Painting? Get Your Sample On First

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My favourite HGTV personality, Sarah Richardson, has an unofficial motto: Sample Everything. (Coincidently, that’s also my motto when I go to a buffet.) What the talented Richardson means is that you should test your colours (paints, fabrics, tiles) in the actual room you intend to use them in before going whole hog because a colour can look completely different based on the various lighting conditions in the room. After all, what may look like a lovely pistachio and hazelnut in the store, might appear more like puke green and poop brown in your home (tip: if a colour can be compared to a body excrement, it’s not a shade you want on your walls) – and you really don’t want to discover that after you’ve painted an entire room, especially if you hate painting as much as I do. That’s when handy sample-size paints come into play.

Paint chips are nice, but they’re often far too small for you to get a good idea of how the paint will look in your space. To get a more accurate sense of how a colour will look, aim to paint at least a 1′ x 1′ patch.  If there’s a window in the room, try to paint this patch (or paint more than one) so that you can see what it looks like under both direct sunlight and shade. Take a look at it in the daytime with lights on and lights off, as well as in the evening. If you’re choosing fabric with your paint colour in mind, bring a sample of that into the room as well and see how they look together.

Many paint brands have become hip to the fact that people want to try out colours before committing to a gallon, so sample pots and jars are often able to be mixed – or are already on the shelf – usually for an inexpensive cost of $3 to $6 for an eight ounce sample. Do keep in mind that not all paints include a primer, so you may need to prime the patch of test wall as well.

Martha Stewart tintable testerI recently bought a couple shades of the Martha Stewart Living pre-packaged sample paints from Home Depot. An eight ounce container was enough to cover a 4′ x 4′ square with one coat or a 2′ x 2′ square with two coats. At first I was delighted and surprised that Martha included a hidden shiv applicator brush connected inside the cap, however, because the applicator brush was completely submerged in the paint, gravity went to work and the paint dripped down the brush’s handle. If you do use this paint, do yourself a favour and dump it into tray and use a regular brush to apply it to the wall (unless you also intend to paint the floor).

For just a couple extra bucks and one extra trip to the paint store, you can be confident in your colour choice. And a bonus? These paint samples are great for little projects too – like painting a picture frame, creating your own matches-the-room-perfectly artwork or causing mischief around the neighbourhood.

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About Jen

Jen (but never “Jenn”) Byck, aka the Fix'n Vixen, is a Toronto-based freelance writer and communication consultant who is undoubtedly home fixated (she is also TV fixated, really bad TV fixated and donut fixated). Her approach to home improvement has been rather trial and error, the latter of which is evidenced by the amount of spackle she buys on an annual basis.

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