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. 


  1. Excellent information, as usual Sandy - thank you!

    1. I’m glad you thought it was helpful. Thank you very much!