Have you ever painted something, and then felt like the color didn’t match up with the paint swatch from the paint store?
You’re not alone. A lot of people feel that way!
So, does paint darken as it dries? Does paint get lighter as it dries?
That is exactly what we’re here to find out today.
Spoiler Alert: Paint might appear to be lighter or darker than the hue on the color swatch due to several possible reasons, including the surrounding lighting, the gloss level of the paint you choose, the quality of the paint you choose, humidity, temperature, and the ambience of the area painted.
OK, now that I have sort of given it away, let’s dive into a deeper exploration of whether or not paint gets darker or lighter as it dries.
Are you ready?
All right, here we go!
Does Paint Get Lighter or Darker as It Dries?
Many latex, acrylic, and oil-based paints DO tend to darken as they dry, but as they fully cure, they should achieve the same hue as the one you chose on the color swatch.
Let me say, first, that this assumption is only valid when the paint has been properly made at the paint store, and thoroughly mixed to equally distribute its ingredients (base, solvent, binders, additives).
If the attendant at the paint store mixed the recipe incorrectly, or the paint isn’t mixed up thoroughly, you can’t really expect to achieve the intended color. Human errors matter!
However, as per the exploration of this article, there are various factors that can come into play.
And of course, every single painting scenario is unique, with its own distinct set of those possible factors. The possibilities for interference are actually endless.
But don’t get frightened. We have the answers to this! Continue reading and we’ll learn how to plan for and address the potentialities of each of these possible causes.
PRO TIP: It’s always best to test your paint on a small area first before committing to painting an entire wall or room. You can make a test spot on the wall you’ll be painting – or even do a test on a scrap of plywood, drywall, or other material on hand. Ideally, allow it to fully cure, so that you get an accurate representation of how the paint will turn out when the entire area is painted.
How Natural Lighting Affects Paint
Natural light can affect the way a paint color looks in a room. Natural light shining through your windows changes throughout the day as the sun moves along its course. If the room is facing north, light from the northern sky tends to add a hint of blue, which yields a pleasant, warm effect.
In comparison, southern-facing rooms receive more intense natural light, which tends to brighten rooms with a hint of yellow. Westward-facing rooms receive a warm, yellow/orange glow, especially in the evenings. And eastern-facing rooms experience added hues of green.
It’s good to consider these color-affecting effects when choosing your paint colors. Use them to your advantage to create the detailed ambiance you desire for your spaces!
Which Type of Artificial Lighting Is Best for Paint?
Of course, artificial lighting can also affect the appearance of your paint colors. It’s common for a home to have a mixture of fluorescent, LED, and incandescent lighting, each of which yields a different effect on paint.
Fluorescent bulbs produce little heat, and emit a cool, blue-toned light. You can use this type of lighting to accentuate cooler paint colors, like pastels, for instance.
Incandescent light bulbs typically produce a warm light with a bit of a yellow hue to it. This type of lighting will make deep, bright colors pop more intensely. They will also make cooler colors appear duller.
LED lights produce very little heat and emit brilliant, powerful lighting. I personally use LED lights all through my home and in my workshop. They are affordable, last for tens of thousands of hours, and really brighten up any environment.
PRO TIP: When you’re choosing which color of paint you want to use, consider the direction that the windows and doors in your room face. Think about the natural light hues that will affect the way your color appears. Think about which type of artificial lighting could accentuate your paint color to bring about the effects that will please you most.
Also, utilizing different types of lighting at different times of the day will create distinctly unique effects from the very same paint. Man, you’re smart!
Choose Your Paint’s Sheen Level Carefully
I’m sure that you already know that paints come in different sheen levels, like flat, eggshell, semi-gloss, and high gloss. Those sheen levels react to light differently, which directly affects the appearance of your paint.
For instance, flat paints typically appear soft and cloudy, and they tend to absorb light, which can make them look brighter. In comparison, semi-gloss or high gloss paints tend to reflect light away from them, which can make the paint appear darker.
I recommend choosing an egg shell sheen level if you truly want to have your paint appear as it does on the color swatch. Eggshell paints do not absorb as much light as flat paints, nor do they reflect as much light as glossy paints.
Choosing the Best Paint Color for Your Intended Applications
OK, now that we understand how artificial lighting, natural lighting, and the sheen of a given paint affects the appearance of its color, let’s dive into some practical tips that will help you to choose the best color of paint. Remember to enjoy the process. This should be an exciting time!
