Testing Wall Color 101

When it comes time to paint, most of us start out at the same place; either the paint store or the paint department of one the big box stores. After looking over 100’s of chips we decide on a few different possibilities and then come home to test them out (I certainly HOPE you are testing them out).

After walking into a client’s home and seeing this “test wall” of color, I want to share how a professional Color Consultant tests color.

wall color samples

Let me start off by saying, NEVER test color by painting directly on your wall. Even if your walls are white this method will do nothing but confuse you. All you are doing is comparing all the colors to one another; and since our eyes are instinctively drawn to the brightest color, this may or may not lead you to make the right choice.

 Almost all paint companies offer small sample jars. You want to paint up either poster board or foam core (the bigger the better) with 2 coats of the sample paint (be sure the first coat is dry before applying the second coat). The little foam brushes the store gives out are fine but to get an even smoother finish I use a small foam roller. Once your sample board is thoroughly dry  the testing can now begin.

Since color is affected by the other colors around it, you want to move your board around and see how the color looks next to all the fixed color elements in the room. Hold it behind your sofa and  next to your window treatments. Hold it next to your carpet, art work and and any other fabrics in the room.

testing color sample board

testing board next to carpet

If  it is for a kitchen hold it next to the granite counter tops or tile and next to your cabinets. Move it EVERYWHERE and make sure you like how it looks next to all the other colors in the room. If it looks “a little off” it may just be that the undertone of the sample is fighting with the undertone of your fixed elements. This is when you might want to call in a professional if you can’t seem to get it right.

Look at your color sample board at all different times of the day. There is a little something called Matamerism that causes color to change under different lighting situations. The color may look just great in the morning but then at night it could look very different. Think about the time of day you will use the room the most and make sure you like the color at that time.

Lastly, take your time when choosing color. Most mistakes and panic calls I receive is from the homeowner who went to the paint store to pick a color the day before the painter showed up. Plan some time to “live” with the color and make sure you still like (love) it days later. Although we always hear the saying, “It’s only paint”, painting is still a hassle, expensive, and the one decorating element you want to get right the first time.

If you need any help getting color right the first time, give me a call!

6 Responses to Testing Wall Color 101
  1. Wendy Wrzos Reply

    Love this (and your blog), Linda.

    I watch the Antonio Project on HGTV, and he does this all the time. They often paint 4 or 5 different shades; come back the next day, try it on different walls, in different sheens – it’s the best way to go!


  2. Kelly Reply

    Perfect! Excellent post Linda. That’s why we are color superstars!!

  3. Sheila Zeller Reply

    This is a really great post Linda. And thanks for the tip on using foam core – I never thought of using that!

  4. Susan Kanoff Reply

    You definitely wrote this with me in mind! Great advice Linda (as always)…you’re so talented!

  5. Lane and Debbie Reply

    Wow. That was so nice of you. I didn’t expect that. My wife and I just purchased this cute little cottage on the ocean on Vancouver Island. Very private and the complete getaway. The previous owners were 92 and 86 years of age and have not done anything to it since they built it in 1975. The exterior is dark brown with spearmint green trim and the interior has partial wood walls with beige or almond color drywall. Yikes.
    The only nice features in the building or the large laminate beams and higher ceilings which I would paint out white. I’m told that the dove white color from Benjamin Moore should be used including all wooden walls. We like the beach cottage look and have been advised to use the dove white from Benjamin Moore paints and accident the dry wall with Palladian, (Benjamin Moore). I have my work cut out for me, so for now we would like to paint the exterior of the house a nice oyster color with cream trim. How do you think we’re doing so far?

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Sounds lovely.

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