Paint samples… money savers or wasters?

>> 9.24.2009

I alluded to the painting problems I’ve been having recently in my home as well as mentioned a quick, money saving fix I made the other day… so as you can guess, it has been a painting mess around here! I’m excited how things are turning out now, but I’m wondering if I took the thriftiest route to get where I am.

In the past, I’ve hopped over to the “Oops” (or ‘opps’ as they spelled it in my Home Depot) paint section and bought a gallon or so of any color that sparked my interest. With the new house, I decided that it was time to go the grown-up route and choose coordinating colors that flowed though out the house. This task was a little more difficult than I expected it to be! I wanted to go with grey tones, but I didn’t realize all of the choices that I would have…
With chips scattered across the living room and being unsure of the difference between Smooth Stone or Silver Drop, I decided to go ahead and grab some testers…

Two trips to HD later, I did find out that the darkest was too dark, but I also found out that Smooth Stone and Silver Drop were basically the same color. I ended up picking both, but after spending as much in samples (at $3, those babies add up!) as I would have in a gallon of paint, I can’t help but wonder if buying them was ever a necessary step.

So, what are your thoughts on paint samples? Is it enough to just hang a chip up on the wall or are they worth shelling out the cash for?


The Brick Cottage September 24, 2009 at 9:51 AM  

I say you've got to shell out the cash for them. We got *really* lucky when we bought a 5 gallon bucket of paint for our living room, dining room and part of the kitchen. But since we were having to offset some blue tile in the kitchen (which is visible in all 3 rooms), we were limited in our choices and after looking at the chips we were confident in our choice. And we liked the color so much that we painted our hallway and guest bedroom that color as well. High on our previous success, I used the same technique in painting the office. Big mistake! It looks like a nursery (and I am not about to repaint it any time soon). Learning from that mistake we bought a paint sample for our bedroom. Am I glad that I didn't paint the whole room--it was a terrible pick. We found the right shade using paint samples. Long story longer, sometimes you really need to see a large patch painted on your wall to really get a sense of what the paint will look like in your room. In the end it will save you money and time from having to re paint the room.

change is a good thing September 24, 2009 at 10:12 AM  

We are getting ready to paint this weekend and I'm not sure yet what we will do. We're going to start with the 2 bedrooms so that we can get them done and get the new carpet installed, hopefully next week. We'll have to paint the entire unit eventually, but we're going to start with the bedrooms and then figure out the kitchen remodel before painting. I'll keep you posted. We're looking at grey tones for the bedrooms too. :)

Meg September 24, 2009 at 10:20 AM  

Amen to this post. I'm looking for a light khacki and white for a horizontal stripes wall, and I'm now completely confused and wondering how to know what the 'right' shade of white and beige are. And then on top of that, I heard a radio ad saying there are 2,800 shades of beige for sale in America. No wonder we're all scratching our heads!

I can see the good and the bad. Sometimes when you just go for it, it works, but plenty of times, the paint looks TOTALLY different on the chip than on the entire wall. So you could potentially be saving yourself time AND money!

ashley morgan September 24, 2009 at 11:06 AM  

We're in the middle of painting too, and we're also going with grays (and blues) throughout the house. We chose a medium gray for 3 of the bedrooms, a light gray for the 4th since it has only one window whereas the others have 2, and a very dark gray for the dining room since most of it will be white wainscoting.
We bought all three grays without testing first, and they turned out great. But I had a wild moment where I thought we'd try a very bright peacock blue for one of the rooms, and thank God we bought a tester, because it was horrible!
Good luck!

Kasey at Thrifty Little Blog September 24, 2009 at 11:39 AM  

I'm happy to hear so many people are hopping on the grey train with me :)

Do you think that maybe the samples work best for drastic color changes, where chips are okay for more popular neutrals?

Danielle and Clint September 24, 2009 at 12:37 PM  

They can add up, but honestly, if you are looking for a certain look for a room, I think it's worth investing.

Kim at Yellow Brick Home September 24, 2009 at 12:58 PM  

Wow, we ended up with Smooth Stone for the makeover we're working on for our friend Renee! I'm excited to see how yours will look!

Laurel @ Ducks in a Row September 24, 2009 at 2:24 PM  

It only takes one time to paint a room that wasn't exactly what you wanted to hate painting. I ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS get the paint samples - it's worth the $ to make sure you get it how you want it. PS - I am extremely picky about color though.

