3 Ways to Color Match Paint—Plus, How to Identify Its Finish

These color matching techniques take the guesswork out of identifying your paint color.

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Woman choosing paint color
Photo: Klaus Vedfelt / GETTY IMAGES

Whether you've lived in your home for years or you're moving into a new space in need of a revamp, a fresh coat of paint can make any room in your home feel like new. If you like the current color of your walls but you're not sure what the hue is, you don't need to forgo the color altogether. Instead, try color matching. Color matching helps to identify a specific paint color and is commonly used during home renovations when people want to touch up an old paint job or use an existing color in another room.

How to Color Match Paint

There are a few different color matching methods to choose from and each is an effective way to find the paint color you're looking for.

Wall Chip

One easy way to find an exact match to your current paint color is to remove a chip from your wall and bring it to your local paint store or home center. Take the chip from a low-visibility spot, like behind an electrical outlet cover. "Simply remove the cover and use a utility knife to gently cut out a small piece of dried paint," says Sara McLean, color expert and stylist at Dunn-Edwards. "Bring this color chip into a paint store, which will have the technology to determine the exact color match."

Paint Sample

Color samples are also an effective way for finding a true match for touch-ups, entire walls, or other projects. "If you're trying to match a specific color, gather a selection of paint samples close to the hue and take them home to paint on the surface of the color you want to duplicate," says Erika Woelfel, vice president of color and creative services at Behr. "Observe the samples in multiple lights and determine which sample matches best."


A handful of paint brands have virtual tools that allow homeowners to track down their desired paint color. "Color matching apps provide fast color matches from top paint brands. BEHR's Color Smart, for example, allows users to color match by uploading a photo or taking a picture directly from the app," says Woelfel. "The app will then analyze the photo to determine the color from the brand that best matches." Keep in mind that light, texture, and the variations on phone screens may impact the results.

How to Identify the Paint's Finish

A paint's finish, or sheen, is different than its color and refers to the reflective shine on the surface of paint. "You can figure out what type of sheen your paint has by how much shine or light is reflected from the surface," says Julie Fisher, product manager of Dutch Boy Paints. "We usually see the gloss or sheen increase as you move up from flat, eggshell, satin, semi-gloss to gloss.

Touching the wall may help you determine what sheen your paint has. "Does it feel dry, or matte, or more smooth? Does it appear shiny at all?" says McLean. Additionally, what room the paint is in will help you determine what sheen you have. For example, the paint in your bathroom—where humidity is common—may have a higher sheen than the paint in your living room. On the other hand, flat paints are more durable and touch-up better, so they're commonly found in busy areas of the home, like the family room or dining room.

Test the Paint

Once you've found your color match, you should test the paint against your current color before painting the entire surface. "It is not recommended to test paint with a small patch, as they do not have enough surface area to see enough of the undertones," says Woelfel. "Painting a minimum 12 foot by 12 foot square will provide a clearer picture of what the room will look like once the painting project is completed."

Leave the patch up until you've seen it throughout various times of day and have tested it against different lighting arrangements. "When there's a lot of light in a room, colors appear more vibrant and saturated," says Woelfel. "When there's less light and a room is darker, colors can appear darker and lose their intensity." What looks like the perfect match in the morning, may not be the right fit in the evening.

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