When Choosing Your Paint Color… Don’t Get Fooled by the Color Names!

Anyone who’s ever picked up a paint color sample card from the paint store is likely familiar with the name associated with each paint chip.  Many people find these color names intriguing (as they were designed to be), but most people have no idea how much influence the color’s name has over their paint selection process.

Influenced by Paint Color Names

 A surprising number of people rely on the color names to give them important information about the paint color on the card.  In fact, in 2009, “Apartment Therapy” did a subscriber poll asking people if they ever chose a new paint color based on its name.  Of the respondents, 64% admitted to doing so at least “sometimes”!  As one of the contributors wrote, “With only a cursory look at the chips, we all voted for ‘Quiet Moments’.  We just couldn’t imagine sleeping in a room called ‘Arctic Gray’, although the color was really nice.” 

Of course, the paint named “Quiet Moments” is not actually made of any quiet moments… any more than there is anything arctic about the paint named “Arctic Gray”.  But obviously, these are not just arbitrarily chosen words appended to the card to help you remember which paint color is which… oh, no.  In reality, a paint company hires professional writers, Advertising Copywriters, and the like, to come up with meaningful, image-evoking, nostalgia-inducing, emotion-linked names in hopes that they will attract you to one of their colors. 

That’s right, the simple 1 to 3 word name inscribed in the corner of every paint chip, which is usually something like, “summer morn”, “evening kiss”, “sweet tomato”, or “harvest breeze”, is the product of a tremendous amount of time and energy on the behalf of any paint company.

The Paint Company Practice of Sample Card Marketing

The motive behind all this pretense is that paint color sample cards are used as a major marketing tool for paint companies.  Paint brands encourage you to collect their sample cards because doing so is just like taking a paint company brochure home with you.  It’s essentially free advertising, right in the customers’ hands!  The more color cards you have from a paint company — the more likely you are to buy one of their paints.  

The color names on these cards are a powerful use of a paint company’s marketing reach.  But in order for this advertising to work, the marketers have to give you a product message.  If an advertiser can connect a visual cue to an auditory stimulus that activates an emotional response, and then associate that response with their brand, then they have given you one complete marketing message — with every color! 

The Emotional Sway of Color Names

But here’s the part that hits home.  The survey results mentioned above only reveal the people that consciously and intentionally used the color’s name to make a color choice; we would suggest that — especially since the words are so emotionally linked — a much greater proportion of paint buyers have chosen a color, at least partially because of an impression made with this word association gimmick — even without realizing it.

So, perhaps we should make this point yet a little plainer.  The series of words used as the “name” for a color is completely non-descriptive of the actual color, and has basically been arbitrarily assigned.  This is more evident in names like “Long Vacation”, “Triumphant”, “Old Pickup”, and “Noteworthy Tone” which don’t even vaguely suggest a general hue.  Most likely, paint color names are generated by a team of writers (or perhaps a computer) that produces a list of words with proven emotional significance.  Those words are then assigned to a given color based on the general impressions of a creative team (who probably have advertising backgrounds).  So the names do not describe colors; they do not relate to the actual color they are attached to (at all, in some cases). 

To put it another way, when you choose an interior color because you like its name, please keep in mind that there is not actually going to be any “Summer Camp” in that bucket of paint; and nobody is going to walk into a room and feel like they’ve entered a “Mountain Resort” just because you chose to paint your wall that color; and you will likely never even remember that your hallway is supposed to feel like a “Festive Celebration” unless you actually paint that color’s name on the wall there (which would be really funny – please send me pictures if you do that!) 

Hey, It Happens to the Best of Us!

But don’t feel bad if you have caught yourself considering a color’s name a little too carefully, we know how easy it is to do.  In fact, I started researching this article after I realized I needed to start covering the color names on each sample card I showed to my girlfriend because she kept using the names to form opinions about the colors!  (“I don’t care if you dislike sun-dried tomatoes… what do you think of the colorsun-dried tomatoes’!?”) We have all caught ourselves being swayed by these catchy names, but it can be hard to separate a color from an impression you have formed about it.  Remaining objective is an important part of the formula for creating beautiful spaces in your home.

By the way, do you want to learn more about how paint company marketers influence your paint color decisions?

