Choosing the Paint Colour for Your Home
Vancouver’s Best Painters
We’ve all had customers who just could not decide on the colors they wanted for their paint job. Whether they had selected poorly in the past, then had to repaint, or just have difficulty visualizing how the sample chip would translate to space, too often the choice ends up being another off-white or beige room. Paint suppliers offer a number of sample harmony sheets to ensure the body, trim and accent colors match perfectly, but the difficulty still comes down to matching choices against furniture, fabrics, and accessories.
As a painter, I’ve generally left this choice to the customer. If the choices will definitely clash, I’ll say so, and suggest that sample areas be painted while the prep stage is in progress. For large jobs, this isn’t too difficult but, on small jobs, the back-and-forth can take up more time than it’s worth.
On a recent job, I decided it was time to upgrade my skill: set and look into virtual painting. I purchased the E3enja min Moore Personal Colour Viewer and started Colouring the digital photos of the customer’s house. Intrigued by the impossibilities (and also frustrated by the difficulty of achieving some of the effects I wanted), I googled color software to see what else was out there. As a working painter, I couldn’t and didn’t want to do a full Consumer Reports-style comparison, but here’s a broad breakdown of what I found.
The programs can be divided into two categories: basic program (most available online, some downloadable) or predefined sample photos of interiors. Advanced programs that allow you to input photos or graphs of your work site to see to the customer’s home. The basic level programs can be used by either the homeowner or the contractor but the advanced programs generally require a bit of learning correctly helps. Do you really want to cut out each space between stair rail spindles? Also, eliminating clutter in a room reduces your definition and erasing stages.
At the basic level, all programs are tied to the particular manufacturer’s paint palette, and offer sample photos for both interiors and exteriors, with wall trim and accent areas pre-defined. All are easy to use and pretty self-explanatory (just point and click on walls or trim, then on paint choices), but they are very limited in what you can do. You can test either the manufacturers suggested harmonies or your own color choices on a room that might resemble something you have. The results are only useful in defining a broad range of choices. Do you want a blue room, a green one, or a yellow one? If blue, do you want it bright blue, medium blue or subdued? There’s not much point investigating fine gradations of hue or tone.
Pittsburgh, Sherwin-Williams, and Benjamin Moore’s online versions are roughly equivalent in capability and ease of use. Sico has an online tool that is basically a teaser for its purchase version and doesn’t compare at all to the first three, which offer a broad selection of sample room styles and colors, and slightly more limited selections of exteriors. All allow you to print or save the chosen scheme. Sherwin-Williams has an extra feature: it lets you adjust the furniture colors as well. All sites offer educational tips on color theory, prep, and problem-solving.
I visited ICI, Dulux, PARA, Color Your World and Glidden, but found no online tools. General Paints does not have an online color chooser but plan to have one by next year. Glidden and CYW offer purchase versions.
If you want to offer your customer a truly personalized experience, the advanced programs are the way to go. You upload a digital photo of the space you are painting and define the walls, trim and accents using the program’s tools; and then colorize your choices. This way, your customer can see how the chosen scheme works with his or her own furniture, artwork, or collection of Wedgwood plates. Some are available to purchase on CD, or by download, or both.
One caution here: The colors will be the best representation that your computer and printer can give, and will not exactly match paint as applied to the wall. The best use of the program is to decide between broad color schemes. For a fail-safe job, actual paint tests are still required.
In general, the programs work by allowing you to define areas either as Base, Trim or Accent (there can be a number of different accent areas). You point and click around the perimeter of an area on the photo to define the desired area to paint. Furniture in the room makes life interesting. In order not to “paint” over an item, you need to cut them out of the area you define for the wall, in one of two ways. If you define your wall as one big rectangle, you then use the erase tool to cut out the couch from that area. You can also define the wall by clicking and dragging the outline around each and every corner of the couch, vase, etc. Once you have areas defined, you assign colors to them from the palettes.
Of the advanced programs, I tested only two. One single software provider is producing the virtual paint programs for many different manufacturers, so these programs tend to be similar. Your choice will likely depend more on the paint you usually use. Benjamin Moore Personal Colour Viewer 2.0 is one of this group, and the purchase program extends the easy user interface into the advanced level and has excellent tutorials. Home Hardware has one as advanced, but I didn’t get a chance to try it out. They print a good-looking report page with before‑and-after images and a list of all the colors in the design. In practical use, trial and error led to a couple of tips to make life easier. For instance, choosing your photo angle.
I figured out everything works best if you think of everything in the picture as a doughnut, or an object with a hole in it. Define outside edges of the wall first, then cut out the door at the trim edge. Use that whole space to define the door trim, then cut out the door. Lastly, use that cut out to define the door as an accent color, and cut out the windows. Colorcharts.org offers a far more complex program called Color By Numbers (CBN) Selector 3. Eventually, it would be the more potent option, but it seems to be intended more for professional designers than for paint contractors. The user interface offers far more tools than the Benny Moore and Home Hardware programs, including a color grabber to choose and match a particular color already in the photo. The most evident advantage of the CB N Selector is that it allows you to download and use over 90 separate manufacturers’ fan decks. The extra complexity means a longer learning curve from startup, however.
Similarly, the cash outlays differ. I bought the BIVI Personal Color Viewer retail for $19.95 US. The Canadian version is offered online at the same price. The US version is listed at $10 US a unit on CD or download. The Color By Numbers Selector is available for download and costs $24.99 US for a two-year license. Pittsburgh’s “Visions At A Glance” costs $10.99 US for download or on CD. Sico’s purchase version is available as a download for $11.95, and their CD is $16.95. Color Your World’s CD is $14.99. Glidden’s Color@Horne is the least expensive at $6.99. Sherwin-Williams doesn’t appear to offer a purchase version of its online tool, which it calls Color Visualizer.
How would you use this?
Lastly, though, there’s the issue of how to use this in the regular work. Is it a tool for getting work, for adding extra value to a job, or as an extra-price service? For salespeople already working from a laptop on calls, it could mean the difference between, “We’ll think about it” and “Where do we sign?” Complicated designs, though, would require a couple of hours’ work back at the office, and extra billing. As it is, each user will reinvent their own wheel learning the tricks and turns of the process. The program won’t fully substitute for a trained eye, but it can help eliminate bad judgment. As I men- toned above, it will still require a paint test once the final design is chosen, but, in my opinion, it will reduce or eliminate multiple tests.
There are a number of websites that offer online and for-purchase color choosers. Try the online versions first before you put your money down for a CD version.