Does Paint Dry Darker Or Lighter?

Today you will finally find out what makes the paint look darker/lighter on walls and how to fix that

Does paint dry darker or lighter than it is on swatches or after it is applied on the walls? This is one of the most frequently asked questions that come from homeowners that decide to refresh their interior or exterior a bit.

When you go to a paint store, you choose the paint, expecting that the color on the swatch will be exactly the same on your walls.

However, the expectations may often fail. Why?

In this article, we will do our best to give you the answer. First of all, you will learn whether paint dries lighter or darker and what factors may influence this. Also, we will tell you what could be done to prevent any unexpected paint color changes.

And of course, as usual, we will share a few more useful tips with you on this subject. All for making your home painting projects ideal!

Does Paint Dry Darker Or Lighter Than When On the Swatch?

This is one of the most frequently asked questions that you can hear from homeowners. “Will the color I choose look lighter or darker than it does on the paper color swatch?”

Will The Paint Dry DARKER Than The Paint Chip?Will The Paint Dry DARKER Than The Paint Chip?

The answer is typically the following: if the paint is mixed properly, the color should remain the same both on the color swatch and when the paint is applied to a surface.

Typically paint can appear to dry darker or lighter depending on several factors, such as the environment it is in and the type of the paint.

The paint color may also appear darker than it is on the swatch if it is surrounded by lighter colors in a room. Another reason why such a color change may happen is that the previous wall color was lighter.

In addition, you should note that paint finishes such as gloss will also make the paint appear darker since it reflects light. On the contrary, flat paint will appear lighter because it absorbs light.

Now we would like to pay more attention to a few environmental and psychological factors that can affect the actual color and the color’s appearance on a surface. Like this, you will be able to tell in advance how the color you choose might look on your walls or other surfaces.

Does Paint Dry Darker Or Lighter Than When On the Swatch
IgorVetushko via VistaCreate

Environmental Factors

This group of factors usually includes several ones. All of them have to do with the surrounding that the color is used in. For example, as we have just mentioned, the color may seem darker or lighter if it is surrounded by darker/lighter items and colors. So check out what could affect the final color you get on your walls.

Environmental Factors
poznyakov via VistaCreate

Light

Both the type of light and the amount of it can affect the color of paint you choose. As you probably know, natural, fluorescent, LED and halogen lighting will slightly alter the way a paint color appears in a room.

For instance, some lighting may add blue tones to the initial color whereas others might cast yellowish tones, making the color warmer/yellower. This is why it is very important to choose a color, paying attention to your room’s natural lighting.

Sheen

The type of finish you choose also affects the color you get in the end. Flat paint has a chalky appearance in the finish, absorbs light, and can make a color look a bit lighter than it is on the swatch.

On the contrary, if we take glossy paint, it will typically make a color look darker. It happens because the sheen reflects the light, causing the color to seem darker.

Finally, eggshell or matte sheen generally stays very close to the swatch color because it neither reflects nor absorbs light. So if you want to hit the ten, stick to eggshell/matte paints.

But except for the obvious environmental factors that may affect the way your paint looks on the walls, there are also less noticeable, psychological factors that should also be taken into consideration.

Psychological Factors

What could psychology have in common with paints, you may wonder?

Well, you will be surprised to learn how much it has to do with the paint colors and the way we see them! It doesn’t mean you have to complete a psychology class before buying a can of paint, but you should definitely take the following facts into consideration!

Psychological Factors
Multiart via VistaCreate

Metamerism

This tricky word simply means that our eyes play tricks on us. This is the phenomenon when colors look different to the viewer under different circumstances.

See, when we are selecting paint colors, we automatically compare them to the surrounding shades and colors.

For the truest impression of color, you should look at it individually either by paint-sampling or by using large single swatches when selecting a color. Like this, no other shades will distract you, affecting the way you see the color you need.

Metamerism
VadimVasenin via VistaCreate

Comparison

This is another phenomenon when we compare a color we want to use to what the wall (or the surface) is right now. For example, if you hold a paint chip up under a yellow or red wall, the color will automatically change to your eye.

This is why we recommend you look at a color against a white background or against your trim color. Like this, you will get the truest representation of the paint color you selected.

Does Paint Dry Darker Or Lighter Usually?

People often wonder whether the paint has a tendency to dry darker/lighter despite various external factors that could influence the way it looks on a surface. The answer is that paint does not have such a feature.

During the process of paint application, it can look lighter or darker than expected indeed. But if you are using high-quality paint, it should always read the way the color is indicated on the lid or color swatch.

But why does freshly applied paint often look darker, you may ask? See, a freshly painted wall is wet. But that particular wet paint is not the color you saw on the color swatch at the store.

You need to realize that all paints, whether it’s oil or water, contain solvent that evaporates after the paint is applied. Once this solvent evaporates completely, you will see the true paint color.

This is why you should not get worried if you see the paint you have just applied on the walls look somewhat darker than you expected. It is absolutely normal and moreover, after quite a short period of time, the real color will show up. So there is nothing to worry about.

Does Paint Dry Darker Or Lighter Usually
panya9966 via VistaCreate

Comparing New Paint vs Old Paint

Another factor that you should take into consideration when talking about possible paint color changes is the age of your paint. Everyone knows that paint tends to fade with time. It happens because the pigments react with the environment, which causes them to degrade slightly.

You know very well that freshly painted walls will not be of the same bright color after a couple of years, especially if they are external! This is why we usually repaint our houses both from the inside and outside to upkeep the color.

