Coffee heat rising

DIY Paint Chips: How to Decide on a Color

So as I was saying yesterday, among the several things the Funny Farm needs is a new paint job. Was feeling mighty proud of the Behr paint samples I got, and expected at least a couple of the colors to look swell and elegant on the walls.

As you know if you’ve ever painted a house, those tiny little paint chips you get at the Depot or the paint store are a cruel joke. There’s NO way you can estimate what the color really will look like, because the leap of imagination between the sample and a wallful of the paint is just too large for the human brain to traverse.

One strategy is to get paint samples in the coveted shades and paint splotches on the walls, in one- or two-square-foot patches. This works effectively, but it sure makes your house look funny until such time as you make up your mind. If you’re the finicky type, “until such time” can be a while. There’s a better way, though: Make your own paint chips.

Get a pad of low-end artist’s paper from someplace like Michael’s—don’t get the good stuff for this project—or, if you’d like sturdier samples, cut up a cardboard box into as many six-inch or foot-square pieces as you have sample colors. Then simply paint the sample colors onto the paper or cardboard. Allow to dry, and then you can tape the samples to the desired walls, leave them there, and watch how they look as the light changes throughout the day.

This is an effective way to see how a given paint color will actually look on your walls. It saved me a lot of time and probably some money. The shades I thought were gonna be just great turn out to be just ugly. Of the six I tried, the only one I really liked was “peach fade.” The other off-white, which judging by the Behr paint chip looked like an extremely pale beige, looks pink when a large enough sample is hung on the wall. A better name for “Adobe straw” might be “Necco candy chocolate.” The “flint smoke” is bluish-gray, a blah color—much duller than it appears above. “Blanket brown” has a grayish overtone that clashes with the kitchen cabinetry. And…a whole house full of off-white, beige, and brown? Bleyach! There’s a reason those brightly decorated houses in Mexico appeal to me.

After staring at the colorless “neutral” color scheme for awhile, I realized that dammit, I like the colors my friend and I put in the house when I moved in here, except that I’m mighty tired of the orange hall. That orange replaces a kind of tangerine orange that came with the Alexander Julian line we were working with, and I never liked that color. That’s why I put the terra cotta color in the hallway. All the other colors are just fine.

And the truth is, I know exactly where to get a much, much better shade to cover up that orange: at my son’s house. We painted his place a kind of…hmmm…what’s the word? It’s a mellow sort of beigey terra cotta—not a harsh orange like mine—that looks really, really pretty with the saltillo floors. He still has the paint can. All that’s needed is to trot over to Dunn Edwards, buy a pint of that, and test it on DIY paint chips. I’ll bet it would look really, really nice in that hallway.

See the teal in this image? That’s pretty close to swamp blue: the color of the accent wall in the living room, which has an archway through which one views the hallway. And that salmon color on the Mexican wall is a little brighter but not very far off from the color I have in mind.

If I’m right—that most of the walls can stay the same color they already are, with a little touch-up here and there—then those home-made paint chips saved me a great deal of money. Instead of repainting the entire interior, all that’s really needed is to repaint the hall (I can do that myself!), touch up the paint around the kitchen and front doors, paint the woodwork some shade of brown compatible with the cabinetry, and maybe repaint my office. Oh…and I do want that garage painted. Adobe straw would do just fine in there.




6 thoughts on “DIY Paint Chips: How to Decide on a Color”

  1. I agree, if it’s a new color you need a bigger sample than the chip. On walls we knew we were painting anyways, we would get a sample can (usually $3-4) and paint right on the wall. Getting a few of these can add up but it’s better than painting an entire room and then having to re-do the whole thing (been there, done that).

    • Holy mackerel, George. Are you saying…there’s something else to do OTHER than watch paint dry? 😀 Who’d’ve thunk it?

      Yeah, paintin’s the pits. Interestingly, though, one of our readers some time back described a period in his life where house painting was what he did to send himself through school. He got the degree without the debt.

      Painting, while not as well paid as plumbing, is one of those jobs none of us wants to do but that has to get done. So people who are willing and able to take on the job can do OK, if they’re entrepreneurial about it. Not great, from what guys have said around moi, but well enough.

      I think I would loathe plumbing more than watching the paint dry. That strikes me as a hard job that requires some experience and skill and that…well…most of us don’t wanna do it.

  2. @ Money Beagle & frugal scholar: One of the nice things about HD is that they WILL mix up little sampler cans for just a couple of bucks. Last time I was in Dunn Edwards (haven’t been back since the last big paint job, several years ago), they would make you buy a pint of the stuff. Not cheap, and if you hate it…what on earth are you supposed to do with it.

    Pieces of board are nice and sturdy. Cardboard or artist’s paper is nice because you can tape the stuff to the wall at eye level. And if you slop paint on several pieces of the stuff, you can put it on different walls at the same time.

    Some of the lighter colors in particular seem to change by the time of day and the angle of the light. It’s useful to be able to put samples up in random parts of the house so you can revisit them at all hours. Well. Some hours, anyway.

  3. This article, plus some recent home renos, make me glad I’m a man. This is not a sexist remark.

    Men see in 16 colors, just like Windows 3.1 running on a 386 PC. Actually that’s only 8 colors, since those include black and white, clean and dirty, shiny and dull, fleshtone and GIJoe olive drab.

    If they say they know the difference between taupe and tan, then they are lying in order to impress women. We all know this is true.

    Honestly, where do women find the brainpower do process such fine distinctions as the difference between “peach fade” and “beigey terra cotta”? aren’t those just “pink”?

Comments are closed.