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Paint Color Samples: All the Basics

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Paint Color Samples: Everything You Think You Know is Wrong
Paint Color Samples on House Exterior

Paint Color Samples on House Exterior

(c) Lee Wallender; Licensed to About.com
I thought I knew all about paint color samples. After all, I had purchased many paint samples over the years for interior paint jobs. After the application of a couple of samples on a bedroom or kitchen wall, it largely became an "A or B" decision.

Then something happened, and it wasn't so easy anymore. Had I instantly become more discerning? Had my eye improved?

No, it was something called "exterior house painting," which vastly raises the bar for getting the color choice right.

Paint color samples seem like a slam-dunk. Smear on a sample, pronounce it perfect, and proceed to buy 30 more gallons. Not so fast. Even the choice, purchase, and application of paint color samples are not so simple. Here are a few tips:

1. What Is a Paint Color Sample?

Paint color samples are actual liquid samples of paint in sizes ranging from 7.2 oz. to around 30 oz. These samples are available from both paint stores (i.e., Sherwin Williams) and big box and hardware stores (i.e., Home Depot and Ace). They are meant to be brushed onto the area that you intend to paint.

2. How to Request a Color Sample

  1. Go to the store and find the color chip card of the color you like.
  2. Scan nearby colors of varying shades and intensities. Can you find two or three that are close to your first pick? If so, pull them out, too.
  3. Use a pen to checkmark all of your picks and take them to the paint counter.
  4. Tell the customer service associate you would like samples of each color.
  5. It usually takes 15 minutes for samples to be mixed.
  6. Upon receipt, verify that the mixes are correct. Wrong mixes do happen (I've had this happen; See Sherwin Williams Review.)

3. Fact: Color Paint Samples are Not Real Paint

This surprised me the first time I heard it. But since, I have had this repeated several times by paint store employees and by the sample labels. Paint samples are temporary coats of paint that should later be top-coated. They are watery and don't behave like real paint during application. After application, they look "streaky," so I heartily recommend a second coat.

4. Fact: Paint Samples Are the Truest Way to Settle on a Color

Forget the online virtual painters. Forget the color chip cards. Short of laying down real paint, applying a paint sample to the exterior of your house is the best way to really see what the color will look like.

5. Fact: Samples Always Cost You, But Less Than Buying Real Paint

Expect to pay no less than $5 for a paint sample. Paint manufacturers don't want color samples to cost a lot because they want you to eventually buy the product. The more samples you buy, the better off you will be.
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