Take it from a pro, EVERYONE needs to test paint colors, even me.  I recently got complacent and decided to paint one of my bedrooms Sherwin Williams Incredible White without testing. This gorgeous color that has never failed me looked like Pepto Bismol!  It cost me $400 to repaint the room.

What if you could accurately test paint colors before you invest your time, energy, and hard cold cash on a new paint job? Here you go!

Use a large painted poster board instead of a paint swatch

Undertones are much easier to see when you use a poster board instead of a tiny paint swatch.  The poster board should be at least 8.5 x 11, and bigger is better. Make sure that the poster board has 2 coats of paint. Small paint swatches don’t have enough surface area to see enough of the undertones and look different than the paint board.  Compare all your options to find your favorite.

In the photo below, the color swatch looks MUCH darker than the painted color board behind it. Both colors are Benjamin Moore Hale Navy HC-154.

Test paint colors in daylight 

Natural light is critical to test the undertones of your paint colors.  If it works in natural light, it will look great with artificial light.  If the room does not have windows, test after lighting in the room has been finalized.  An LED will look different than an incandescent light.

Ensure the surfaces in the room are clean before you test paint colors

Sometimes a color looks dingy because it’s dirty, not because it’s the wrong color for the room.  I recommended a wall color once for a bathroom. When the client moved in, they steam cleaned the floor tile, and it changed from pink-beige to bright white, and we had to repaint it.  In another project, we tried to match an exterior white.  Once we cleaned it, we chose a much different color.

Surround samples with white and place the same way it will exist in the room

When you contrast a test board with white, it removes distraction from the current color.  If you are testing a wall, look at the poster vertically. Test the paint colors at different times of the day.

how to test paint colors



How to test paint colors

Move sample board around the room for interiors, and around the house for exteriors

View the color next to hard finishes, furniture, and art. Make sure that it looks right on every wall.

Give yourself at least one day to make your decision

Test the paint colors at different times of the day. Morning, noon, and evening light varies and can make the color look different.

Test your final color choice on the wall inside or outside

The test area should be at least 5 ft by 5ft.  The easiest way to see your colors is to isolate it in a large section, next to the hard or existing finishes you need to match.  Also, consider painting white around the edges so that you can isolate the color more effectively. Areas with wall corners and edges work very well.

For an interior, paint a wall that is next to a door or molding, and has a painting and furniture.  The more furniture or existing finishes you can use to compare, the better your results will be.

Paint test for interiors

For an exterior, consider painting a trim color and wall color in a corner, around a window or near existing brick or stone.  The following would be good areas to test.

Exterior paint color test

Paint color test area for exteriors

Test exterior paint colors with a test area over garage.

Exterior paint color test over garage, next to trim and stone.

The Verdict

You can save time and money with the perfect paint color when you follow these steps.

Online Color Consulting

If you still need help with paint colors, check out our Online Color Consulting packages or an In-Person Color Consultation in the Denver Metro area.

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How to test paint colors

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