How Does Paint Color Matching Work?

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Men laying new hardwood flooring

Brian Patterson Designs Before & After Bold RedBy Tim Small, consultant at Sylvia Small Communications & Marketing

So you think you’ve found the perfect color to paint the interior room of your home. The problem is the color you like is on your neighbor’s walls, and your neighbor doesn’t know the color name or even the paint manufacturer. So, what can you do?

If your neighbor doesn’t have the original bucket, you’ll need to obtain a sample about the size of a quarter. You can usually get this from a closet or behind an electrical outlet cover. Take the sample to a paint store and ask then to match it for you.

A paint associate will use a machine called a spectrophotometer. This machine measures the color electronically. The spectrophotometer shines a beam of light on your color sample and takes a reading of each wavelength of light that is reflected off the object. This reading is then transformed into a color formula so the paint store can mix your color.

Is it going to be a perfect match? It all depends on your sample and the knowledge of the person taking the reading.

The best samples are flat with no texture. Carpet and masonry are some of the most difficult items to match. Bricks are hard to match because they contain different shades of the same color. Light reflects off the rough texture causing dark shadows.

The more texture your sample has, the more shadows the light beam will cast, giving you a reading that will be too dark. That’s where the salesperson’s knowledge of the machine comes in. They will know to cut the formula back by ½ and slowly work toward the final color.

When it comes to paint color matching, there is still one thing that can’t be beat..the human eye.

For more design ideas, check out our interior design before-and-after projects. Follow us on Twitter @ATLHomeImprove for more useful tips and info and on Facebook for daily updates.

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