- Consider the furniture and decorations in the room you’ll be painting. You should choose a color that complements your existing color scheme in the room. Do a slow scan around the room, taking in all of the different hues. Let this simmer in your mind and help you determine the best color.
- This is your room and you’re allowed to choose how it makes you feel. So, make a conscious decision about how you want that room to make you and others feel when they walk into it. Think about the energy that a given color creates in your mind.
- Consider what the purpose of the room is. Will you be entertaining guests in this room, or just relaxing in the evening with your significant other? Is this a room that children will be hanging out in? Do you want the room to be enlivening or relaxing? Choose a color that vibes with your intended purpose!
Don’t try to cram too many colors into one room. It’s easier to make two colors work well together than to make five colors complement one another. So, keep your color palette simple and you’ll probably find a lot more satisfaction in the long run.
The Important Benefits of Purchasing High-Quality Paints
You know how I feel about cheap tools = No Good! Well, I feel the exact same way about paint. Painting is an amazing, cost-effective way to transform and protect large areas fast and easily.
I have been a painter for more than 30 years, and I still love achieving excellent results with sprayers, rollers, and brushes! So, please consider these valuable benefits of only buying high-quality paints.
- High-quality paints from reputable manufacturers have superb self-leveling abilities, meaning they apply efficiently. Brush and roller marks will naturally even out, yielding a silky, consistent finish.
- Dollar store paint is watery and made with poor-quality pigments, bases, and solvents. High-quality paints are thick, loaded with excellent ingredients that resist spattering. A single heavy coat provides amazing coverage and protection, while also reducing paint flecking and workspace mess.
- The best interior paints provide superior concealment of subsurface flaws and imperfections. This can go a long way toward covering up any subpar results achieved when finishing drywall (a common issue with DIYers). Quality paint smooths out those imperfections far better than cheapo paint can.
- Sourcing your paint from reputable manufacturers ensures that you can perform effective, seamless touchups when needed. You can be sure of the same gloss and color, even years later, as long as that particular hue hasn’t been discontinued.
But that’s not all. High-quality paints are far more resistant to fading than cheap paints are. They will maintain their vibrant, fresh appearance much longer than low-quality paints can.
Plus, they’re able to be washed, even scrubbed, to keep them clean through the years. As many of you know, washing cheap paint, even gently, can remove it clear off the wall!
PRO TIP: Did you know that Benjamin Moore offers more than 3500 different paint colors? Plus, Sherwin-Williams offers more than 1700. It’s true and that’s a lot of color options!
My point here is that choosing a well-known and trusted manufacturer is important. If you purchase some cheap paint from a bargain store, you’re not going to enjoy the benefits linked to high-quality paint. And you won’t have nearly as many color options to choose from!
Paint Drying vs Paint Curing & How Color Is Affected
Paint drying refers to the process of the paint evaporating enough moisture so that it can be touched without sticking to your fingertip. Always follow directions on the product you’re using, but, typically, latex paint is dry enough to coat again within four to six hours.
Oil-based paint might take up to 24 hours. It all depends on your atmospheric conditions, including ventilation, humidity, and temperature.
Paint curing refers to the time it takes for paint to completely dry out, 100%, and develop its hard, protective characteristics. This process can take up to several weeks, depending on various different factors.
The true, lasting color of your paint will emerge as the paint fully cures. However, dry paint should be very close in color to that of fully cured paint.
Will Multiple Coats of Paint Get Continually Darker?
The quick answer here is no. Again, it’s vitally important to begin every painting project with high-quality paint. Top-quality paints contain significantly more pigment than low-quality paints do.
They are also made with other superior ingredients which allow them to adhere better, self-level, and create professional-grade products that cheap paints simply cannot.
You shouldn’t need more than two coats of paint when you’re using a high-quality product, especially if you used a quality subsurface primer before applying the first coat.
My Final Thoughts About Paint Getting Darker or Lighter as It Dries
Good paint doesn’t get any lighter or darker as it dries. It’s just a different shade when it’s applied wet because its solvent has not yet evaporated. Once the solvent evaporates and the paint becomes hardened, the finish should have the same color that you selected on the color swatch.
Remember to consider your natural and artificial lighting sources, the purpose of the area being painted, and the mood that you want that area to create for you and the visitors who enter. And once again, I cannot overstress the importance of using high-quality paint from a reputable manufacturer.
Thank you so much for reading along with me today, and I hope that you have gained a lot of valuable information to help you create higher quality finished results on your painting projects, now and in the future. Remember to enjoy the painting process!