When Paint Color Matching Goes Wrong

created on: 01/06/09

Think that if you take a paint chip into your big box or hardware store they'll always match it correctly? Wrong. I found this out the hard way last week when I handed over a paint strip containing Benjamin Moore's lovely Silver Fox to the paint mixer dude at my local big box store, indicating the color I wanted. While she was doing the deed, I ran a few aisles over for spackle. When I returned, the mixed paint was ready. The paint-mixer person put a smudge of the newly-mixed Pittsburgh (Grand Distinction) paint on the Silver Fox portion of my paint strip and dried it with a blow drier. Under the ghastly lights overhead, it looked fine. 

When I returned home and started painting, things went from 'fine' to what the 'f&%#?'. Since paint dries darker, I waited, cheering it on. Ultimately, I realized this was not the color I picked. It was much lighter; it had no depth. Did I indicate the wrong color? Since there was no such color represented on the strip, the answer to that question was 'no'.

I took the offending can of paint back to the retailer. What up? they asked. That's what I'd like to know, I answered. This is what I found out: Apparently, some paint manufacturers supply color mix ratios for the colors of other paint manufacturers. The paint mixer dude simply enters the brand and name of the color--in this case Benjamin Moore & Silver Fox--into their computer and out pops the secret formula. Unfortunately, Pittsburgh had the mix wrong and I wound up with too light paint. The retailer graciously offered to re-mix the paint for free. Of course, they entered the brand and name again, which produced the same mix ratios. I declined that recipe and asked that they color match the old optical way. This time the interpretation added much more black and a smidgen of red. Already, I felt better. They mixed with the new, non-Pittsburgh formula, and voila, a perfect match.

created on: 01/06/09

So, the moral of the story for me is never trust the supplied color formulas when it comes to color matching. The optical decipher-er deal has never let me down yet. And it didn’t this time either.

P.S. A note about Benjamin Moore versus Pittsburgh's Grand Distinction paints. The latter is about 10 bucks cheaper than the former and rivals it in quality.

Tagged: , ,

View/Add Comments (16)


(2000 character limit)

Melissa on Mar 05, 2019:

Let me help explain.......Benjamin Moore manufactures their own colorants, called Gennex colorants. All other paint manufacturers use a universal colorant system. Benjamin Moore colorants cannot be matched with 100% authenticity because no one else has the Gennex colorant system. If you like a Benjamin Moore color, save yourself the time and gas money having to go back and forth to hope someone can match it by eye. Get the real thing, get the authentic color you love. That goes for other brands too. If you like a Behr color, save yourself some trouble. Get Behr paint.
One other point, all paints are not created equal. There's a very good reason some brands are more expensive and it's called raw materials.....titanium dioxide, resins, additives, etc. Why do you care? Because higher quality ingredients matter. Do your walls get dirty from kids/pets and you need to be able to scrub your walls? Does it matter if you wipe the wall and paint comes off on your rag? Only one example of why you get what you pay for with paint......a $50-$60 gallon of paint is the difference in repainting in one year or in 10 years. The choice seems clear to me.

Brad on Jul 19, 2016:

I took a painted 2x2" chip from my drywall to four different stores, because they kept getting it wrong. I left it up to the clerk at each store to pick the paint and method of matching.

Lowes, The Home Depot, Walmart, and Sherwin Williams all got it wrong. Maybe my color, an off-beige tint, is the problem. I don't know.

I ended up painting several walls with a different standard color, with the same paint from the same store. I'm inclined to believe that there is no way to actually get an exact match.

Anonymous on Jan 14, 2015:

Hi gang

If possible, I have them put the formula label on the BOTTOM of the can where it won't get painted accidentally.

DIY Maven on Apr 27, 2010:

I hear you there, Ernie. We have Benjamin Moore eggshell in several rooms in our home and it does wipe off if I have to attend to a smudge. We used Behr in our kitchen just a few months ago and the finish is great, BUT it's satin. All in all, flat and eggshell seem to be tricky, wearability wise. It's a shame because I prefer those finishes. Pittsburgh is really good paint, so I always give it a shout out when the topic comes up :)

Ernie on Apr 27, 2010:

Well Mavin we'l have to agree to disagree on a couple of things.

First I referenced Ben Moore only because it probably has the most top of mind awareness for brand recall. Sad for Ben Moore they didn't even make Consumer Reports list of top 10 for value or quality.

Secondly, while I can't comment on Pittsburgh because I never used the brand, I can comment on Behr. I used their paint twice and loved it both in our Master Bedroom and Bath.  Both  times were over 4 years ago. About a year and a half ago however I used it on our Kitchen addition. I did my usual two coats over  half tinted primer. The paint was terrible.

