Monday, February 10, 2020

Interior Painting Tip: Paint Color Chips and Strips Can Deceive You

Have you ever looked at a small paint chip or color strip to choose a color for an interior painting project? Tough, isn't it! And if you made your color decision from one of these small samples, it's no surprise that the color you wound up with didn't turn out to be the color you wanted, or the color you thought you'd chosen. 

Nobody, including those of us who work with color all the time, can make an informed color decision from a tiny sample. 

Chips and Strips Are Deceiving

Here are some reasons why samples from chips or strips are deceiving: 

Color's Cumulative Effect  

Studying a paint chip, even one of the somewhat larger ones some manufacturers now provide, won't give you an accurate idea of how the color will look on a large surface. Think of the effect of red paint on a wall vs. red trim on an accent cushion. 

Once applied to a wall, dark colors will look darker and bright colors will look even brighter. Not only that, the impression a color makes on one wall will intensify once it's applied to all the walls. 
    Two Types of Color Strips

    Color Strips: Competition and Distortion  

    When the color you're considering is on a strip in a fan deck, you get an even more distorted impression because:
    •  Each sample is so small.
    •  Adjacent colors affect each other.
    • The white strip between each color makes you think that the color isn’t as bright or intense as it really is.

    No Standardization

    There are three types of color strips:
    • a progression of one color from light to dark. 
    • different colors from one hue family.
    • unrelated colors. 
    Pay attention to the organization of the strip you’re looking at. While paint strips can help you make an initial decision and are useful for basic comparisons, these small samples make it impossible to figure out what each color really looks like. However, I do find that when I'm trying to work with a particular hue, the strips with a progression of colors are helpful. 

    Other Issues


    Paint color changes with the orientation in which it's applied. As a result, your wall color will look different if you apply it to the ceiling. Choosing a ceiling color can be especially challenging because you can't put a tiny chip or paint strip on the ceiling and tell how it will look. Ceiling color will also be affected by the colors of the walls, flooring, and furniture, among other factors, but you won't be able to see the effect of this phenomenon working from a small sample. 


    The lighting at the paint store likely is quite different from the lighting in the space you're planning to paint, and that means the color will look different there. The color will also be affected by many other factors, including the time of day and whether you're viewing it in natural or artificial light. Small samples can't show the true effect of lighting.  

    The Solution: Larger Color Samples 

    Larger samples are the best way to make a more educated guess about the impression a color will make - before you invest in the paint. 

    Some people paint samples directly on the wall side by side and try to compare them. This approach doesn't work well because the existing wall color and the neighboring samples will distort what you see. 

    A better approach is to create your own oversize samples, using inexpensive, lightweight foam core sample boards. Buy some that are at least 2 x 3 feet in size, and apply at least two coats of paint. Your local paint store will sell you sample pots of the colors you're considering, with just the right amount of paint. Always cover 100% of the board so that there are no white borders to distort your perception of the color, and use a different board for each color. 

    Advantages of larger samples

    • The true color impression is more apparent than on a chip.
    • You avoid the color competition and distortion caused by looking at a color on a strip or on the wall next to others you're considering.
    • You can move the sample around the room and even affix it to the ceiling with removable tape to view it in different orientations.
    • You can move the sample to view it adjacent to large pieces of furniture, window treatments, and accessories.
    • You can easily evaluate how the color works with colors used in adjacent spaces.
    • Sample boards avoid the need to prime or use additional coats of paint to cover test areas on the wall. 
    When you're choosing paint colors, large individual samples are best. Study the samples on every wall at different times during the day and at night under natural and artificial lighting.

    If You Need Help

    As a #Certified Color Strategist, I use my advanced training and the latest in digital color technology to inform and streamline the process of helping you choose paint colors that work. If you'd like to talk about your project and schedule an appointment, call me at 828-692-4355. If you live outside my service area, you can also arrange an online consultation. 

    Tuesday, January 21, 2020

    Going to the Paint Store? Read This First.

    Making unnecessary extra trips to the paint store can be frustrating, not to mention time-consuming and expensive. Next time you have a project, make sure you're ready to get the best advice and color inspiration by doing a little homework first. 

    What's the Purpose of Your Visit?

    Have a clear idea of what you want to accomplish so that you ask the right questions and bring all the pertinent materials and information with you. 

    Outline the Basics of Your Project 

    Use this list to describe your project to the counter person so they can focus on the key issues.

    • Interior or exterior.
    • New construction, remodel, repaint or repair project.
    • Is the existing paint or stain oil base or latex? 
      • Bring or photograph the old paint or stain cans, if you have them. The label will also enable you to identify the existing color, including the formula if it was a custom mix.
      • If you're not sure if the existing paint is oil or latex, wet a rag with denatured alcohol. Rub a small circle with the cloth for about twenty seconds. If you remove a fair amount of paint, it's likely a latex product. If it's oil, the alcohol will just clean the surface.
    • What surfaces are being painted? Ceiling, walls, cabinets, trim.
    • What is the condition of the surfaces?  Good, flaking, peeling, chalking, moldy, smoke stains, water damage stains, previously wallpapered, pre-primed, etc. Condition will help determine what preparation is needed.
    • Your budget. Do you want to use the very best products, very good products, or good enough products? Manufacturers offer a range of products for all budgets.
    • Other considerations or questions, including referrals to paint and color professionals, if you're not doing the work yourself.

    Color Selection/Matching Tips

    • Planing a color change? If yes, will it be minor or significant? Do you need help finding the right colors? Discuss the number of coats needed for coverage, and if priming is recommended.
    • Do you have tinted windows that filter natural light? You'll need to factor in the effect when choosing interior colors. 
    • What type of light bulbs are you using? (LED, halogen, incandescent, etc.) 
      • the color temperature of today's bulbs varies greatly from warm to cool and will affect paint colors. 
      • The paint colors you like in the store will appear very different on the walls in your home, depending on your light bulbs. 
      • Some stores have a lightbox to show you how a color will look under different lighting conditions. Ask at the counter and be sure to study your samples in both natural and artificial light.
    • Use your phone to bring pictures of your project.
    • Bring samples of key elements such as flooring, countertop, fabrics, etc. to give you a starting point for choosing colors and save you money by reducing the number of paint samples you buy. 
    • Matching an existing stain: Bring a sample of the item to be matched, along with a generous piece of the actual wood that will be used.
    • Matching existing paint: 
      • When you have the can of original paint, bring it with you. 
      • When you don't have the paint can, remove a light switch and with a razor blade cut a facepiece of the painted drywall behind it, which will be the original color. The larger the piece, the more accurate the match. 
      • The really good paint stores keep records of their customers and the paint colors they used. 

    Success Is Up To You

    If you gather the right information before you leave the house, you'll get better guidance at the paint store, you'll make fewer frustrating trips, and you'll save time and money while getting better results. 

    Wednesday, January 1, 2020

    Choosing Paint Colors On Line: Be Aware of the Pitfalls

    Many people are surprised and upset when they choose a paint color after seeing it online, only to find that it doesn't look the way they expected when they paint their house with it. What happened? Why does it look different? Here are some of the major reasons:

    Digital Color vs. Color in the Real World

    The many thousands of colors we can see exist in a three-dimensional color space known as the Human Gamut of Color, as charted in the diagram on the right. 

    However, the capabilities of the digital color display on your phone, computer or television are limited to colors that can be created by red, green and blue light, a much smaller color space known as RGB. The result is that these devices can't show many colors accurately, especially in the green, blue and purple hue families. 

    The colors used in printing come from cyan, yellow and magenta ink (plus a key color), an even smaller color space known as CMYK. 

    When you understand this, the reason for difference between the color you loved on line and hated on your wall, or the color you chose online for your printing project that didn't meet expectations, is much more understandable. 

    The Human Factor

    As if the color space problem wasn't challenging enough, there are other issues. Color isn't a fixed property of a surface, it's a sensation and a unique personal experience. I say experience because color is created by light waves from the visible spectrum that come in through our eyes and get processed by our brain, and because we're unique beings, each of us sees color differently.


    Because the sensation of color is created by light waves, it changes with the light in each space. Just think of how different a color looks in daylight vs. artificial light, or in the morning vs. the late afternoon. Color is a moving target. 

    So How DO You Choose Paint Colors?

    We all love going online for paint color inspiration. Just be aware of the limitations of the colors you see in a digital space and think of them as approximations only. Remember that color is totally defined by its context, and the same color can be expected to look different as its environment changes. 

    As an architectural paint color consultant, I know there’s a better way to choose paint colors successfully. It starts with identifying the color properties of the fixed elements in your home, inside or outside, and using them as your starting point for finding paint colors. The reason is that if you ignore them and use the color you think is the answer after seeing it online, it likely could be an expensive mistake. Liking a color should be one of many considerations, not the only one. 

    I Can Help

    With my advanced training as a #Camp Chroma #Certified Color Strategist II, and using the latest in color technology, I can identify the essential color properties of everything from granite to roof tiles. I then use that color DNA as well as the color DNA of every single paint color you’d like to consider, to know instantly if they’ll be harmonious in your room or on the outside of your house. I also give you large samples of these colors to look at in your space. No guesses about a color’s “undertones”. There’s no such thing in architectural paint out of the can, by the way. And no expensive, time-consuming and frustrating trips to the paint store. 

    The other thing I can do, which most color consultants don’t offer, is to guide you in strategic color placement. I believe that finding the right colors is just half the equation. You also need to know where to put the colors so that you feature the best and minimize the impact of bad design, functional details, or other issues like a large open space, asymmetrical ceilings, low ceilings or skimpy trim. 

    If you need expert help, call me at 828-692-4355 and tell me what problems you're having. I'll work with you to find pleasing solutions to your most challenging color dilemmas.