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You want to repaint your home, but you’re worried about the color. Maybe you saw a house the other day that’s exactly the shade of gray you’re looking for or found inspiration for an interior room color. How can you find out what the color it is and how can you decide if it will look good on your walls or not?

In the past several years, paint companies – including Sherwin-Williams, Dunn-Edwards and PPG – have tried to solve that problem. They’re all developing apps that allow you to test your color choices on rooms or exteriors of houses using your phone or tablet or PC. They call these programs paint visualizers.

Paint visualizers were designed to make it easier for homeowners to choose paint colors for a room or a whole house. After all, the colors on the little chips you pick up at a paint store often end up looking very different when you paint the great room in your house. Of course, many homeowners buy sample cans and paint large squares of color next to each other on their walls. That can help, but it’s not completely satisfying.

According to Adrian Padilla, a professional color adviser with Dunn-Edwards, if you are hunting for the right shade, the company’s app can even let you take a photo with your phone of a color you like – maybe the pink bloom on a flower — and from there it will search the D-E library of colors for the shade you want.

Here’s a brief rundown on how color apps work:

Most companies offer Android and iOS (Apple) versions of their apps. Be sure to pick the right one for your device.

To test a color on your phone, you have to upload a photo of your house or a room as well as the paint color you want to “paint” the walls in the photo.

If you get the actual photo of your room on screen, you then have to use special tools to draw the boundaries of where the new color should go. That requires some technical skills that you might not have. In fact, one color consultant told us that it might be easier to block out just a part of a wall for the new color. And when you take the photo, remove knickknacks and extra furniture and maybe even artwork from the roomscape so that you can concentrate on how the color will look.

Instead of doing everything yourself, you can visit a brand-name paint store and have them download a photo of the room or a wall you want to repaint. After they do that, they will “repaint” the picture in the color or colors you choose. Let them do the technical work of setting up the boundaries where the paint should go. This can often work better than you doing it all yourself. But check in advance about whether the store will perform this service.

Most digital color-choosing tools also offer stock photos of sample rooms and sample houses to “paint” with your choice of colors. Sometimes you can find a photo that has a similar layout to your room or house in order to give you an idea of how the color will look in your own room. Then you don’t have to upload your own photo.

Whether you use your own photo or not, when the color is “painted” on the walls by a computer app, it isn’t the same as when the intense light of the sun shines onto the wall or shadows begin to fall. You also don’t see the effects of the finish that the paint might have.

There are also a number of painting apps that you can download that are not connected with paint companies. If the app you find is free, they may have lots of ads connected with them. These can be annoying but shouldn’t hinder the function of the app. Some apps may have the option to pay a small fee ($2.99 or so) in order to get rid of those ads.


Two Rosie on the House staff members tried out the apps offered by the paint companies. Here are their comments on how they worked:

Administrative Coordinator Lance Kunkel ranked the Sherwin-Williams app first, followed very closely by Dunn-Edwards, then PPG.

He found both Sherwin-Williams and Dunn-Edwards easy to use and fairly simple compared to other mobile apps, he has worked with. “I had no issues navigating them,” he said.

He also said: “One feature that made Sherwin-Williams’ app stand out was their Instapaint view which uses your phones camera so you can point your phone, detect the surface you want to paint, then allow you to choose the color you pick to be overlaid on whatever wall, door or surface the phone camera is facing. The quality of the paint color is not as high when compared to other methods in this app, but it is an interesting concept.”

PPG was last, but not because it worked poorly, he noted, “I had to use the browser to play around with the color matcher as their app requires an additional piece of hardware to be purchased. PPG has similar painting features to the other two companies, and its website was fairly easy to navigate. That being said, their paint-a-room feature can be difficult to work with.”

Choosing between Sherwin-Williams and Dunn-Edwards, it basically came down to personal preference, Kunkel said. Dunn-Edwards seems more focused on identifying colors (color match), then providing resources to find samples of the color. Sherwin-Williams does have a color explorer, but it also has two different methods of viewing selected colors on different surfaces.

Rosie on the House Office Manager Jen Gura tried out the Dunn-Edwards app and found it very functional and easy to use. Gura said: “This app would be best used for determining what color you want to use based on an existing color (found by using a color matching tool). To find the color, you can used existing photos in your gallery or use your phone camera to take a picture. The app will then tell you which Dunn-Edwards color is the best match. From the app, you can save your favorite matched colors, browse all 1,996 colors in the D-E system and find D-E stores or outlets.”

Dunn-Edwards calls its app Instacolor

It can be downloaded on your phone or laptop from the apps store or google play. You also have to download a color, of course, from Dunn-Edwards. You can also go to the store and take your own photo there to have it uploaded and that might work better. Learn More About Instacolor

Sherwin Williams has the ColorSnap Visualizer and the Snap It Button

Some say these works better on a phone than a PC or laptop. Learn More About ColorSnap

ColorSnap’s Snap It Button lets you select an image and instantly identify the Sherwin-Williams paint colors that correspond to the colors contained within the picture. You can then turn the image into a personalized paint palette.

PPG calls its app, the Paint Color Visualizer

It too lets you work on your downloaded photo or stock photos of rooms. Learn More About Paint Color Visualizer


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