Although doing a light sagey green It would have required two coats even it I didn't do that as a norm. Coverage was terrible, wearability was worse and even though I used their premium flat, as I did in our Master Bedroom. Unlike flat's from other brands  there's no cleaning it. Once it dryed you could see where it was wiped off.  NOT GOOD


DIY Maven on Apr 26, 2010:

Great info Ernie. I'll stick to my moral, however. I've never had an issue with color matching, so that's what I'll stick to when faced with a similar situation in the future. I love shopping neighborhood stores but 20 bucks difference per gallon can add up quickly. I've used a lot of different brands of paint. And, yes, some of those big box store paints are pretty bad, but some, like Pittsburg and Behr are very good and rival those such as Benjamin Moore IMO. As for the paint dude re-tinting the paint, there was too much out of the bucket. (I painted half a wall or more; only as it dried did I realize it wasn't going to darken enough.) Cudos to them, however, for replacing the entire bucket of paint. 

Ernie on Apr 26, 2010:

A good example would be when the paint was brought back. Had the clerk received proper training they could have done a quick adjustment to the existing gallon to bring it to where it needed to be VS having to go through the process of tinting a second gallon only after computerized matching.

The MORAL to the story.,,,,,, Go to local paint stores .... not big box houses when you want quality paint, exceptional service and personnel with knowledge


Sorry for the 3 parter... word count got me

Ernie on Apr 26, 2010:

#3 Most bases are blocked. That means there is a drop or two of blue or black in there. So this also will throw off a color

#4 I always match paint by eye, under 5200K, true day light, light temperature bulbs in order to get true color match.

#5 While the comouterized optical match isn't bad I've seen it as much as 4 shades off depending upon the corruption of the sample.  Corruption: Old paint with patena, paint not mixed to true color, paint to reflective or not reflective enough or lazy clerk that didn't calabrate the reader.

Then too the machine doesn't always account for the difference in base or the blocking.

#6 By far the most attention to detail is paid by the well trained personnel you will find at the small independent paint stores who specialze in paint and paint products - not the big box houses who are more concerned in qualtity than they are in quality and in all of the cases I've encountered have received minimum training on how to push the right buttons and can't color correct errors nor do they care to.


Ernie on Apr 26, 2010:

There are a few interesting points that need to be cleared up.

#1 With rare exception the paint chip cards for all paint are made by the same company, not the company that makes the paint. They purchase the fandecks and the rights to the formulas and then name them whatever they wish.

#2 There can be a variance of 2 shades either side of the paint color on the chip. Most people don't have color vision such that they can detect a 2 shade difference. The reason. The paint chip cards are done with a printing process not actually paint.  Also the paint bases vary in the amount of white pigment from manufacturer to manufacturer. SO a BM pastel base may have more or less white in it than any other one.




scott on Jan 25, 2010:

I'm glad the paint guy stood behind his product and corrected the problem for you.

If you get a "dry down" in a paint store, make sure its on a piece of printer paper, 

that way you can hold it up to the light and make sure its opaque.

It should dry down faster on the normal paper, too.

DIY Maven on Jan 07, 2009:

MHET--glad it worked. Like I said in the post, I've never had a problem before. Hope I never have one again.

ModHomeEcTeacher on Jan 07, 2009:

I found the OLD can of Porter paint I had painted my stairwell with. Took it in to be matched. The guy at Porter suggested we try to resurrect the old remains since they've changed colors. It looked like gray cottage cheese--awful. He must have been their paint guru because he went through a process to match it that was almost perfect. He was matching to a piece of the drywall that I had cut out for a drywall repair column. Anyway, when you get the right guy who loves paint, you're golden.

kodia on Jan 06, 2009:

There may actually be another issue. Read my blog post about color metamerism:

ModHomeEcTeacher on Jan 06, 2009:

I'm taking a sliver of drywall with paint color on it right now into be matched.  We'll see.

DIY Maven on Jan 06, 2009:

Yes! They always put the formula they've used (even if it's wrong!) on a sticker on the top of the paint can. I like to put a piece of clear mailing tape over it to keep it clean. Paint wipes off the tape, which keeps the label underneath legible.

dewonangus on Jan 06, 2009:

Interesting!  I've had good success with matching Benjamin Moore colours, but I have always used Behr paint.  I find their flat paint very forgiving and very washable (helps on the white trims).  The only time I've run into a problem was buying the some colour about a year later ... BM had changed their formulas on the same colour!  The message here is to keep a copy of the formula.  Thanks for the heads up.

All comments
Comments RSS