 If so, check out this blog post:  “How a Paint Company Lures You in with Their Color Wheel Display”

Or do you need to know exactly how to choose the best paint color for your home?

If so, this article will give you everything you need to know: “Best Paint Color Ideas”

Do you want to know how to save $1000s on paint and remodeling projects, pick perfect paint colors, design beautiful interiors, and increase your home’s value by 23% or more!?

If so, this will be exactly what you’ve been looking for: Paint Color Miracle ™ 


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How a Paint Company Lures You in with Their Color Wheel Display

Your average paint company knows that their most important advertising is done inside the paint retail location.  A brand’s paint color display (or color wheel) is its best tool to attract you to their paint.  How can a paint company use its own color wheel to lure you to their brand?  The answer is easy… color.  For centuries, advertisers have used bright, bold colors to focus the attention of customers on their brand.  The power of bright colors is evident in signs, logos, and almost every form of commercial marketing.  This fact is common knowledge, and yet it still comes as a surprise to many people that paint companies use these same tactics to draw your attention to their line of paint colors inside every home improvement store.

Using the Sample Card to Sell the Color Wheel

The Benjamin Moore Paint Color Wheel Display

Boldest Colors Front and Center in this Color Wheel

Of course, paint companies are a little sneakier than traditional marketers.  Paint brands know that when you are faced with an array of paint displays (such as in your local hardware/home improvement store), you are most likely to focus your attention on the color wheel display that most attracts your eye.  Since the marketers of paint brands understand the human (or perhaps, “animal”) attraction to bright colors, they know how important it is to include bright, bold colors in their paint lines and place them front and center in their displays.  This is the best way to attract your attention to a paint company’s color wheel.

So how does a paint company accomplish this color hypnosis of potential customers?  Well, it starts with the sample card.  Have you ever noticed how the brightest, most saturated color sample cards are always the first row you see in a paint display?  Well you guessed it… paint companies are playing with a loaded deck (of sample cards, that is)!

But a Bogus Sample Card Equals Bogus Paint Colors

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with stacking sample cards in the color wheel display so that the most attractive colors are the most visible.  The problem occurs because so many of those bold, dramatic, “attractive” colors are basically useless as paint colors in your home!

Bright, Bold Paint Color Wheel Display

Brightest Colors on Top in this Display

It’s funny, but many of the colors that a paint company puts in its line would never look good painted on any wall.  The colors are 100% used to grab your attention when you are perusing paint displays.  People are helplessly attracted to bright colors; they are much more eye-catching and far more interesting to our brains.

Sadly, not only are people more attracted to the paint color wheels because of these colors, but beginners are more likely to find one of these bright, saturated colors most attractive and end up choosing one as their new paint color.  Unfortunately, for most of the reasons discussed above, those colors look ridiculous painted on walls.

To be fair, when brighter colors are painted on smaller surfaces, such as in an accent color, on trim, on a partial wall, etc, they are far less offensive than when they cover a room.  But the brightest colors in the display — with the least amount of white, black, or gray mixed in — will rarely even work in these applications.

Obviously, when mistakes like this occur paint companies have nothing to lose.  Whenever people pick paint colors that they are unhappy with, the paint company does not have to refund the customers’ money.  In fact, no paint brand in the country will allow you to return paint once you have purchased it.  Even better (for the paint company), since the customer is unhappy with the paint color they chose, they are probably just going to buy a whole new batch of paints!

Designer Paint Color Wheels

Of course, there are a multitude of distorting factors making it difficult to pick paint colors that will end up looking attractive on your wall.  So, rather than filling the world with disgruntled customers, paint companies have offered the marketplace a basic solution to their problem of conflicting interests.  That solution is the designer, or “signature” brands that most paint companies now offer to accompany their primary brand.

Behr Paint Color Wheel Display

Behrs Paint Color Wheel Display

Valspar Paint, for instance, also produces paint branded as Laura Ashley, Eddie Bauer, Waverly, and more.  These separate lines, or collections, have their own color wheel displays and are usually available wherever the primary brand, Valspar in this case, are sold.  Other examples are Disney Paints, currently produced by Behr, and Ralph Lauren and Martha Stewart, formerly produced by Sherwin Williams.

