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What are the paint samples called?

What are the paint samples called?

When selecting paint colors for a home or commercial space, most paint manufacturers provide free paint samples to test out different colors. These small samples allow customers to view how a color looks on their actual walls before committing to a full gallon of paint. But what are these handy little sample sizes actually called?

Paint Swatches

One of the most common names for paint samples is “paint swatches.” This refers to the small disposable pieces of cardboard that are coated with the paint color. The cardstock swatches are typically 2 inches x 3 inches in size, or slightly larger, with the paint color covering one side. Paint brands often punch a hole in one corner of the swatch so customers can hang them up and move the sample around the room to view in different lighting conditions.

Paint Chips

“Paint chips” is another popular term used for paint samples. This name refers to how the cardstock swatches are like small chips off a larger piece. While “swatch” refers more to the fabric-like nature of the sample, “chip” relates to how the sample has been cut down from a bigger selection of paint choices. So while they refer to the exact same product, paint chips vs. paint swatches provides two different descriptors for the paint color samples.

Free Paint Samples

Some people refer to the samples simply as “free paint samples.” This emphasizes how the swatches are free of charge to request from paint brands. Customers can get free paint samples delivered to their house or pick them up in store. Highlighting the free aspect reminds customers they can get multiple samples to properly test different colors at no cost. This allows narrowing down paint choices without having to invest in quarts or gallons of each option.


“Paint testers” is also used, focusing on how the samples allow testing a color before full commitment. The small swatches make it easy to see if a paint color will work in a specific room before moving ahead with the complete paint job. Customers can request testers of both main wall colors and accent colors to determine if a color scheme comes together as desired before painting entire walls.

Color Chips

In a similar vein as “paint chips,” some people use the phrase “color chips.” This keeps the emphasis on small chips of paint for sampling, but leaves out the word “paint” itself. “Color chips” refers specifically to the sample cards distributed by paint companies, while “paint chips” could potentially be confused with peeling chips of old paint on a wall or other non-sample use of the term.

Fanon Samples

While far less common than the names above, some paint brands use their own specific sample names. For instance, Fanon paint uses “fan decks” and calls their samples “fanons.” So a Fanon paint user may ask for “Fanon samples” rather than generic paint swatches. This ties the branding of the sample cards directly to the Fanon company name, which can build brand recognition.

Sample Sizes

In addition to different names, paint samples also come in a few different sizes. Here are some of the most common sample dimensions:

Sample Size Dimensions
Standard 2″ x 3″
Mini 1″ x 2″
Full sheet 8.5″ x 11″
Quart can 1/4 gallon

The standard size around 2 by 3 inches is the most popular. This provides enough painted surface to adequately view the color. Mini samples of 1 by 2 inches are also available when customers want to test many colors at once. Full sheet 8.5″ by 11″ samples provide an even larger color swatch. And quart size test cans contain enough paint to cover a small wall area.

Getting Samples

Paint brands make ordering samples as easy as possible for customers. To get free paint samples, you can:

  • Visit a local paint retailer: Most major home improvement stores will give out samples over the counter.
  • Request online: Paint brand websites allow choosing colors and entering addresses for mail delivery.
  • Call customer support: Speaking with a representative can ensure you get the right samples.
  • Use color picker tools: Some sites let you virtually pick colors then mail you the physical samples.

Samples are often limited to a certain number per order, around 8 to 12 depending on the brand. This ensures each customer can get enough colors to properly evaluate while also keeping sample distribution costs down. To get more than the standard amount, some extra fees may apply.

Ordering Tips

Here are some useful tips when ordering paint samples:

  • Choose colors from different paint lines – Compare premium and budget-friendly options.
  • Get samples in different sheens – See how flat, eggshell, satin etc. affects the color.
  • Order samples in groups – Evaluate complementary colors together.
  • Check coverage rates – Make sure the paint provides adequate hiding.
  • Request accent samples – Along with main wall colors, test trims/accents.

Using these best practices helps ensure you order the most useful combo of sample cards. Testing out physical paint swatches under your actual lighting conditions is the best way to nail down the perfect paint color.

Evaluating Samples

Once you’ve got your paint samples, here are some tips for evaluating:

  • Check at different times of day – Light changes affect perceived color.
  • Look under natural and artificial light – See if the color stays consistent.
  • View next to furnishings – Ensure it complements your decor.
  • Paint a larger area – For a more accurate impression beyond a swatch.
  • Compare to color inspiration – Confirm it matches your vision.
  • Check from far away – Small swatches appear darker up close.

By thoroughly testing samples, you can feel confident choosing a color you’ll love for the long term. And if the samples aren’t quite right, you can always request more free swatches until you land on the perfect shade.

Disposing of Samples

Once you’ve selected your paint color, the question becomes how to get rid of the leftover samples. Here are some options:

  • Recycle: Check if your local recycler accepts paint cardstock.
  • Reuse: Cover with craft paper to use as notes or flashcards.
  • Repurpose: Cut up to make labels, gift tags or bag toppers.
  • Return: Some retailers accept returns of unused samples.
  • Donate: Schools or community centers may take samples for art projects.
  • Trash: Dispose of carefully following your local regulations.

Getting one last use out of the paint swatches before recycling or disposing keeps excess cardstock out of landfills. And it stops the samples from just sitting in a drawer unused after their helpful paint selection purpose is complete.


When searching for that perfect paint color, paint samples provide the ability to test options at little to no cost. These small swatches go by various names – chips, swatches, testers – but all serve the same helpful purpose. Be sure to order plenty of samples in different paint lines, sheens, and colors to find the right fit for your space. And once you’ve chosen your shade, dispose of the leftovers responsibly. With the right sampling strategy, paint swatches take the guesswork out of choosing paint colors.