Why Does My Colour Look Different?

Happy Friday my decorating divas! I hope you’ve all had a fab week and have some fun and interesting home decor projects lined up for the weekend. After last week’s blog post (https://simplyswankdecor.ca/blog/3-steps-for-finding-the-perfect-paint-colour) I had some great feedback and questions about colour. The one that stands out is from a reader who said “I wish I had been able to read it a year ago, I would have chosen a different colour for the apartment! It's the same colour as it was originally, which I always loved, but somehow it looks more yellow this time around – unless I'm starting cataracts!!” This got me thinking that there is even more I can share about colour and explain why it can appear differently than we expect beyond the influence of light or why we may perceive it differently.

Colour Perception

As we age, our ability to see colours the same is altered. The lens of the eye gradually yellows with normal aging meaning that we perceive colours differently; colours in the blue spectrum may appear greenish. Health changes such as cataracts or retinal disease are other possible causes for changed colour perception. Cataracts make colours appear washed out or to take on a yellowish brown colour. The good news is that surgery is available and will serve to correct this.

The other challenge as our eyes age is that cells in the retina that support normal colour vision decline in sensitivity making colours appear less bright and the contrast between different colours is less noticeable, especially blue colours which may appear faded or washed out.

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Paint Chemistry

Now, before you run off to the eye doctor’s, there are other critical factors in colour not appearing as you hoped it would – chemistry. Yep! Going back to high school here. Each paint company uses different base pigments to create their colours and each pigment is slightly different in its chemical make up. That is why if you like a Benjamin Moore colour for instance but choose another brand of paint, the Benjamin Moore colour formula can be used but the pigments in the selected brand will be different than Benjamin Moore’s. This will render the colour slightly different on your walls and cause them to take on a slightly different tone or hue.

The other consideration is that over time the chemical composition of the base pigmentation will alter slightly. I liken this to cooking or baking. Have you ever used a store brand ingredient in a tried and true recipe only to have it come out tasting different or even failing completely? The base ingredients are slightly different between a store brand and a name brand; so too with paint. Therefore, even though this reader had used the exact same colour a few years prior, the basic chemistry was slightly altered making the colour appear changed.

Mar 8 - Pic #1 - Test Tubes.jpg


When you are selecting a paint colour, painting a test patch is important to see how the colour performs in different light conditions. It is important too if there are wooden furnishings in the space you are updating. Do they have a reddish undertone, are they clear, have the yellowed or darkened with age? The wood finish and colour can significantly influence and alter the appearance of the colour so a test patch adjacent to or behind any wooden furnishings will prevent huge disappointment as well.

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I know you want to get on with your room updates and get the job completed. But being patient, considering these factors and ‘investing’ a bit of time in testing colours will result in a space that you love spending time in and are happy to show off to family and friends.

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