By licensing these names, paint companies and retailers are taking advantage of the popularity of these well-known brands to attract you to these paints; that way they don’t have to use obnoxious colors to bring your attention to their color wheel.  If you look at the colors in these displays you will notice that they are generally missing those bright, saturated tones.  Instead, most of the colors are more neutralized.  Naturally, these colors are much more attractive to paint on a wall in your home.

Paying for a Brand Name Paint Color?

Designer Paint Company Color Wheel

Designer Paint Color Wheel Display

If you are worried about ending up with an ugly paint color, you may be somewhat safer utilizing one of these designer collections.  However, the color range offered by any one of these alternative brands is very limited and typically the whole line of hues is all neutralized to about the same tone.  This gives the smaller brand a nice consistent look, but it doesn’t allow for much variety.  Also, these signature paints are typically more expensive (often 50% more) despite the fact that you can get very similar colors from the primary “mother” brand for considerably less money.

Do you want to learn more about how paint company marketers influence your paint color decisions?

If so, check out this blog post:  Paint Company Color Names

Or do you need to know exactly how to adjust for the problems that overly bright/saturated paint colors cause?

If so, this article will give you everything you need to know: “Paint Companies Make 40% of Their Profits from Your Paint Color Mistakes!”

Do you want to know how to save $1000s on paint and remodeling projects, pick perfect paint colors, design beautiful interiors, and increase your home value 23% or more!?

If so, this will be exactly what you’ve been looking for: Paint Color Miracle ™

Posted in Best Paint Colors, Color Wheel, Interior Design, Paint Color, Paint Company Tricks | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

How the Light Sources in Your Home Stop You from Choosing Your Best Paint Colors: These 5 Ways

Many people have had the experience of carefully selecting the best paint colors for a room in their home, only to be disappointed with this color once it has been painted on the wall. This common phenomenon is inevitably the result of at least one of the numerous visual distortion factors that affect the human eye and alter our perception of colors throughout the paint selection process. Among the 11 Distortion Factors, the one that often has the most dramatic effect on your ability to successfully pick paint colors for a room is the Light Source Factor. Therefore, understanding how different sources of light behave in your home’s interior spaces is an important secret to picking your best paint colors.

The first point here is that the colors we see are actually just the result of light bouncing off of a surface and entering our retinas. When we see a piece of paper that looks yellow, what we are actually seeing is yellow light bouncing off of that piece of paper. That could be because the light source itself is yellow or because the piece of paper is yellow.

Also, light of a certain color tends to pull paint colors toward that end of the spectrum. We need not even worry about the actual color of objects, we should only be concerned about what color an object appears to be as a result of the light that is shining on it. We use various types of lighting to illuminate our homes and businesses, and each one has different effects on the colors around us.

Natural Day Light or Sunlight

Day Light from Sun

Day Light from Sun

Natural light, or the day light of the sun, is the purest light source (nearest to white) that most people ever see. It shines (somewhat equally) across the entire visible spectrum of light from violet to red (think of a prism). [see left]

The predominant color visible in sunlight goes from the high red end in the early morning, to the lower blue end of the spectrum at midday, and back toward reddish-orange in the evening.

The fluctuating effects of day light will cause a paint color to tend to look warmest around dawn and dusk, and appear its coolest and lightest when the sun is at its peak in the sky.

These effects of day light can be further accentuated if the sunlight is obscured by atmospheric conditions. Moisture in the sky in the evening and early morning, brought on by various weather systems, can cause an even redder hue as the sunlight is filtered more by the atmosphere.

Fluorescent Light Bulbs

Fluorescent Light Bulb

Visible Spectrum from Fluorescent Light Bulb

The wavelengths in the fluorescent light spectrum, unlike those in sunlight which cover the whole visible spectrum equally, spike very sharply between 490nm and 590nm. This means that almost all the glow from a fluorescent light bulb is green; there is very little light from the rest of the visible spectrum [see left].

This is a major factor in the paint color selection process. Colors will look very different in paint stores (typically lit by fluorescent light bulb) than they do at home. They have a greener tint, in addition to being lighter, in the store.

