8 Simple Steps on How to Match Paint Color That’s Already on Your Walls

When it comes to matching wall paint colors, you can’t rely on guesswork alone. Similar to the act of painting itself, there’s a skill to understanding how to replicate an existing paint color on your wall.

Repairing a wall can offer an excellent remedy for various household issues. It can cover the void left by a previously hung family photo, rectify a spot where a handyman had to access the wall to fix some outdated wiring, or address similar imperfections on your wall.

Nevertheless, after the repair, you may end up with a blemish that doesn’t blend with the original paint color you selected for your home.

Here are some tried-and-true techniques to transform a patch from an eyesore to virtually invisible by achieving a nearly perfect paint match.

What Does Paint Color Matching Entail?

Paint color matching involves the process of identifying a suitable match, or coming extremely close, to replicating the color on your wall or a piece of furniture using a new can of paint. This enables you to paint additional walls in the same shade, repair imperfections on your current wall, or align a table with another item of the identical color.

Numerous techniques are available for achieving color matching, yet the truth is that if you lack knowledge of the paint brand and the precise color, achieving a 100% spot-on match may prove challenging.

Various paint brands often utilize entirely distinct formulations for what appears to be a similar color, so a seemingly perfect match on paper may result in a completely different outcome when applied to the wall.

However, with the aid of sophisticated tools like spectrophotometers (though it’s a tongue twister), along with specialized paint color matching apps, achieving an impressively close match is attainable.

If coming very close isn’t your objective, you might contemplate repainting the entire room in a new color to achieve a fresh and updated appearance.

Preparing to Match Paint Color

Before you proceed with any of our paint color matching suggestions, it’s essential to take into account a few key details. These factors can influence how the color is perceived, both by the human eye and by color-matching tools:

Consider the Impact of Lighting

The lighting conditions can significantly alter our perception of color, primarily for two key reasons:

Certain colors, such as black, absorb light, while others, like white, do not. Adding to the complexity, blue absorbs red. This is why attempting to visually match paint colors can be extremely challenging. However, if you possess expertise in color theory, your chances of success may be improved.

The quality of natural light in a room can vary throughout the day. Typically, the most abundant natural light is around noon, while it’s diminished in the morning and early evening. Sunlight, as well as the introduction of artificial lighting, can both influence how a color appears on your wall.

When attempting to achieve a color match, it’s advisable to examine the wall or object under bright, natural light within the room. This provides the closest approximation to perceiving the color’s “true” shade.

Consider the Paint Finish

Take into account the paint sheen level present on your wall, which can be flat/matte, satin, eggshell, semi-gloss, or high-gloss. It’s important for your paint mixer to be aware of this as well. Matte finishes tend to absorb more light and maintain a more consistent appearance of the paint color, while glossier finishes reflect light.

Check for the Original Paint

If you have the unopened original paint can, you’re in a fortunate position. Latex and water-based paints, when unexposed to air, can typically remain viable for up to 10 years, while alkyd and oil-based paints may last as long as 15 years.

 If your paint falls within this safe time frame, open it and perform a quick test to ensure it hasn’t deteriorated. If it appears lumpy or grainy after stirring, it might be advisable to discard the old paint and acquire a fresh supply.

Even if your paint has gone bad, you can still employ the can as a reference when attempting to achieve a match at your nearby hardware store.

How to Match Paint

If you disposed of that old paint can during last year’s spring cleaning, consider using these techniques to discover a suitable paint color match that both you and your walls will approve of.

1. Retrieve a Sample from the Wall

In case you no longer have access to your old paint can, you can extract a small piece of drywall from a discreet location (e.g., behind the couch, near an outlet, in a closet) using a utility blade. After cutting the section, apply a joint drywall compound to cover the exposed area, and once it dries, sand it down.

Take the paint chip you obtained to your local paint or hardware store, where a professional can match it with the existing paint color on your wall. Typically, most paint shops and hardware stores require a minimum of a 1-inch square sample. Your paint expert will employ a spectrophotometer (a color-matching scanner) to analyze your specimen.

After that, all that remains is to purchase your color match and touch up your wall.

Note: If your walls are made of lath-and-plaster, this procedure can be a bit more intricate. Plaster is prone to crumbling, so consider using a jab saw to cut down to the lath and then carefully scrape away the plaster behind the paint. It’s advisable to lay down a tarp under your work area to minimize the cleanup required, as this can be a messy process!

This method is ideal for touch-up jobs that demand pinpoint accuracy in matching your existing wall color.

2. Temporarily Remove a Fixture

An alternative approach to matching the color is to temporarily detach an outlet cover or a vent that has been painted with the same shade as the wall, and then take it to a paint store. Ensure that you store any accompanying hardware, such as nails and screws, in a secure location to facilitate reinstallation.

