What are Paint Swatches – How to Use and Get Most Out of Them?

Some ways for using paint samples

Paint swatches are small, solid pieces of paint that come on a card or paper backing.

They’re usually about the size of a credit card and can be found at any hardware or home improvement store.

Paint swatches are a great way to get an idea of the color, but it’s important to remember that they’re not always 100% accurate.

The paint on the swatch may look different in real life, depending on the lighting and other factors.

When picking paint samples at stores you will find that they often come in either solid form as swatches or in liquid form as testers.

While both can give you a good idea of the color, it’s important to use them correctly in order to get an accurate representation.

If you’re a DIYer like me who love to paint quite often, you may have a binder full of paint samples from every time you’ve painted a room.

But do you know how to use them correctly to get the full advantage out of them?

Worry not, if you are just starting out, here are some tips on how to get the most out of your paint swatches, samples, and strips.

Using Paint Samples – The Right Way

Using paint samples, in the right way can help you choose the perfect paint color for your home. And more importantly, it can save you time and money.

For getting the most value out of your paint samples, here are some important tips that can help…

1- Get Small Size Samples

One of the trends among paint companies lately has been to offer larger paint samples than necessary.

While this can indeed help you see more of the paint on the wall, you will also have to cover up more paint at the end of the project.

Not only this, but any extra paint will need to be disposed of at the end of the project, especially if they aren’t good as a true paint product.

Leaving a paint can open over time will make the paint harden eventually. You can also use an inexpensive paint hardener to harden it up more quickly for tossing out.

2- Use Foam Brushes

It isn’t worth it to break out your good brushes to work with paint samples. Instead, use foam brushes because they get the job done with little hassle and are quite cheap.

Be sure you don’t use chip brushes; these can cause streaks through the paint.

Also, when using paint samples, always test the color on multiple walls in different lighting conditions. This will give you a better idea of how the color will look in your home.

3- Give it a Little Time to Work

Paint companies recommend that you wait before you decide if the color is a good fit or not. If you are wondering if this is a good idea, test it yourself.

Put a fresh sample of paint next to an older sample; you will see that the colors are slightly different shades, so waiting is important.

4- Use Paint Samples for Exteriors

If you intend to paint a bathroom or bedroom and choose the wrong paint color, you can redo it. Exterior paint jobs are a different story.

These are larger paint jobs, so you will need to get the paint color right the first time around. It is then that such paint samples are really handy.

You can choose a part of the house’s exterior that isn’t too obvious and apply a few paint samples there to see which ones you like best.

Allow the pain to stay there for a week or two as you decide which one you like best.

After you’re done, you can put a coat or two of exterior primer down to help cover up the colors before painting the new color on.

5- Liquid Paint Testers vs. Solid Swatches

Liquid paint testers or sample bottles of liquid paint come in either eight-ounce or two-ounce sizes that you can then apply to scrap drywall, a piece of white foam board or directly to the wall.

It is best not to apply it to cardboard directly, since it will absorb too much. 

Solid paint swatches, on the other hand, are thick cuts of paper in rectangular or square shapes that represent a given paint color.

These are usually either available in palettes in graduated form or loose sheets.

Liquid paint samples will let you use disposable foam rollers or brushes to apply the paint to a surface. This way, you can get a good idea of the paint’s texture as well.

You can make a coverage box using painter’s tape and keep the paint inside of the box as you apply the sample.

Using an eight-ounce paint sample, you’ll have 1/16th the volume of a gallon of paint.

Since a gallon of paint will usually cover 400 square feet, you can use an eight-ounce paint sample to cover as much as 25 square feet.

Be sure to read the tester’s instructions, since some paint samples will only cover about 16 square feet.

For applying paint to one wall, such as an accent wall, you can make a five-foot-by-five-foot square of a testing area to get a good idea.

To paint an entire room, it is a good idea to put the paint on all walls.

This is because the changes in natural light during the day and artificial light at night can change the appearance of the paint.

Having samples on all walls will let you get a better idea of what you’re looking at.

few ways to use paint color strips

How To Use Paint Color Strips – Peel & Stick

To use paint stripes, you will first find a color that you like and order the color chips.

Regular paint color strips tend to be too small to base the final color decisions upon, but they are good when you’re trying to really narrow down your options.

Choose a lot of paint colors that you like and that you think would look best with the interior design. Keep the ones that look like they fit in, and throw out those that don’t.

Attempt to figure out what it is you don’t like about certain colors, so you can make quicker work of going through the rest of them.

Where to Put Paint Samples to Help Make Your Color Decision?

Generally speaking, the best way to see if a paint color is going to work for you is to place it in as many areas as possible and spend a lot of time evaluating the appearance before committing.

If you don’t want to mess with painting over the sample paint on the wall, you can instead apply the paint sample to a white poster board. Specifically, a coated poster board works best.

You can pin the poster board to the wall and keep it there to get an idea of how it will look and decide if you like it.

Applying paint to the poster board this way will let you move the boards throughout the room to see how it appears in different light settings.

Below are a few additional places you can consider placing your paint samples to help you be sure the color looks at home in your space:

1 – Next to furniture and other home decor items you intend to keep to ensure the paint goes with it

2 – Next to trim colors

3 – Near cabinets, such as in the kitchen

4 – Against the tile or stone in your home

5 – In different lighting environments, such as natural light by a window or in artificial lights at night

The Bottom Line

Swatches are small pieces of paper or cardstock that have been coated with the paint color.

They are usually hung up in paint stores, are available for free, and can be incredibly helpful when trying to choose a new color for your home.

Liquid versions of paint samples are also available and can be useful when trying to get a sense of how the paint will look in a particular light.

However, it’s important to remember that the paint will dry slightly lighter than it appears in the tester so take this into account when making your final decision.

No matter what you pick, always test the paint in your space before making a purchase to ensure you’re happy with the color.

And, when in doubt, ask for help from a professional! They can offer guidance and suggestions to help you get the perfect color for your home.

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