I'm trying to paint a mural on my child's nursery wall. I created exactly what I want in Photoshop and now want to get the right paint colors. I found paint colors that match close for some of the colors, but most of them don't have a color anywhere close. How can I order just the right color to match my mockup?

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  • VTC as a shopping question, but most paint stores should be able to match most any color
    – mmathis
    May 16 '17 at 14:56
  • @mmathis that is rather dismissive of the complex science of color matching. We've had a few very good answers which are not about shopping at all, Q.E.D. May 16 '17 at 17:23
  • @Harper and that's why multiple votes are needed to close a question. Thanks for toning down your initial comment, too.
    – mmathis
    May 16 '17 at 17:27
  • @mmathis As well I should've, thanks for being understanding. May 16 '17 at 20:55

Color is more complicated than you think. Right off the bat, those RGB # colors are made by adding light sources. That does not map well to how paint works, which is selectively reflecting certain hues of a natural or artificial light source.**. At the very least, you must get into the ink-based CMYK system, and photoshop can do that at least.

And even then, the lush, rich colors that work so well on RGB screens have a funny way of going "out of gamut" for the paint matching system. It's not necessarily even being outside the scanner's range; I often find it's because they can't fit enough pigment into the paint can.

Mind you, paint is matched by scanning your sample which must be on a fixed medium like paper, metal, etc. And paint is not CMYK, there are actually about a dozen pigments.

Your best option is to print this out on a color printer. Wrestle out all the stuff you have to do to get the printer to give you exactly the colors you want. Then create a new layer in the drawing and draw some squares or circles of your colors, about 3" across (75mm). Hide all the other layers and print that layer. Those will be the swatches the paint store will match with their digital scanner.

One other thing.. I see that two of your colors have goofy names like the paint companies like to use for swatches. I'm guessing they're exactly that. Expect considerable drift between the original swatch color and what comes out of your printer. That is one of the things you will have to compensate for.

Don't wear yourself out trying to make a perfect match, the eye can see very fine differences in color when laid side by side, and trying to get it perfect is hopeless. Ultimately what the printer prints out will be your canonical reference.

** did I mention light sources can differ and throw your colors off. I once heard about a restoration where the color research was top shelf, but the Smithsonian required a color that was very particularly incorrect. The issue was that the artifact was meant to be seen in daylight, but the lighting in the display area was not daylight color. The intentional color error compensated for this.


Ideally you'd work in the correct color space right from the start. Both Sherwin Williams and Benjamin Moore offer downloadable pallets for Photoshop and CAD programs. If the file is amenable to recoloring then switching may be the easiest route.

If you want something more generic then Pantone has a Home+Interior collection for color matching paints. (The original Pantone swatches are for ink.) The colors should be available at big box and major hardware chains, but I don't know if the collection is included in Photoshop. I would guess that it is.

  • That's a good idea, starting your work in gamuts you know you can make in paint. there is no need to limit oneself to swatch colors, if anything stay between swatch colors so you know you are in-gamut for the paint mixer. I'm just worried that the paint company supplied palettes may be unnecessarily desaturated (pastel), as they are aiming at architectural coatings. May 16 '17 at 17:15

If you have access to a high enough quality color printer just print out your mockup and bring it to the store. Most stores these days can match colors with a sample you provide.

  • Except choice of paper, printer quality, printer installation (loading or not loading the printer manufactures most current software/drivers) and ink-jet vs laser are among the reasons this won't work out as well as it sounds in one sentence.
    – Tyson
    May 16 '17 at 12:20
  • 1
    If a person makes a print, hangs it in the room, and is satisfied with the colors in context, there shouldn't be much of a concern.
    – isherwood
    May 16 '17 at 16:54
  • @Tyson it will work exactly this well. Because the paint scanners and matching systems at the store are quite good, and will correctly match what he has printed (if in gamut). The advice is correct that 90% of the challenge will be to get colors he's happy with out of a color printer. The other 10% will be not having that color be out-of-gamut for the paint mixer. May 16 '17 at 17:28
  • Yup that's my point, color never prints correctly easily. @matthews answer has a sure method tho, download the color palates from the paint manufacturers and match those to what he's used.
    – Tyson
    May 16 '17 at 17:44
  • 1
    You raise a good point that I forgot to mention in the comment. The color of room light will be different from desklight, and artificial room light at night will be a different color from daylight through windows. The light color will change the color the paint appears to be. An important step is to stick the color sample on the wall and look at it during the day and at night. You might want to tweak the color, or illuminate the painting on the wall with light that is white or daylight. But that's general guidance. The question is about a child's nursery, so maybe not critical.
    – fixer1234
    May 16 '17 at 21:31

Given the thousands of colors most paint stores offer, I'm surprised that you can't find any that are "anywhere close". I'd print your image and take it to the store. Bring home a handful of chips for each color in your print, and tack them to the wall to help decide.

I would be more confident of getting good results this way than ordering custom colors. You know what they'll look like in your light with a higher degree of certainty by using chips.

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