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Will the Paint Color I Choose Appear Lighter or Darker than it does on the Swatch?

Posted by Nolan Painting on December 10, 2020
paint buckets and color swatches

My Most Commonly Asked Question as a Color Consultant

Q: Will the color I choose appear lighter or darker than it does on the paper color swatch?

A: The basic answer is neither.  If mixed properly, the paint color applied to a surface should remain true to the color swatch.  However, there are environmental and psychological factors that play into changing what is “true” to “how something appears”. Check out what can affect your paint color below and contact us today for more information on how we can give your home the look you want!

Choose Colors Based on Room Lighting

You may be wondering why does lighting effect paint colors? The type of light and quantity of light — natural light, incandescent, florescent, halogen, and LED lighting — all will change the way a color appears in a room.  Some lighting will cast yellow tones, while others will cast blue tones.  Choosing a color in the room’s lighting is key in color selection.

The types of paint finishes you choose also has an effect on the color.

• Flat has a chalky appearance in finish, absorbs light, and can make a color look slightly lighter.

• Semi-gloss/gloss will make a color look darker. The sheen will reflect the light, causing the color to be darker.

• Matte or eggshell usually the most true to color when considering finish.  It neither reflects nor absorbs the light. It does not have the chalky appearance of a flat nor the sheen of a semi-gloss.

• Caption has the same color different sheen.


Our eyes can play tricks on us.  The scientific word for this is metamerism. Metamerism is a psychophysical phenomenon in which colors look different under differing circumstances. When selecting paint colors, we automatically compare a color to those that it is next to on a color chart. Looking at a color individually either by paint sampling or large single swatches will give a more true impression of a color and it’s value.

We also psychologically compare a color to what the wall is currently. Hold a paint chip up against a red or yellow wall, and the color will automatically change to your eye; yet another effect of metamorphism. Looking at a color against a white background, or against your trim color, will give you the truest representation of your color selection.

• Below Caption: Sherwin Williams Sea Salt, and how it relates to the other colors on the paint swatch chart.

Grey color swathes

• Below Caption: SW Sea Salt alone.

Sherwin Williams Sea Salt color


How A Color Consultant Can Help

Deciding how to choose the right paint color can feel a little daunting. Turn to your local Philadelphia area trusted expert color consultants at Nolan Painting. Our Color Consultants have been expertly trained to select compatible colors for your home that match your style. You won’t have to wonder if the paint color will match the swatch when it is applied. Contact us today and let us ensure you get the right interior paint color for your home.