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How can I find a paint color without knowing the name?

How can I find a paint color without knowing the name?

Finding the right paint color for your home can be a challenging process, especially if you don’t know the exact name or code of the color you want. Luckily, there are several effective strategies you can use to identify a paint color even if you don’t have the specific name or details.

Use Visual References

One of the best ways to find a paint color without knowing the exact name is to use visual references. This allows you to match the color you want as closely as possible without needing the specific details. Here are some tips for using visual references:

– Bring in paint chips, fabric swatches, photos from magazines, or any other physical sample that has the color you want. Paint stores can then use a spectrophotometer to analyze the sample and match the color exactly. This works for any solid surface material like wood, plastic, metal, etc.

– For paint colors on walls, use a photo of the wall and bring it to the paint store. They can use software to analyze the color in the photo and get as close as possible to the right match.

– If you have a photo of the paint can or label, paint stores may be able to identify the brand and color name for you. The code on the bottom of paint cans is also a great visual reference if you have it.

– Apps like Nix Sensor, PaintGrabber, and ColorSnap Visualizer can identify colors from photos and give you matching paint options. This makes it easy to match a color you see virtually anywhere.

The key for visual matching is to get the most accurate and consistent sample possible. Use images in natural daylight whenever possible and avoid shadows. The more visual information you can give the paint store on the color, the better they can identify an exact or almost exact match.

Describe the Color

If you don’t have any visual references for the paint color, describing the color as accurately as you can is the next best option. Here are some tips for describing a paint color:

– Note whether the color is warm or cool-toned. Warm colors have yellow/orange/red undertones like beiges, browns, yellows, and reds. Cool colors have blue/green/purple undertones like blues, greens, grays, and purples.

– Identify the main color family – blue, green, yellow, red, etc. This gives paint stores a starting point on the color wheel.

– Describe the shade – light, medium, or dark.

– Describe the tone – how bright or dull it is. A bright blue versus a navy blue, for example.

– Look for unique descriptors like jewel-toned, muted, frosted, bold, pastel, etc. Anything that makes the color distinctive.

– Reference common objects the color resembles like “eggplant purple” or “forest green.”

– Use comparisons like lighter than, darker than, more/less saturated, etc. This helps paint stores narrow down options.

The more descriptive details you can provide, the better chance a paint store has of accurately matching the color. Bringing physical swatches or samples of materials in colors close to what you want also helps. With enough context, most paint stores can get very close to the color you have in mind.

Search by Brand or Collection

If you had the paint color in your home before, you may be able to find it again by searching within the same brand or collection.

– If you previously used Benjamin Moore paint, for example, share the room and look you’re trying to match at the Benjamin Moore store. An expert there can help identify possibilities from their current catalogs.

– Paint brands have new collections each year, but the palettes are usually similar. So if you know the general look of the previous color, like colonial, retro, arts & crafts, etc., a store employee can make recommendations from the newest collections.

– Many brands like Sherwin-Williams and Behr have online color matching tools. You pick the old paint brand, enter a known color name or code if you have it, and the tool suggests the closest match within their current inventory.

– Some retailers like Home Depot let you browse or search paint collections online based on color family, room style, mood, etc. This can jog your memory if you recall the general look of the old color.

Even if you don’t know the exact name or brand of the previous paint color, you likely remember the general style. Use this context to describe the old color as a starting point for identifying new, similar options.

Test Paint Samples

If you can’t identify the exact paint color you want through visuals, descriptions, or searching within a brand, your next step is to order multiple paint samples to test. Here are some tips:

– Start by ordering a few samples in colors you believe will be close to the one you want. Test them in the room and look at them on the walls at different times of day when lighting changes.

– Mix and match samples from different paint brands since color formulas can vary. You may find a closer match by switching brands.

– Get samples in a finish close to your old paint sheen – flat, eggshell, semi-gloss etc. The finish impacts color perception.

– Get samples in lighter, darker, and more/less vibrant versions of the colors you think are close. You may realize you need to adjust the tone, shade, or saturation more once you see it on the wall.

– Paint decent sized swatches of each sample, not just strips. The larger the painted area, the better you can evaluate if you have an exact color match.

– Buy multiples of samples you think are very close. Test in different lighting or on different walls to be sure.

Testing physical paint samples is the best way to match a color when you don’t have the exact name or code. Be prepared to go through multiple rounds of sampling and use the process of elimination to get closer to the right match.

Work with Painting Contractors

If you hire professional painters for the job, they can also help identify the right paint color for you. Painting contractors have expertise in matching colors, and they have access to advanced tools and technology for analyzing paint colors. Here are some ways painters can assist:

– Many pro painters have networks of contacts at local paint supply stores. They can leverage relationships to get additional help identifying your color.

– Painting companies often have more advanced spectrophotometer devices and software to match the most complex colors with precision.

– They have experience formulating custom paint colors to match a sample by blending base pigments if needed. This expands your color matching options.

– Painters stay on top of the latest advancements in color matching technology and new product releases from the major paint brands.

Discuss the color matching challenge with your painter before finalizing the contract. Ask what tools and techniques they use for matching difficult colors accurately without a known name or code. Hiring a pro may be the easiest route to finding the perfect color match.


Identifying a precise paint color without the original name or color code can be tricky but is absolutely possible. Using visual references, detailed color descriptions, brand/collection searching, paint sampling, and help from professional painters can all help lead you to the ideal color match. With persistence across a few different strategies, you should be able to create the perfect color reproduction without knowing the specifics. Don’t settle for a paint that is just an approximate match – there are many avenues available to determine the right color for your space.

Strategy How It Helps
Visual References Provides physical color sample for stores to scan and match
Describe the Color Gives context on undertone, shade, brightness to identify possibilities
Search by Brand/Collection Narrows down options based on your previous paint type/style
Test Paint Samples Process of elimination to get color match through trial and error
Work with Painters Leverage pro expertise and advanced tools for identifying colors