Dried paint can wind up looking a little different from the swatch you bought home from the store, and there are several reasons for this.
Quality paint shouldn’t dry lighter or darker than the color indicated on the label, however, the wet paint will look slightly different from the dried version.
Bear in mind that the swatch on the tin is the dried version, not the “wet” version.
Every paint contains a type of solvent, usually oil or water, and this evaporates as the paint dries. Once the solvent evaporates, the true color of the paint is unveiled.
All paints contain pigment, binders, and a solvent.
The pigment is what gives paint its color, and it’s made out of specific metal dust – for example, titanium dioxide for white paint or iron for red/orange paint.
The solvent is also a paint thinner, and this allows the paint to be applied evenly and dry in an appropriate amount of time.
However, the solvent may also distort the color of the paint while it’s wet.
This is caused by the particles of the water or oil solvent absorbing or refracting light, while also blocking light from getting to the pigment, making the paint appear darker than it actually is.
Once dry, the solvent will have evaporated and the pigment can absorb and reflect light to show its true color, which should resemble the swatch in the store.
Does paint dry darker or lighter?
Paint does not dry lighter or darker, though it can look darker than expected when wet. Then, once dry, it should dry to the color indicated on the label or color swatch.
If your paint looks darker or lighter than expected, and it’s completely dry, this is probably down to environmental factors, rather than the paint itself.
Why does my paint color look different on the wall?
The sheen of the paint
The sheen of the paint can be a massive factor. Paint comes in many different sheens, flat, matte, gloss, to name just a few. Each of these has different characteristics when they dry:
- Flat/Matte: Paint with a flat or matte finish has no luster or gloss whatsoever, and because of this it absorbs more light, and this makes it look lighter. The pigment is completely unhindered in flat paint, and, as a result, it has full access to the light.
- Eggshell: Eggshell has around 15% gloss, so it’s not as glossy as gloss paint, but not as flat as matte paint. Due to eggshell’s low sheen, it will also appear brighter than gloss or semi-gloss paints.
- Satin: Satin is similar to eggshell but has a higher gloss finish of around 40%. Gloss paints reflect more light, and the more light a paint reflects, the darker it will appear. So satin will appear darker than eggshell, but not quite as dark as gloss.
- Gloss: Gloss paint has a reflective shine, and this is due to an additive in the paint which makes it shinier. This makes glossy paint seem darker than it actually is, as the gloss refracts some of the light intended for the paint’s pigment. This means the pigment cannot absorb enough light and therefore appears darker.
Other colors in the room
Your paint can look different depending on the colors of surrounding items and furniture.
For example, if you have a lot of light colors in the room, and then paint your walls a slightly darker color, the light colors will create a more dramatic contrast.
Brighter colors reflect more light, while darker colors absorb more light, so lots of light colors in a room can make a darker shade appear much darker than it actually is.
The more different the colors are, the brighter a wall will appear. Whereas if you paint a wall red and you also have shades of orange and yellow in the room, it’ll make the wall appear darker, due to the colors being in similar positions on the color wheel.
Comparing New Paint vs. Old Paint
Paint will fade over time, with the pigments reacting with the environment.
Colors that are red or that have red undertones such as orange does, will fade more dramatically over time due to the iron used to make the pigment. These colors are also more susceptible to environmental damage as a result.
Sunlight will also fade your paint at a much quicker rate, so your paint will fade at a faster rate if the room gets a lot of sun.
When you repaint your walls, you’re likely painting over a faded wall, so the new color will automatically seem brighter and this could make it feel like a completely different color.
What do I do if my paint is too dark?
If you’ve painted your walls and the color is too dark, there are a few things you can do.
First, make sure that it really is too dark.
It may take a day or two to get used to a new wall color, and sometimes your furniture may make the color appear darker than it actually is.
If you’re still convinced that it’s too dark, you’ve got a few options:
- You can sponge on a lighter shade sparingly so the undercoat shows through.
- Apply a coat of color-wash, which consists of a slightly diluted top coat of a lighter color, a tinted glaze, or a lot of ‘picking up’ of the top color with a clean cloth as you paint.
- Use a fluffy roller, barely dipped in lighter paint, to delicately roll over the dark wall.
- Stencil a sweeping or repeat design over the dark wall in a light color or white to reflect more light.
- Use the ‘Bellagio’ technique, an application of light paint mixed with joint compound and applied over a base color to achieve a mottled plaster or fine stucco effect.
A high-quality paint should not appear different from the color specified on the tin, however, there are several other factors that can impact how your color looks after application – from the color of your furniture to the finish of the paint.