Painting & Wallpapering/Paint Matching


QUESTION: How good are paint makers these days at matching colors? If I took a studio strobe light and flashed a wall with light and took a photo using an SLR camera should I be able to detail the exact color, and then have it matched in paint with no noticable difference?

ANSWER: HI James, that is a great question. It really has many parts - for example:
1. who are the paint makers doing the matching?
 a. a paint production company?
 b. a paint store "expert" on some level?
 c. computer matching???

2. RE taking a photo: do you want the paint color to look like a stobe-lit-color? Is that the lighting that will be used in the room you want to use the paint in?

3. My best guess is that photo per your note will not give you a good color rendition.
4. I would never expect to 'match' a paint color in that way.
HOWEVER: that does not mean that someone with a very good eye who can understand your precise needs of where you want to use the paint, and how you want it to look, could not make the perfect mix for your use!

In other words, I recommend that you try it and see what happens.
Do not depend on anyone who says they can "match anything with their computer".
Then, once you get the paint mixed, be sure to TEST IT in the exact kind of setting where you want so use it. BE sure to use proper primer and two coats of paint for the test, rolling an area no smaller than 3' x3' (that's three FEET square, total of 9 to 12 square feet)

I hope that helps. How about if you write and let us all know how it goes??

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QUESTION: Well I don't mean have a special color made in a lab. lol. I do mean a color expert in a store that can match any color if I can provide a good sample of what it is. I wasn't sure if they can only work with shades they already have defined.

I suppose I would want the color to appear as it does currently under my normal lighting situation which is a full spectrum 60watt lightbulb, but I was assuming that with a good strobe light which is a fairly good spectrum light I could give more exact information on the true color.

I don't suppose they make super small batches of color to test for a match?

Why would I need to test on such a large area? Two coats sure, but why would I need 3 square feet to match a color that is adjacent to it?

ANSWER: HI again, ok now I see what you mean. Many paint stores have people who are really good mixers by eye-and-hand, so give it a try and get a quart to test. If you go with Sherwin Williams, they do sell 'test quarts' for only about $6 but you can't use it as a finish paint if you want to,  because it does not have all the resins etc that make it the final paint product.

BUt, try it, what the heck! For testing I'm not saying 3 square feet...but 3 on each side, "3 feet square" (9 square feet). Just because the more surface you paint the more 'different' the color will look as it expands, and if you are trying to 'match' adjacent color, that adjacent color will reflect onto the new color.

2 coats is essential for proper coverage.
ps: be sure to use the same sheen as your original: flat, satin, eggshell, semi. If you do know the brand of original color try to use the same since each company's sheens are just different enough--even with the same names--that it can make a difference. How the surface reflects light (the level of sheen) will make a difference in the appearance even if you are using exact same color in 2 different sheens, you will see a difference.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: How do I prepare a wall for repainting? I don't know if much of the old paint will come off. And how do I determine the proper sheen? The paint job was done probably at least 35 years ago. Also I need to fill some holes with spackle.

And lastly when painting is it OK to paint one wall or section of ceiling of a room a week if there is an issue with there being too much furnature and stuff to move around in a short period of time?

HI again James,
questions for you:
1. Why do you want to remove all the old paint?
It's usually not necessary to remove old paint - just parts that are really damaged or peeling. Scrape and spackle, sand smooth.

2. Determine the proper sheen? that depends on use.
Higher sheen is more durable and easy to clean - in the case of trim, etc. that is useful. But using a higher sheen on walls will show more imperfections and be more reflective.
It depends on the "look" you want, also.
Flat is more forgiving for walls that are not Perfect. Use a washable flat and you should be fine. THis is also easier to touchup than eggshell which is often used for walls because it's more "cleanable." But if you have the washable flat,and it's easier to touch up as needed, that can be a great solution.

3. Filling holes with spackle:
Deep holes need many applications to fill more gradually so it does not crack. Just keep at it. Sand between each coat. FInal sand with fine sandpaper for smoothest paint finish.

4. After spackle and before painting
Spot-prime the repairs, then sand when dry. Fully prime all walls, and ideally light sand all (removing the sand-dust before painting, so the paint sticks) surfaces before painting.  Use 2 coats finish color, or 3 if needed for best coverage depending on your color. Tinting primer to top coat is a good idea for deep colors.

5. Partial painting
do ceiling all in one application or you may have "lap marks" from rollers
Walls: ok to do 1 wall at a time. Be sure to cut in around all edges for each coat.

Hope that helps,

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Barbara Jacobs


I am able to answer questions about paint color and wall covering selection (interior and exterior, but in this category it's interior)and, in many cases, decorative ("faux") finishing for many types of surfaces. I can also answer some paint product and application questions but am primarily consulting about paint colors.I can also answer questions about Full Spectrum paints.


My experience as a color consultant is broad and includes a wide variety of color issues. Since 1984, I've been helping clients their very best environments using color as the foundation. My experience includes over 20 years in the field of creating and installing fine decorative finishes, and specifying paint colors.

IACC: International Association of Color Consultants/Designers: member since 1996, accredited since 2000. Historic District Commission: Medfield, Massachusetts

Journal of Architectural Coatings (magazine article, print) Design& - blog for this site (current) 2005 – 2008 2005 Boston Women’s Business Jrnl. Subject of interviews and participation in interviews for other publications. Current: my own blog at

Academia di Belle Arti: Florence, Italy BA: University of Minnesota: focus: painting and printmaking University of California, Berkelely: painting department IACC: International Association of Color Consultants/Designers: Accredited member since 2000

Awards and Honors
IACC: international exhibit included four of my color design projects: 2010

Past/Present Clients
Private clients. I prefer not to include names here, but many testimonials are available for viewing at my web site at the "testimonials" page.

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