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Sunday, September 22, 2013

Don't Fear The Great Paint-chip Wall

First, I have to apologize for the text-heavy post this week. Sometimes it takes some 'splaining. Bear with me.

You are so thrilled! The creative home decorating muse has struck! You have finally settled your heart on wall color(s) that satisfy the inspiration! A gorgeous sea-glass green will look AMAZING with some dark teal throw pillows. You can almost hear the angels sing, “Ahhhhh....” as you near the paint display. 

As you stand in front of the display looking for the color that’s been haunting your mind, you choose three different colors. Once you have them in hand, you realize that apart, the look the same, but when they’re in your hand, the differences are unquestionable. The one on the right, that looked so perfect, looks blue compared to the one in the middle. The one on the left has mysteriously taken on a yellow tone. It doesn't look green at all! Now what?

You’re sure that the store employees think you’re crazy, arguing with yourself over which one of the three colors will look best next to your new, fluffy comforter. You ask the paint-mixer-lady for some guidance, only to discover that her knowledge of paint chips is equal to yours. Getting more and more confused and frustrated, you leave the store sans paint. Deflated, you think that maybe the current color on your walls isn't so bad. That muse, yeah....she's gone!


If you’re a DIYer, like I am, this scenario is not at all far-fetched. How do you decipher the monstrosity of all those paint colors? They look so beautiful all lined up. But once you enter their realm, they turn into something to be feared and dreaded.  

Without getting too tied up in color theory, light absorption, reflection, etc. let's dive in. Although those things can be important, but they aren't really going to help you when you’re standing in front of that imposing multitude of paint strips.

In my experience there are a few things that have helped me. Here are some tips and tricks I've tried that might help with your next excursion into the paint department.


First, the paint strips themselves. Their setup is pretty simple. The main color will be one toward of the center of the strip. There are lighter and darker colors on each end. Even though each strip still has a light end and a dark end, the base color will be the one(s) in the middle of the strip.






Now, onto the great wall of paint strips:


  • As you stand facing the display, it might be that the reds are firsts, or the blues, or the greens. That doesn't really matter. However, take note that the truer, purer, jewel tones are either at the top or bottom of the display. As the paint chips move to the sides, they flow from one color into the next. Think of the rainbow: ROYGBIV. Red will flow into orange. Orange will flow into yellow and so on. So, for example, if you pick up a green chip that’s too yellow, yellow is next to green on ROYGBIV. To get a bluer tone of green look at the top of the wall to find where the blues are. If you head that direction, those greens will be bluer than the one in your hand.
  • The next key to unraveling the wall is this: the truer colors will usually be at the top of the wall. As the colors go down toward the floor, gray is added. This makes the colors more muted. So as you look at the color in the middle of each strip, they will get grayer and more muted as they go down the wall.
  • Remember, the main color of the strip will be in the middle. Surrounding each main color, will be lighter shades toward the top and darker shades toward the bottom of the strip. So if your main color of the strip is too bright, head toward the floor. The reverse is also true, if your color looks too muted head toward the top of the wall.
  • You may want to ignore the colors that are out there all on their own. Those special mini group titled “Colonial Revival.” and its friends. They’re there to distract you from the color that’s warming your heart. They’re there for the painters who wander in without any kind of plan.



    Now for some indispensable tips:

    I read online that 40% of a paint store’s profit comes from consumers making mistakes in choosing paint color. Yes, you read that correctly; 40%!! To help lessen the probability of your falling into that ditch, here are a few little tips. 


    • If you're matching your paint to something in your room, take a swatch of fabric, a pillow case, a wallpaper sample, etc, with you. Don't rely on your eyeballs or your memory when selecting paint.
    • Never us a chip to make a final decision. You're much better off buying a sample jar of your selection. Take your sample home, paint it on two pieces of foam core. Don't paint it directly on your wall. If you do, there may be some visible ridges where your sample stops. 
    • If you're going to be using a paint roller, use a roller for your foam core samples. Believe it or not, application methods have an effect on how the light plays on your paint. 
    • Once your foam core samples are dry, place them on your walls, meeting in a corner. This way you can see how your paint looks in your room - where you're using it, under your lights. Your colors will look different in your space than in the store. You will be able to see how the sunlight and your room light interact with the paint in your space.
    • Live with the colors on the wall for a few days to a week before making your final decision.

    Hopefully, these tips and tricks will help demystify the great wall of paint chips, and help keep you from being a part of that 40% profit!

    Please leave your comments. Feel free to share your paint-choosing tips or tricks!