Kerry September 24, 2009 at 4:29 PM  

Great topic! Before reading all these comments, I'd have probably said testers were just a waste of money. I'm not quite ready to paint yet (soon!), but now I think I've been convinced. With an entire house to (eventually) paint, there's NO way I want to have to repaint a room I'd just painted.

Dani September 24, 2009 at 4:47 PM  

I hate the color we picked for our office. it's too light/not enough grey. I wish we had a sample before we painted all that paneling. Because now I have to re-do it and paneling is a major PAIN to paint! :(

Any tips on painting trim? I have to do that too... *sigh*

micah @ the yellow front door September 24, 2009 at 6:15 PM  

If you're even a little bit picky, I think paint samples are a must in most cases - even with neutral colors. It can look totally different on the wall than on the chip. It helps to see how it looks during different times of the day with the lighting in the room.

thereddeer September 24, 2009 at 7:26 PM  

I think they are worth it - we would of had some painting disasters without them. Sometimes the chips aren't quite right.

Jeremy from We Took the Bait September 25, 2009 at 1:05 AM  

I'm the lone dissenter on this one.

Though I can see the differences in a couple of the paints, they're all in the same ball park.

And, really, if I want to color the walls of the house cornflower, but the Depot is only carrying sky blue? I don't think the untrained eye can really pick up on the difference.

Perhaps I'm just bitter because I spent a day a few months back (at my wife's request) changing the color of the bedroom wall from "bakery box" to "skeleton key," and I honestly can't tell the difference.

I'm not so sure that she can, either.

change is a good thing September 25, 2009 at 10:03 AM  

Can you tell us the names of the colors left to right that are in your picture? We're going paint shopping this weekend and I'd love to know. Thanks! :)

Kasey at Thrifty Little Blog September 25, 2009 at 10:28 AM  

@Dani- The trim was the easy part! I just bought a gallon of Valspar's semi-gloss in 'Ultra White' right off of the shelf.

@Change is a good thing- I went for HD colors because they have Glidden pre-mixed paint (which has testers with built-in brushes). If I did it again, I would skip the built-in brushes and get the $3 sample pots plus brushes from the dollar store.

Anyways, here are the colors:
Glidden Wood Smoke
Behr Dolphin Fin
Behr Silver Drop
Glidden Pebble Grey
Glidden Cappuchino White (you can't see it very well in the picture)

I ended up going with Behr Silver Drop for my open concept living/ dining (it's a barely-there grey) and Glidden Smooth Stone (a earthy, more saturated grey) for the master bedroom.

I'm glad I tried a dark-dark, middle and a light so that I could see how they felt in my spaces. Really, each grey has a different tone so bringing home the chips first and taping them up on the walls eliminated a majority of them.

Sara @ Russet Street Reno September 25, 2009 at 3:53 PM  

I usually just stick to the little paint chips to make my decisions. I've been pretty lucky so far, but HD will also retint for you if it's too pastel, etc. I've definitely taken them up on that offer!

change is a good thing September 25, 2009 at 4:08 PM  

Thanks for the info, I greatly appreciate it! :) Look forward to seeing more of your progress! I'm going to try to remember to take the camera this weekend to get progress shots of our work. Have a great renovating weekend!

carrie @ brick city love September 28, 2009 at 11:40 AM  

I think testers are WELL worth the money.

When we were picking colors for our bedroom, I found them so helpful!! I tried 4 different beige/tans before deciding to switch to a gray/blue. Got another 5 testers and ended up love the one I was positive would look awful.

We ended up going with BM's Quiet Moments and LOVE it.

blackandtanandwhiteallover September 28, 2009 at 5:33 PM  

Paint testers are a MUST!! There is just no way to determine the impact a colour might have on a room by a 2" x 2" swatch on the wall...

That being said, it doesn't always simplify the matter. I just tried out 7 different whites throughout my house and still have no idea what is going on...

"Welcome to My Humble Ablog" September 30, 2009 at 4:19 PM  

I'd say buy the pints of paint and save the labor! The hubby and I were going for a drastic color for our living room (gray/blues). We tested our samples on white poster board then taped the board on to the wall and lived with it for several days. The paint choice was an easy one to make after we got to see it in different lighting.

Tran December 20, 2009 at 7:23 PM  

I used to think they were a waste of money until I painted my downstairs and it looked horrible with the fireplace and the furniture and totally different than it did on the paint swatch, after I bought several unreturnable gallons of it. I'll have to find another use for it. After that, I bought 2 samples and swore I would never make that mistake again. You just never know how paint will look next to certain objects in different lighting in your own home.

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