The traditional fluorescent light bulb has become much less common in new homes, even in kitchens and bathrooms. However, fluorescent light is quickly regaining popularity in the form of the Compact Fluorescent Light bulb (CFLs).

Incandescent Light Bulbs

EM Spectrum from Incandescent Light Bulb

Visible Spectrum from Incandescent Light Bulb

Incandescent lighting, the light produced by the standard, traditional light bulb, is still the most common type of light found in most rooms of a house.

Incandescent bulbs shine more evenly across a larger portion of the visible spectrum of light than fluorescent bulbs, but they still have a considerable increase in output toward the high end of the spectrum, actually reaching their highest point within the visible spectrum at 750nm, the very edge [see left].

However, light bulbs vary in their performance. GE’s Reveal bulb has a much less even distribution of light across its spectrum causing it to be noticeably redder than their Soft White bulbs [see above left].

Halogen Light Bulbs

EM Spectrum from Halogen Bulb

Visible Spectrum from Halogen Light Bulb

Halogen bulbs are most commonly used in floodlights, recessed (or can-) lights, spotlights, track-lights, pendant lights, bar-lights, etc.

Halogen’s peak light concentrations are at wavelengths of about 650nm, giving it a reddish hue just like incandescent light [see left].

650nm is not as far into the red end of the spectrum as the standard incandescent bulb, but the reddening effect is often more pronounced.

This is due to the fact that the halogen light bulb releases much less light throughout the rest of the spectrum, concentrating much more of its energy at this peak wavelength.

Xenon Light Bulbs

EM Spectrum from Xenon Bulb

Visible Spectrum from Xenon Light Bulb

Xenon lights are relatively rare in the home. They are available for some spotlight and track-light applications; but they are becoming increasingly popular as bar-lights, intended for use under kitchen cabinets to illuminate countertops.

Xenon light bulbs have a peak wavelength around 450nm putting them deep into the blue (almost violet) range [see left].

Like incandescent lights, Xenon bulbs emit light along a broader range of the visible spectrum.

They have less of a spike at any particular wavelength, and are typically less bright, than fluorescent lights. This means they tend to distort the colors around them less.

By the way, do you want to learn more about how light sources affect your paint colors?

 If so, check out this article:  Perceptual Distortions from Light Sources in Paint Colors

Do you want to know how to save $1000s on paint and remodeling projects, pick perfect paint colors, design beautiful interiors, and increase your home value 23% or more!?

If so, this may be exactly what you’ve been looking for: Paint Color Miracle (TM)

Posted in Best Paint Colors, Home Lighting, Interior Design, Paint Color, Paint Company Tricks | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

You Don’t Have to Waste Money on Premium Paint and Primer in One!

The “Paint and Primer in One” Buzz

You’ve seen it on TV, you’ve heard about it at the home improvement stores… high-end “paint and primer in one” products are available from many of the major paint companies.  They cost 20% to 60% more than the primary paint line and offer better coverage with less hassle – but are they worth the money, or is it just a clever way to get you, the consumer, to shell out a little more dough for a can of paint?

The most popular commercial is a Lowe’s advertisement where a young couple with a new house is desperately trying to paint over the bold green and white stripes left on the walls of their den by the previous resident.  This poor couple can’t understand why their new red paint won’t cover up those terrible stripes!  Luckily, the Lowe’s Paint-Counter Employee in the commercial is there to help…  She happily reassures the desperate couple that all they need to do is buy this slightly higher (priced) quality paint – which is available right there in the store – and all their problems will be solved… whew!


Behr and Valspar

That commercial is for Valspar’s Signature line of paint which is a “paint and primer in one” product just like Behr’s Premium Plus Ultra paint line.  These paints retail for $32 to $33 a gallon and claim to offer better coverage than standard paints.  But the standard paint lines only cost $21 to $23 per gallon.  That means the ultra paint line costs 45% to 55% more money.  So do the signature/ultra paint and primer in one lines really offer 50% better coverage?  And more important, is the amount of enhanced coverage worth the increased cost of paint?


Optimizing Your Primer

For starters, it may not always be necessary to use primer.  Applying a new coat of latex paint (water-based, most common today) over an existing coat of latex paint does not require primer.  At least, it’s not a physical requirement – in order to make the paint stick to the wall.  However, using a primer is a good idea in order to help with coverage issues.  In other words, putting down a coat of primer can help you cover the colors that are currently on a wall.  The trick is that you have to know how to “optimize” your primer. 

