How to Match Colors From Photos into Real Life

Homeowners and designers know what a difference color makes in a house. They could spend hours poring over print and internet pictures in search of the ideal colour. But sometimes the colour in the picture does not end up looking the exact same on the wall. Why?

“Perhaps you have purchased a piece of clothing online, thinking it is one shade of a specific colour, only to discover that it is completely different when it comes?” Asks photographer Christopher Stark. “Same goes for photos.” We talked with Stark, photographer David Duncan Livingston and designer Jean Verbridge to get the scoop on how it is possible to find and get the perfect colour on your walls.

David Duncan Livingston

What makes a colour look distinct from space to space? The ambience, look and feel of a colour are highly dependent on an area’s light and environment. The quality of the light in the room and the way that it hits each item makes a big difference. “The light can produce colour casts that change the overall look of the colours,” says Livingston. “Think of this coolness of fluorescents or the heat of incandescents.”

“I typically select the last colour based on the time of day I’ll be spending time in that area,” states Verbridge. “It’s also easier and less expensive to buy small paint samples instead of painting an whole room and finding out you don’t like the shade.”

Furniture, trim and accessories may change the look of a colour from one space to another as well.

David Duncan Livingston

Why do colours look different in photos and online? The changes in colour and light in different rooms are recorded in photos — and frequently are more exaggerated, as Livingston illustrates here. While most professional photographers work to fix these color shifts and make the colours clearly, the photos will appear on different devices in different ways. “When an image is replicated on a notebook, a magazine page or a photographic print, every one of these outputs is a little more different, and also the colours may change a bit,” says Livingston.

Photographers set their monitor colours to the same calibration, which permits them to get really close with colour accuracy in postproduction. But the exact same standard does not apply to other apparatus. “Most consumers aren’t looking at things on a calibrated monitor,” says Stark. “I wouldn’t make a major decision which is not reversible without visiting [the color] in person.”

How can I get a colour I love online into my property? Whilst Verbridge does not recommend going with a colour listed online or in a magazine — since your own light will likely make it seem very different in your area — there’s still a way to get the colour you’re looking for: Get a hefty supply of paint chips to find a match. “Place the colour match beside the photo in your screen and squint your eyes. If both may blur together, you have a game,” says Livingston. Try several samples from the exact same paint strip to try in your area to find the ideal one for the room’s lighting and environment.

More: Read Designer-Selected Color Palettes

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