Colour Matching is a Nightmare!

It’s amazing how often we get asked to match an existing colour.  If there are no records on file or cans of old paint in storage we’re left to begin a sometimes exhaustive search.  We find the process frustrating because in most cases the paint already on a wall is likely readily available and easy to find if only we had a colour name and number.

Trying to find that colour means going through swatch books or what we call fan decks of colour chips trying to figure out which colour is the closest match.  The irony is that every colour chip we choose looks wrong until the moment we actually find the exact match and then it’s obvious to everyone that the chip matches the wall; most of the time…

I’ve been through the process countless times and inevitably find an exact match only after looking at dozens of colours in multiple catalogues. And that only applies if I can find a match in a current book. Paint companies discontinue paint colours from time to time and they stop distributing books for colours they no longer promote but could still make!

For exteriors, the process can get really frustrating.  Sunlight, weather, dirt, pollution and time change colours.  So the beautiful soft yellow tint to the trim on the outside of your house likely looked brighter and lighter when it was first applied.  If you like what the colour has become, fine, a match can be made but it would be easier for everyone just to pick a colour that’s close enough and make a decision.

And to make things even more challenging, clients ask us to switch suppliers sometimes.  They may have a can of Brand “X” in the storage locker but insist we buy Brand “Y” for the new paint job.  Please, we beg you, don’t change.  The reason is that every manufacturer uses a different ‘base’ for their paints with their own unique formulas.  They come up with paint colours derived from those base paints.  If we try and get an exact match using a different manufacturer,  it can be a real challenge getting an exact match.

And since manufacturers continually upgrade and alter paint formulations in an ongoing process of product improvement,  last year’s paint base that was used to create a colour match may not work with their new formulation.  Are you beginning to see how frustrating this can be?

We’re not done yet.  Some colours are really difficult to match at the best of times.  Whites and off-whites are tough because there is very little colour added in the first place.  In fact some off-whites only have a few drops of colour added to a whole can.  So a minimum of a gallon is required simply because a colour formula can’t be divided into four to make a litre.

And lastly, reds, and anything high gloss is also challenging to match because even with modern spectrometers, the optical computerized colour matching systems available in many paint stores now, they can’t get a reading off a shiny sample or on some intense colours.

So make your life easy.  Go to the paint store and bring a friend if necessary, someone you trust or a colourist/designer and pick from the thousands of paint colours they have on display.  And if you’re not sure, get the store to make up a little ‘tester’ can of paint of the colour you’re considering and for around $10.00, you can paint that sample on your wall and live with it for a few days.

Painting should be an exciting time to revitalize an existing space.  So reduce your stress level and pick a colour.  Relax, it’s only paint.