The secret here is something most professional painters don’t even realize, and paint retailers won’t tell you (especially now, with these high-priced premium paint lines on the market).  That secret is this… you can tint your standard primer to whatever color you are painting with!  That’s right, the common Kilz, Zinsser, or whatever off-the-shelf primer you want to use can be tinted to any color that your paint retailer sells… for free!  Plus, not only is primer cheaper than signature/ultra paint – it is cheaper than the standard paint lines!  A gallon of primer is typically $14 to $16 compared to $22 for standard paint and $33 for ultra.  Wherever you get your paint mixed, just ask the employee behind the counter to add your paint color to your can of primer and they will happily oblige; and it doesn’t cost a dime. 

Of course, there is a little bit more to it than that.  This is where optimizing your primer comes in.  It’s not always a good idea to tint your primer – for color coverage reasons.  It may actually be more effective to use a plain white primer to get the best paint color coverage.  It all depends on what color your wall is currently and what color you want to paint it. 

Knowing exactly when to tint your primer and when to use plain white is another matter.  If you’d like to read more about it maximizing your paint and primer coverage click here.  But for the purposes of this article, if you are using a lighter paint color than is on the wall, use white primer.  If you are painting with a darker color than is currently on the wall, get your primer tinted.  More often than not, it should be fairly obvious which option to choose for your situation.


Saving on the Cost of Paint 

As long as you make this decision correctly, thereby optimizing your primer, you will definitely save money by using a standard quality paint line.  If you begin by assuming that 2 coats of signature/ultra quality paint covers exactly as well as 3 coats of standard quality paint, then the price will be equivalent using either method.  However, since your 3 standard coats can include 1 coat of primer, and primer is significantly cheaper, you will definitely save money taking the traditional route.   

Plus, staying away from the “paint and primer in one” signature/ultra paint lines can save you a lot more money on bigger projects.  While primer by the gallon is about 35% cheaper than standard paint by the gallon, when you buy it by the 5-gallon bucket primer is about 50% the price of standard paint.  Furthermore, if you do get your primer tinted, you can apply 2 coats of tinted primer before your finish coats of paint.  This would save you substantially over the signature/ultra cost of paint. 

As it turns out, there are very few situations where you should opt to pay 50% more for paint and primer in one, when you can get regular primer tinted to your paint color for 50% less instead!


Do you want to learn more about how to save tons of money by avoiding the traps that paint company marketers set for you? 

If so, this article will give you everything you need to know: “Paint Companies Make 40% of Their Profits from Your Paint Color Mistakes!”


Or do you need to know more about how to use paint and primer most effectively

If so, check out this blog post:  “Minimize How Much Paint You Need by Maximizing Your Paint Color Coverage”


Do you want to know how to save $1000s on paint and remodeling projects, pick perfect paint colors, design beautiful interiors, and increase your home’s value by 23% or more!?

If so, this will be exactly what you’ve been looking for: Paint Color Miracle ™

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Minimize How Much Paint You Need by Maximizing Your Paint Color Coverage

How Much Paint You Really Need

How much paint you will need to satisfactorily complete a paint project is determined by 2 factors.  The first, “paint coverage”, is a familiar concept to most people.  It simply concerns the square footage of surface area to be painted, and “paint coverage calculators” abound on the web.  However, the second concept, “paint color coverage”, has a much more pronounced effect on how much paint will be needed and the cost of paint projects.  Unfortunately, “paint color coverage” is a novel concept to many painters and, in fact, is poorly understood even by many professionals.  Knowing the secrets of paint color coverage will allow you to reduce the number coats you have to apply and minimize how much paint you have to buy.

“Paint color coverage” refers to the fact that new coats of paint are always affected by the pre-existing colors on the surface before the fresh coats are applied.  This fact is unavoidable, but there are a few tricks that will help you overcome this problem and may save you hundreds on your next paint project.  These money-saving secrets relate to how you use your primer. 

