.  Ideally you should have some left over paint stored in a crawl space or mechanical closet (somewhere it doesn’t freeze). If you can locate the original paint, you should have an easy time touching up the area with a small brush and feathering 

The most efficient color matching and almost perfect method is using the original paint.  Some things to consider. Touching up a wall is the most difficult color matching process in painting.  If you have the impression that this process is simple, think again! You might even want to consult a professional painter.  Sometimes you can get a painter to come out for a day and simply work on helping you match the colors and find the right process.  A true professional will be willing to help and provide the right tools and guidance.

There are many factors that affect the outcome of a wall paint.  The original tools used will affect the look and texture. The sheen of the paint makes a huge difference and the wall needs to be sealed with primer prior to attempting to touch up the area.  Obvious other factors include the original color, type and base of paint, a clean surface and application methods.  

Some tricks of the trade:

  1. Seal the surface with primer after fixing damage with spackling
  2. Moisture gets wicked into the substrate when applying paint, so adding 5 to 10% water will help blend the new paint into the old.  Don’t’ load your brush and roller with the paint at the end, the goal is to feather out the touched up area. So blend the area into the other.
  3. Apply two coats when touching up, this will help you determine the amount of wet mils needed to achieve a complete match.

Let’s say you don’t have any information about the paint on the wall.  But you love the color and want to buy more. You think I want to repaint the walls in this color.  Maybe you just moved in and there is some damage. Keep reading for a list of methods to help you match.

As professional painters we always remove a small section of sheetrock paper.  This is accomplished by scoring the wall board in a square or oval pattern and then peeling the drywall paper off the wallboard.  A razor knife and a putty knife make quick work. This 2 inch by 3 inch piece of paper can be scanned at the local paint store for 97 percent accuracy.  The human eye is still better than scanning technology. So if you want a 99.5 percent match a talented human being will need to adjust the color to viewing accuracy.  This talented person is usually staring at a small sample and adjusting the formula of tint in the gallon of paint. This person is generally very popular at the paint store and all the pros know who can and can’t match a gallon of paint.  We generally think, “Take it to John and only John when you need it done right!” And matching paint takes time. Sometimes hours, sometimes days. So if you need a paint match, don’t be in a rush. Leave the sample with the paint store and give them a few days to match.  When you visit the paint store, specify that you want an “eye ball” match. If you are going to see the difference tell them you are looking for an exact match or nearly exact match. And consider the time they have to invest. If you want a match and only are going to buy a quart of paint.  They probably won’t be very helpful. Consider repainting complete walls if the areas you are concerned about show lots of nicks and ding.

If you’re in a hurry, or the match doesn’t need to be exact.  Try some of these alternatives:

There’s an app for that!  

The most popular paint manufactures have a color matching app for your smartphone.

Home Depot – Behr Paint Behr Color Smart 

Benjamin Moore – Color Capture

Sherwin Williams  – Color Snap

Each app provides matching paint colors for it’s specific brand only.  So where ever you plan on purchasing paint should probably influence what app you use.  They are 90% accurate in matching a color. But the largest benefit comes from finding complementary colors. Or colors in the same family range.  Color Snap by Sherwin williams also can help to match fabrics, stone, carpet and other elements in the room by simply analysing a photo for suggested colors.

I also like opening an existing paint fan deck and using the app at the same time as a physical color swatch.  This really helps relate the actual look of the color versus your smart phone screen.  

Exploring color can be very rewarding,  and I would suggest you consider the effect color has on lighting,  mood and general appeal.

Color Consulting is another possibility.  Typically for $200 to $300 USD you can find an expert willing to visit your home and visit for some suggestions practical solutions.

Another tip: Find a local paint store that is locally owned and or managed.  They generally care more about color and quality service. That level of service is needed to beat the big box store.  And they are more likely to have invested in color matching tools that they know how to use and can get to work.  

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