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I ran out of paint after the first coat. I had the paint custom made to match a specific color. I still had the numbers/code so I thought it would be easy to match. The sample the store put on top of the can sure looked like it would match, however after the paint dried it wasn't close to the sample on the can. I was expecting a burgundy, but instead it dried a pinkish color.

I double/triple checked that the numbers on the new can does indeed match the colors on the old can. The sample they put on top of the can does look correct, so I do not think that the store mixed the paint incorrectly. The paint is Sherwin Williams Satin, Deep Base from Lowes.

What can I do differently to help make the paint match better when I repaint next time?

Unfortunately I did not take a picture when it was completely dry. However it did not change much in color.

This is the color I was expecting: brown/burgundy triangle

This is the color I ended up with: enter image description here

  • 1
    Nice cornhole boards. Did you paint over the same base color in each case? – isherwood Jan 18 at 15:15
  • @isherwood Thanks. Yes, both boards are the same type of wood (birch), both were painted with the same primer. – Tom Jan 18 at 15:34
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    Bring both empty cans back to your Lowes and ask them about the difference. Most big box stores will do free replacements for situations like this. – dwizum Jan 18 at 21:12
  • @dwizum Your comment best resolved the issue. If you make it an answer I'll accept it. – Tom Jan 21 at 16:36
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Take the two empty cans back to the store and ask them for a refund or replacement. Most big box stores offer satisfaction guarantees and will replace mismatched paint; the policy is designed for situations like what you're describing.

Then, follow the excellent advice in the other answers:

  • Buy the whole quantity you'll need right up front, versus buying two cans in separate transactions.
  • Check the stamps on the two cans of paint prior to them being mixed to make sure they came from the same batch (not often an issue, but if the two cans came in different batches, they base sometimes won't exactly match, so it won't matter if the added coloring matches)
  • Mix from both cans as you paint, so you're evening out any differences
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The codes are nice, and they're usually pretty close. But, especially at the retail level, it's not an exact science. There can be variations even between buckets in the same purchase.

Based on advice from family who have worked as a painting contractors for decades...

When you buy paint, make sure to get enough for the entire job in one go. Make sure it's all the same base. I tend to go to dedicated paint stores rather then Lowes or Home Depot for significant jobs. That's where the pros go for a reason. They have better equipment & training and - in my experience - do a better job.

Mix well, scraping off the bottom - particularly if it's set awhile since the store shook it. Get one of those drill operated paddles.

Have a few extra empty 5 gallon buckets (depending on size of the job)

Start the job by using those extra buckets to mix all of your buckets of paint together and stirring thoroughly. This ensures that you'll have a consistent color for the entire job. I've definitely noticed differences in tint when pouring buckets together in this step.

Back to your situation. I think your only solution is to get another batch of paint and re-paint both pieces.

  • 5
    In defense of the big box stores, which often employ very good staff, smaller stores have the same staff retention and training issues they do. They're all mostly served by the same conglomerates, and expertise does not usually translate to good salaries in this era. My last experiences at two different local small shops were less than rosy. One involved a racist diatribe by an apparently regular customer, which went unaddressed by the proprietor, and the other involved an unskilled and not particularly concerned associate. – isherwood Jan 18 at 15:42
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    Back on point, this variance in color is extreme. I wonder if there wasn't a code entry error somewhere. – isherwood Jan 18 at 15:44
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    @isherwood I'll check the numbers again tonight when I get home, but I've checked several times. Oddly enough, the sample that was put on top of the can, with the actual paint, did dry to the color I was expecting. – Tom Jan 18 at 15:58
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    Samples are often a cheaper base and won't necessarily be a perfect match with the final product. – CoAstroGeek Jan 18 at 16:00
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    The pro paint stores have better prices, when you have a trade account. I have almost always been able to nudge and wink them into giving me trade prices, but then, my requirements are weird and so they know I am not a high-maintenance amateur. My favorite was trying to match a color similar to OSHA orange, which was out-of-gamut for their scanner. That meant the scanner could see it, but could not find a formula that wouldn't overfill the paint can. They scooped some paint out and manually tinted it up. – Harper Jan 18 at 17:16
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First, the human eye can distinguish millions of colors when they're laid right next to each other.

However, in terms of seeing colors separately and trying to remember their matches, we are positively hopeless. Further, even small changes in light cause significant changes in perceived color even if you had a color sampling device, so cameras are as blind as we are.

The Smithsonian recently restored a Jim Crow era passenger coach. Naturally, their color research was pristine. However, having nailed the right color, they then altered the color to correct for the flaws in the fluorescent or whatever lighting in their display hall. Except the lighting industry was innovating like crazy, and three years later, you could buy true-daylight lights at Lowes. But now, that would make the color wrong, eh? So they are stuck using their 1970s tier lighting.

I am not Smithsonian tier, but I usually nail it. But even with my book of 1700 color chips, careful matching with photos and Photoshop analysis, I've ordered a $300 gallon of paint and had it not match the exemplar. This was burgundy, and my mentor had the same problem with another burgundy.

All this to say, this is a hard problem. It ain't you.


That said, you did err by expecting two cans to come out the same. The problem is, there is "rounding error" on the tint shots. Computer controlled tinters are an attempt to solve it, but even that is not perfect. This problem is much worse on smaller cans because rounding error matters a lot more when the shot is 1/4 or 1/16 the size... so you greatly amplified the issue with 1/2 pint sampler cans.

Yes, you must buy all your paint and "average the error" by mixing all the cans together. At that point sampler cans stop making sense.

At least you are working in "latex" (emulsion) paint, which is basically nontoxic and not hard to dispose of. Lucky you!

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    $300 gallon of paint ??? Oh "burgundy" it wasn't paint, it was a gallon of vintage burgundy wine :-) – manassehkatz Jan 18 at 17:38
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    Black is only $170/gal. The difference is the cost of quality red pigment. This is an LPU marine paint, bold colors must last 10 years without significant fading, so the Home Depot pigment carousel ain't gonna cut it. – Harper Jan 18 at 23:58
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I took the cans back to the store and asked for advice. Turns out, the two different colors (gold & brown) used two different base colors (stain & deep base vs. satin ultra deep base). I didn't realize it when I purchased the original cans of paint, because I just asked them to match specific colors. When I purchased the 2nd set of cans, I only looked at one of the colors.

I have to admit I feel pretty foolish.

Thanks for all of your help.

Here's the result:

enter image description here

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