This method is well-suited for touch-up tasks that demand achieving the utmost precision in matching your current wall color.

3. Utilize a Color-Matching App

Numerous prominent paint manufacturers provide apps designed to assist you in finding the perfect color for your wall. This method is significantly more convenient than repeatedly visiting the store to obtain and return paint chip samples.

However, it’s essential to acknowledge that the color may appear differently in person, influenced by your screen’s resolution, brightness, and other variables. To ensure the best results, capture the photo for the app under natural lighting conditions exclusively.

This approach is most suitable for painting an entire wall or another object based on a color match derived from an object, image, wall, or swatch.

4. Acquire a Color Sensor

    Today, you can find various color sensors available in the market. Many of them utilize Bluetooth® technology and your smartphone to compare a photo you upload with paint colors offered by multiple brands. These sensors have their light source to “read” the color, making them more reliable than using a photo taken with your phone.

    Additionally, many of these sensors are reasonably priced, with some costing as little as $50.

    A great advantage of many color sensors is that they often come with their dedicated apps. After you’ve scanned your paint sample and the sensor has interpreted the color, it will present you with numerous potential matches derived from its readings.

    Some sensors employ various categories or star ratings to signify how closely each color corresponds to the original one you scanned, giving you the autonomy to make the ultimate choice on which color to buy.

    Ideal for: Achieving the highest level of precision when matching colors from any object; designers seeking a versatile tool for multiple projects.

    5. Explore Your Closet

    When none of the previous options are feasible, consider searching your closet for a beloved t-shirt, sweater, towel, or any other household item that shares the same hue as your wall. You can take this item to the store, where a professional can employ a spectrophotometer to match the color accurately. If clothing doesn’t provide a suitable match, you can also consider using thread or nearly any other item with the desired color.

    This approach is most suitable for coordinating colors with furniture or accents and discovering a paint color that complements a beloved item.

    6. Paint Samples

    Store-bought paint chips offer the convenience of trying out multiple colors simultaneously to identify the closest match. You can leave these color chips up throughout the day to assess how well they match under various lighting conditions. The correct color should appear most similar to your wall’s shade under bright, natural light.

    Once you’ve narrowed down the options to the closest matches, you can purchase sample pots to paint a small section of your wall and pinpoint the perfect fit.

    This method is most effective when you are aware of the paint brand you already have.

    7. Capture a Photo

    Numerous smartphones are equipped with high-quality HD cameras capable of detecting subtle color variations. Take a photograph of your wall when it’s bathed in natural light and check if the paint store can employ a spectrophotometer to identify a match. While the match may not be flawless, it’s possible to come quite close. This method represents a step up from the “eyeballing” approach, which we’ll discuss shortly (although it probably doesn’t need any explanation).

    This approach is most suitable for approximating a match when painting an entire wall or object.

    8. Rely on Your Instinct (and Your Eyes)

    While not the most precise method for color matching, if you’re content with a “close enough” result, you can trust your own judgment and visually compare colors by browsing through paint swatches. This straightforward approach is useful for locating a color you’ve seen on an interior decorator’s Instagram account or one that your sibling used in their new bathroom.

    Many paint stores often receive vague or open-ended requests for colors, so it’s acceptable to describe the color you want as something like “a stormy night at sea” and see what paint samples they suggest. If you have a photo of the desired hue, that can be even more helpful.

    This method is best suited for approximating a match when painting an entire wall or object.

    Matching Paint: Additional Tips

    While attempting the methods mentioned above, consider these tips to maximize your chances of achieving the best possible match:

    Test the Paint: Prior to purchasing larger quantities and preparing the entire area, test the new paint on a small piece of wood and hold it up against the wall to evaluate how it appears.

    Opt for Natural, Bright Light: Ensure that the paint matching process takes place under natural, well-lit conditions to obtain the most accurate results.

    When you initially used a premium brand of paint, it’s advisable to continue with the same premium brand. Cheaper paints may lack the depth and richness that you desire for a consistent and high-quality finish.

    DIY vs. Hiring a Professional

    You can often get free or low-cost help with matching paint colors at your local paint store. After getting the color matched, you can choose to do the painting yourself or hire a professional. Keep in mind that some local painting companies may prefer certain paint brands or have a limited selection, so it’s important to ask about their preferences before buying a significant amount of paint.

    The average cost of hiring a professional to paint the interior of your house is around $2.75 per square foot. This expenditure can be justifiable if you lack the physical ability to do the painting yourself or if you require the project to be completed more quickly than you can manage on your own.