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8 Easy Ways to Pick Paint Colors

An Insider's Guide to the Perfect Palette for your Home

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Are paint color matches accurate?  NO!

We never recommend paint color matches from one brand to another – results are rarely good. If you need to use a specific paint company, find their version of the color that you want. Paint companies invest a lot of time and money to create proprietary paint color formulas.  Some of them are complex, and hard to copy.

Below is the photo of a handrail with a Sherwin Williams paint match to Benjamin Moore Chelsea Gray.  It’s not even close!

Handrail with bad paint match.

Photo by S. Mefford, Handrail was a bad match for Chelsea Gray.

Use the free Easyrgb.com service to find the closest paint color match from any paint company.  They have sampled real paint colors with a spectrophotometer in a scientific temperature-controlled facility.  They give you the closest match and tell you how different it is from the original color.  There are no guesses!

If you get a color consultation from the Color Concierge, and you change your paint vendor, let us know.  We will give you the right paint colors for free.

Why would you want to match a paint color?

Your paint contractor might not have a contract with that paint company.  For example, in our area, many painters get better prices with Sherwin Williams than with Benjamin Moore.  They almost always promise that they can perfectly match the color.  It’s not that they are being dishonest, they probably don’t know, or haven’t been burned by a bad paint match.

Why is it hard to match a paint color from one company to another?

Manual matches are not consistent and take time and patience.

If someone creates a manual paint match, they may not have the time for the trial and error it takes to make it perfect.  They may not know that you should only mix paint in natural light because artificial light will change the colors.  Anything can skew their results.

Paint colors darken as they dry.

It can take up to 24 hours for some paints to cure, even if they feel dry to the touch.  If a paint matcher is short on time, they might not wait long enough to see if the copied sample is correct.

Spectrophotometers are only accurate 90% of the time to match colors

One tool for matching paint colors is a spectrophotometer, available at many paint stores.  This tool is likely your best bet, but even so is only 90% accurate with training and experience. It can take several iterations to get the color right.

Paint company match databases are not accurate.

Many paint vendors have a database of competitor paint colors they use for a paint match.  These databases are created from manual or spectrophotometer matches.  At best, they have a 90% accuracy, if the operator has been properly trained.

The paint in this photo was paint matched from a database at a big box store.  They were trying to match Benjamin Moore Vapor Trails, and got a minty disaster.

Living room with mis-matched paint

Photo by S. Bell. Paint color outcome was an unwelcome mint color after attempt to match to BM Vapor Trails.

Which paint colors are the hardest to match?

White paint colors are almost impossible to match.  There is very little pigment in whites and a small change can cause a big shift in the color.  Color shifts in white paints are hard to see until they are painted in a room.

Here is a photo of a recent project where the painter promised the homeowner that they could match the identical white paint.  The rooms had a terrible green hue.  The homeowner said it looked like the Incredible Hulk had come to stay, and had to repaint their whole house. Both the painter and the homeowner shared the large expense to repaint.

The painter (with good intentions), tried to match Benjamin Moore Simply White to a Sherwin Williams paint.  We had specified the trim as Benjamin Moore Satin, and it ended up getting painted an eggshell sheen, the same as Sherwin Williams Satin. Now you can see how confusing this gets.

Bad match to Benjamin More Simply White.

Photo by M. Marceny. Poor match to BM Simply White. Walls are green.

Can you copy paint sheens between companies?

The simple answer is NO.

There is no standard in the United States for paint sheens in the residential market.  Sherwin Williams Satin sheen is similar to Benjamin Moore Eggshell.  Benjamin Moore Satin sheen is similar to Sherwin Williams Semi-Gloss. And so on.  You can see a huge opportunity for mix-ups when you tell a Sherwin Williams painter that you want to match a Benjamin Moore Satin sheen for some trim.

Each time sheen changes, so does the paint formula because of the shift in reflectiveness.  That adds another element of uncertainty to your “match”.

What if I need to use a different paint company than the color I want?

Find the closest version of the color you need in the company’s ready-made palette.

Consider the Easyrgb.com free service.  You enter the paint color that you want, and they will give you the closest color in the brand you request.  They don’t promise an exact match, but they tell you how close it is so that you can make an informed decision.

Easyrgb.com software converts colors between brands

Laurel Bern, from Laurel Bern interiors converted Farrow and Ball colors to standard Benjamin Moore paint colors in her Farrow and Ball Colors Update.  Her matches are really good, and much better than paint matches at your local paint store.

If you buy a color consultation from The Color Concierge, you can ask for the right colors from a different brand without charge.  The colors may not be identical, but they will be the right ones.

The Verdict

NEVER, EVER use paint matches from a different brand than the one you will use.  Results are poor and there are no standards for the sheens.  Even though your painter may truly believe it can be done, DON’T DO IT.

Whether your paint color is matched or true, don’t forget to test your paint colors.  It’s a standard best practice.  Whenever I test my paint colors, they are perfect, and when I don’t test they turn out wrong.

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Related Posts:

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Pick Colors Like a Pro with our FREE Guide!

8 Easy Ways to Pick Paint Colors

An Insider's Guide to the Perfect Palette for your Home

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