7 Reasons Paint Looks Different on Wall Than On Swatch

why does paint look darker than on swatch when it dries

If you have mixed the paint properly before application and have given it enough time to dry completely after the application, the color should look the same as you picked from the paper color swatch.

But worry not; if the final appearance is not what you wanted, don’t despair. It may happen due to various reasons, and there are ways by which you can alter the shade by painting over it with a new color or making it darker or lighter as you like. This will, of course, require some more work on your part.

In the below paragraphs, I will discuss whether the paint looks lighter or darker on walls after drying and what may cause a difference in the color of paint on your wall compared to what you picked from the swatch. Also, I will tell you what to do if you don’t like the color of the paint after it has dried and how you can avoid such a situation in the future.

Does the Paint Dry Darker or Lighter?

No matter if you are putting the paint on drywall, wood, or any other surface, the paint will always seem a little different when it dries – it may appear lighter or darker than anticipated.

However, the good news is premium quality paints should always dry to the color shown on the lid or swatch if you have mixed and applied them correctly.

But after the paint has dried on the surface and has been there for some time, the oxidization can turn the pigment in the paint darker with time. This holds particularly true for oil-based enamel paints when used outdoors. If you have used latex or enamel paints indoors, this change in color should not be noticeable.

Some latex paints, however, may show a slight color variation when applied in different coats on the same surface. This is because the first coat usually absorbs more paint than subsequent coats, making the dried paint appear slightly darker.

But in general, you should not worry about the paint drying darker or lighter than its intended color. As long as you have used quality paint and have given it sufficient time to dry, the final color should be as expected.

Factors that Influence the Color of Paint as It Dries

Paint can look different when it dries than it does when first applied to the wall because of several factors.

The type of paint, the amount of pigment, the color of the undercoat, the porosity of the surface being painted, and even the time of day can all affect how the paint looks when it dries.

1- Lighting

One factor that affects how the paint looks when it dries is the lighting in the room or on the surface.

The paint will usually look darker in a room with less natural light and lighter in a room with more natural light. This is because our eyes will generally adjust to the different levels of light, so a color that looks dark in a dim room will look lighter when we step into a brighter space.

2- Pigment

Another factor that can affect the paint or stain color as it dries is the pigment or additives present in the product. The pigments are responsible for giving paint its color, and different pigments will dry to different colors.

Some pigments, like black or white, will dry to very similar colors regardless of the type of paint or the lighting conditions. But other pigments, like blue or green, can look very different when they dry.

For example, light blue paint might dry to a darker blue in a room with less natural light and a brighter blue in a room with more natural light.

3- Undercoat

The color of the undercoat can also affect how the paint looks when it dries. For example, if you’re painting over a dark blood-red color, the paint will usually look lighter when it dries.

And if you’re painting over a light color, the paint will usually look darker when it dries. This is because the undercoat color will show through the paint, and our eyes will adjust to the different colors.

Besides the undercoat, the number of coats you apply will also have a big impact on whether the paint will dry darker or lighter because each coat will add a layer of pigment, and the more coats you apply, the darker the color will become.

4- Surface Porosity

Porosity is a measure of how much air can pass through a material, and we know that different materials have different porosity levels based on their composition.

For example, wood is more porous than metal so the paint will dry darker on a wood surface than on a metal surface. This is generally because as you apply the paint, it gets absorbed into the porous wood, making it look darker.

5- Time of Day

The time of day can also affect how your wall paint will going to look after it gets dried.

If you’re painting in the morning, for example, the paint will look darker than if you’re painting in the afternoon. This is usually experienced because the paint dries slower in the morning, so it has more time to absorb into the surface and look darker.

In the mid-afternoon, when the wet paint dries faster by evaporation, the light reflects off of it differently as the water or other solvents evaporate.

6- Paint Finish

Remember that different colors, finishes, textures, and patterns tend to give various looks when applied to surfaces. So, it’s clear that the paint’s finish also impacts how it looks once it’s dry.

For example, paint with a glossy finish will usually look darker than the swatch color you chose when it dries, compared to a matte or eggshell finish.

On the other hand, there is flat paint that usually looks lighter simply because there is no shine at all, and the color can be seen more clearly.

7- Other Conditions

Besides the above, a few other conditions can affect how the paint will look after drying. For example:

  • If the humidity is high or the temperature is low, the paint will take longer to dry and will usually look darker.
  • Also, if you have indoor plants, furniture, or pictures on walls, the paint might look a little different because of the way the light reflects off these objects.
  • Other than that, psychological factors impact your visuals, such as the type of colors you like or are used to seeing. And this might result in your wall paint appearing darker or lighter than it really is.

Although there isn’t a big color difference as you have chosen from a swatch, the above factors are sure to consider if you’re trying to achieve a specific color.

ways to avoid the paint getting darker or lighter when it dries

What if You Don’t like the Paint Color After it has Dried?

First of all, take a deep breath and relax!

If you find that the paint has dried to a color that isn’t your liking, it’s not essential to repaint the entire wall because you can opt for it as an accent wall or a feature wall to change the look and feel of your room.

Alternatively, you can add a unique touch by putting up a transparent glaze over the dried paint, adding depth and a new hue.

Furthermore, you can always opt for creative paint techniques such as ragging, sponging, stippling, stenciling, etc. to create interesting textures.

If you still want to repaint the wall, you can find a slightly darker or lighter color than the one you initially chose and mix it with your current paint until you achieve the desired shade. This time you need to repaint over the wall completely and wait until it is completely dry.

How to Avoid the Paint Getting Darker or Lighter Than Expected?

To ensure you have an accurate idea of how the paint will appear when dry, it is recommended to test a small area first.

Purchase a sample of your desired paint color and apply it on a section to appear like a large swatch on your wall. Allow it to dry, and observe how it looks in various lighting conditions before painting the entire wall.

This method can help you avoid the hassle of repainting the entire wall and ensure you are satisfied with the color’s appearance.

A few other tips that can help you avoid the color getting darker or lighter than expected include:

  • Always use the primer before painting
  • If possible, always get high-quality branded paint
  • Pick the correct paint finish based on the project’s needs
  • Read the label on the paint can for the pigments and ingredients it has
  • Stir your paint thoroughly before using it, and apply it under consistent conditions

If you’re still unsure about your paint choices, consider consulting a professional painter for more accurate advice on how the coating will appear after drying. They will also offer suggestions on additional paint color options based on the look you wish to achieve.

With their tips, you can be sure that the color of your wall will come out exactly as you imagine without settling for second-best.

Related FAQs

Does old paint change in color?

Yes, paint can definitely change color over time. The type of paint, its quality, and how it’s been stored all play a role in how long the paint or stain will last before it starts to change color.

So, if you’re using old paint stored in your garage, it’s always best to test them on a small surface to see if the color hasn’t changed and is as per your liking.

Why do some black paints look blue when wet?

The reason why some black paints look blue when wet is because of the way light reflects off of them.

The light reflects differently on wet paints than when it’s dry, and this can cause the color to appear different.

Also, certain waterborne black paints are known to have a bluish tin. So, they look blue when first applied but ultimately get their original black color when they dry and set in on the surface.

Will UV damage make my exterior paint look lighter?

The sun’s ultraviolet rays can cause the paint to fade and change color over time, making exterior paint look lighter. This is why it’s important to choose a paint with good UV protection if you’re using it on an exterior surface.

The bottom line

While many factors impact the final look and color of your paint, if you have used high-quality paint and applied it properly, the paint should look very similar to the swatch shade you selected.

Also, by taking the time to test the paint color first, you can avoid any surprises and be confident that you’ll love how your walls look once they’re painted.

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