How not to make your paint sample turn into a chameleon. Learn the right way to sample paint and the one step you may not know about. 

The majority of people who want a fresh paint color will collect a hundred chip samples from the paint store, only to go home and test the small strips against the wall. Once the color is determined, it’s back to the store to buy a paint tester pot to try on the walls.

Once the tester paint is applied, most people will notice how the paint sample and the chip sample look nothing alike in color. The color has changed and turned into a Chameleon! This is because light, color, and texture play a big part on how your paint turns out. Here’s how not to make your paint sample turn into a Chameleon. 

Don’t Test the Paint on the Wall Because it Creates a Build-Up

Test areas often remain noticeable after the walls are painted. By not feathering out the edges of the tester color correctly, paint swatches show through the new paint coats as dull or shiny splotches. 

Unfortunately, lots of elbow grease is needed to rid these splotches once they are on the wall. Most will use priming or sanding techniques. 

There is an alternative to all this work.  Many have adapted the “card board technique”.

Painting Large Pieces of Cardboard is an Additional Tool to Help Narrow Down the Decision Making Process

Painting a piece of cardboard in the desired tester paint allows the homeowner to see how the setting affects the sample. Meaning how the light source and the amount of light will alter the way a color appears in a room.

Testing Paint Colors

I asked Salty Dog which blue he preferred for our exterior front doors. The bottom two paint colors are for the siding and brick. Salty Dog thought I was playing a joke on him believing the all the blue samples were the same.

Paint Sample on Cardboard

Now Can You See the Difference in the Colors Below?

In the picture the blue on the left definitely looks much darker than the middle and right samples. The colors samples look completely different than the picture above. Even the bottom siding and brick samples look as though I completely switched them out.

Adding White around the Paint Samples

Adding white behind the paint swatch helps to see the true color hues

Use a White Background Instead

In the picture which white was not the background, the hues of blue started to morph into the brown door and appear darker. 

Nevertheless, when I used white as the background there is a clear difference in the blues. Therefore, allowing for me to see which hue compliments the new sliding and brick paint colors.  In other words, the white background doesn’t allow for any overcasting of hues.

No More Chameleon Effect on Paint Samples

No more chameleon effect

As much as I would like to take credit for inventing the “white background technique”, I cannot. I was taught this handy skill in my beginning years as a floral designer. To determine the best shades of flowers for a bride’s bouquet; buds were placed against the white wedding gown.  Floral designers have been using this savvy concept for decades.

Before rushing out to try the “white background technique”, keep these other tips in mind when testing out paint colors

-To see the true color of a paint sample, it will take a minimum of 2 coats of paint. That’s the amount of coverage you’ll typically need on most walls.

-The sheen of the paint is as important as selecting the hue itself.

-A wall finish can severely alter how the color appears. Wall textures can change how a color reads.

-Never Decide While the Paint is Wet- Some paints take on a different look after they have dried. Since you’ve gone through the effort of putting up your big cardboard swatches, this is no time to rush. Go grab a cocktail and sit back, and then pick your favorite color swatch. Surprisingly, your opinion may change once the paint dries.

In the event that you use the “white background technique”, please send in the pictures of your paint samples. I’m looking forward to reading your feedback.

Curious what paint sample I picked for our exterior doors? Click here

Maria Killiam has written a great article, “3 Best Ways to Choose a Fresh Paint Colour for your Tuscan House”


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