Reasons to Use Primer with Paint

Primer plays 2 important roles in painting projects.  Firstly, if you are painting a wall that has never been painted (with water-based paint) before, primer will allow your new paint to stick (or “mechanically bond”) to the surface.  Since primer is typically not necessary if the wall has previously been painted, many people skip this step.  Unfortunately, doing so negates its 2nd (often, more valuable) role in color coverage.

There are 2 methods for using primer to aid in color coverage.  In the first case, when applying light color paint to a darker wall color, you can maximize your color coverage by applying a white primer coat before applying your new paint.  In the second case, when painting dark color paint onto a lighter wall color, maximize your color coverage by having your primer “tinted” the same color as your new paint.  Many people are surprised to learn that this is possible.  But the fact is, your local paint retailer will happily add any color they carry to any primer you want (thereby “tinting” it) for free!

Use Plain White Primer for Light Paint Colors

In our first case, if you decide to paint a wall in your house with a light yellow color, but the wall is currently a deep dark brown, you will go through bucket after bucket of paint trying to cover that brown, easily doing 4 – 6 coats or more.  But if you put down a coat of white primer first, you could be done after 2 coats of paint. 

The reasoning here is simple.  Every color in the visible spectrum can be assigned a number based on a luminosity scale (a scale from light to dark) from 0 to 9 where white is 0 and black is 9.  Now suppose that the brown you are trying to cover has a score of 8, and the yellow paint you want to apply has a 4. 

When you apply a coat of paint to a wall, it doesn’t fully cover the surface, so the new paint color essentially mixes with the color of the wall.  Suppose that mixing these 2 colors produces a new color that is essentially the average of the first 2, so the first coat of yellow over the brown will give you a color with a luminosity score of 6 (8+4=12, 12/2=6).  After that dries, adding another coat of yellow (score of 4) brings the color on the wall to a score of 5.

Like this, it will actually take quite a while to reach a number that is close enough to the yellow color you’ve chosen that you can’t tell any difference (and mathematically, you will never actually reach an average of 4!) 

However, if you put a coat of pure white primer (which has a score of 0) on top of the brown first, this immediately brings your luminosity score down to 4 (8 + 0 = 8/2 = 4, the average).  This means you may only need one coat of yellow paint to give you the right hue and saturation.  In reality of course, you will always want to do at least 2 coats.  But even with a total of 3 coats (primer and paint) you are way ahead of the paint-only option. 

Use Tinted Primer for Dark Paint Colors

In our second case, suppose you want to apply a deep, dark blue to a beige wall.  The good news is that it will be easier to darken a light color than it was to lighten a dark color.  In fact, it may only take 2 – 4 coats to get total color coverage in this scenario.  The bad news is that if you start out with a white primer you are already moving in the wrong direction.  Doing so could increase the number of paint coats you need to 3 – 6… plus the coat of primer!  That’s a lot of painting!

 Fortunately, you can always get your primer tinted for free.  Getting your primer colored the same as your paint will save you a coat of paint.  Of course, I always recommend doing a minimum of 2 coats of paint so that your finish sheen looks consistent.

Even if you don’t need to apply a coat of primer before your new coats of paint, doing so will always save you money.  Whether you use white or tinted primer, a coat of primer is always more cost effective for one simple reason: It is cheaper!  In fact, primer may cost as little as half as much as standard paint.  If you get it tinted the same as your paint, then it is cheaper by the coat.  If you use white, as in the first scenario above, it will also minimize the number of coats of paint you have to apply.  Either way it reduces how much paint you have to buy.

Do you want to learn more about how to save tons of money by avoiding the traps that paint company marketers set for you?

If so, this article will give you everything you need to know: “Paint Companies Make 40% of Their Profits from Your Paint Color Mistakes!” 

Or do you need to know more about how to use paint and primer most effectively

If so, check out this blog post:  “You Don’t Have to Waste Money on Premium Paint and Primer in One!

Do you want to know how to save $1000s on paint and remodeling projects, pick perfect paint colors, design beautiful interiors, and increase your home’s value by 23% or more!?

If so, this will be exactly what you’ve been looking for: Paint Color Miracle ™

Posted in Color Wheel, Interior Design, Paint and Primer, Paint Color, Paint Company Tricks | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment