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. 

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