In addition, certain colors, for example, red or similar to red such as orange, have a greater tendency to fade over time because of the iron used to make the pigment.

Besides, if we are talking about exterior paint, we should consider sunlight since it is an enemy to it. However, even a well-lit sunny room will be at risk of color fading since it gets more light than a darker room.

Finally, there is one more nuance that can affect the way the paint reads on the surface. If you paint over a previously painted wall, chances are your new color will just seem brighter. It’s because the faded, old paint lost some of its pigment, making the new color seem brighter than it should be.

So now you know what metamorphoses and tricks the environment can play on us when it comes to how we see paint colors on the walls and other surfaces! But since now you are aware of these nuances, it will be easier for you to avoid being “cheated”!

Comparing New Paint vs Old Paint
IgorVetushko via VistaCreate

How Does Sheen Affect Paint Color?

We have already mentioned that the paint sheen also plays an important role when it comes to the way we read the color. This is actually the most critical aspect of paint! A sheen is how the color of the paint is showcased by the paint manufacturer.

Typically, any paint, exterior or interior, will come in several different finishes/sheens:

  1. flat
  2. matte
  3. gloss

What people tend to forget about is that each of these sheens has different characteristics when they dry.

This is why we suggest you go through them one by one to see how they look. Like this, you won’t be surprised when you see that the paint color use apply looks slightly differently.

How Does Sheen Affect Paint Color
AtlasStudio via VistaCreate

Flat/Matte

A flat finish is called so because it has no gloss. It is ideal for covering a textured wall, such as drywall that was poorly mudded. Since this finish has no gloss, it doesn’t reflect light the same well as other paint sheens do. This is the reason why flat paints absorb more light than glossy ones.

Since there is no finish on flat paint, it will look lighter. Why?

Because there is no gloss to refract light and block the pigment from absorbing and reflecting it. That’s why the pigment in flat paints has full access and will seem lighter.

But the lack of gloss in flat paints makes it not the best option for bathrooms or humid areas! Gloss acts as protection between the pigment and the environment. Without it, the paint will be highly prone to environmental factors and humidity, which will shorten its lifespan!

FlatMatte
z1bjkeee via VistaCreate

Gloss

Unlike matte paints, gloss paint has a reflective shine. This shine serves as a protective shield between the pigment and the environment of the room in which it is applied. But at the same time, an additive in the paint will make it seem darker.

Why is that? The gloss refracts some of the light intended for the paint’s pigment.

When this occurs, the pigment cannot absorb enough light and will seem darker. But thanks to the gloss, such paints work much better in humid environments and bright areas.

Gloss
Interpas via VistaCreate

Eggshell and Satin Paint

Eggshell (or satin) paint is somewhere in the middle between flat paint and glossy paint, appearing brighter than gloss or semi-gloss paints.

You can also wipe dirty eggshell paint with a wet cloth to clean the wall since it has that glossy finish, but you cannot do that with flat paint without risking damage to the wall.

Now you have a better understanding of how different finishes work and how they can affect the way your paint reads on the walls or other surfaces. And finally, we’d like to share a few easy and useful tips with you on how to prevent your paint from looking darker or lighter.

Eggshell and Satin Paint
mubus7 via VistaCreate

Tips to Avoid the Paint Look Darker or Lighter

Even though you are aware of all the factors that can affect the way your paint reads on the walls, sometimes it could be impossible to take all of them into consideration.

Lighten and Darken Paint ColoursLighten and Darken Paint Colours

But how do you skip this unwanted darkening or lightening of the color?

Below we have prepared some tips for you that can help you out. These are the points you should consider before you start your next painting project.

  • Get high-quality paint since it doesn’t have the tendency to color changes
  • Always paint at above 60 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Always use a primer!
  • Make sure humidity is less than 70% (ideally around 50%)
  • Remember to stir your paint thoroughly before you start using it

Now you know all you need regarding the issue of paints drying darker or lighter. We told you why it can happen and provided you with the list of factors that might influence this effect.

Also, you figured out how to skip this feature of paint by following a few simple steps. We hope that all this will help you make your home painting projects way more successful than before!

Tips to Avoid the Paint Look Darker or Lighter
AntonMatyukha via VistaCreate

Frequently Asked Questions

⭐Does paint dry darker or lighter at higher temperature?

Typically, the paint will get lighter, but it not always. You need to consider the sheen and the surrounding colors.

⭐Does paint get darker with second coat?

No, more coats of paint will not make your paint darker. The wetness of it will give the impression that the paint is darker as you apply more, but this is just the effect of wet paint.

⭐Does exterior paint dry darker or lighter?

Since the stress on exterior paint is much greater, the true color of it won’t last nearly the length that an interior paint will. So the initial color will change to the lighter side.

Written by Melinda Sherween
avatar
Melinda worked as an art consultant and Home Designer for eight years in total. As an art consultant, she was first employed in a local art gallery in San Francisco where she was responsible for picking the most suitable artwork for her clients depending on their goals and budget. At this job, Melinda showed herself as a confident specialist and a true art lover with exceptional taste and artistic sense. Melinda is a passionate author of Housekeeping Bay and we are really happy that she is our Expert.
Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here.
DOES PAINT DRY DARKER OR DOES IT DRY LIGHTER?DOES PAINT DRY DARKER OR DOES IT DRY LIGHTER?
13 Best Greige Paint Colors. Ultimate Guide
Paint color greige ultimate guide