How to Test a Paint Color Before You Buy It

How to try a paint color before you buy it -- testing online virtual paint simulators @Remodelaholic

7 Ways to (Virtually) Test a Paint Color Before You Buy It

As we say all the time — paint is one of the least expensive, highest impact changes you can make to your home (see here). But… it can be daunting too. Which color is best for your walls? And how many layers of paint can you put on the wall before your room will be measurably smaller? 😉

Technology to the rescue! Now you can test a paint color before you buy it — by trying it on digitally! Virtual reality, if you will. This is the first post of a short series where we’re going to be talking about different ways to try out paint colors, and tips to get the right paint color for you.

So first up, we’re hitting the computer and taking online color tools for a test drive. (We’ll discuss mobile apps for tablets and smartphones in another post.) Keep in mind that if you want to save and refer back to your color-doctored images, you’ll need to create an account with any of these tools.

I only tested these using my own photos because, well, ANY color would look good in those magazine style photos! Plus I wanted to test out the tools for defining wall/trim spaces.

I tested each color by spending a few minutes to test out colors on 2 basic images, one with a neutral/white wall and one with a dark paint color already.

If you are really invested in using these virtual paint testers and want a quality visualization, it’s worth taking the time to get a well-lit shot and clearing the wall of all (or at least most) of your furniture. Also — the color samplers don’t pick up wall texture, so a flat wall is better. Which is hard to find in a board-and-battened texture-loving home 😉

This post is part of a series about great painting and paint color tips. You can see the other posts here:

7 free online tools to test paint color before you buy @Remodelaholic

All of the tools that we are telling you about today are brand-specific — each brand has its own virtual paint simulator — but remember that you can have any color matched to any paint, so don’t feel trapped by the specific brand and color! And no, we’re not being sponsored in any way to talk about these — and we did our best to cover our bases and test all the virtual paint samplers we could find from all the brands.

So, here are the 7 online color tools that we took for a spin, with our observations about each tool. The tests I did were very short (around 5 minutes each), so the images aren’t perfect. Obviously to get a more accurate idea of what the color will look like in your home, you’ll want to take the time to both take a good image to begin with (well-lit, open wall space) and then to tweak the defined wall/trim spaces.

7 free online tools to test paint color before you buy - Sherwin Williams Color Visualizer

Sherwin-Williams Color Visualizer

  • For both interior and exterior — use stock photos or upload your own.
  • Get started without having to manually outline the colors of your space. BUT it’s not super accurate depending on the lighting and shading of your photo, so you’ll probably still end up doing some fine-tuning, and that part wasn’t as user-friendly as some of the other programs we tested.
  • Also have several mobile apps (which we will discuss in another post).
  • Use the companion Chip It site or ColorSnap mobile apps to select a paint color palette from a photo.

 

7 free online tools to test paint color before you buy - Benjamin Moore Personal Color Viewer

Benjamin Moore Personal Color Viewer

  • For both interior and exterior — use stock photos or upload your own.
  • Sign-in required to upload your own photo.
  • I ran into problems with the site not loading, and then with the Facebook login option and the whole process. I switched from my Google Chrome browser to Internet Explorer and it worked like a dream.
  • Start by naming the surface (“wall 1”) and then defining the wall space using 4 different tools. Very easy to use and I was able to get a pretty good wall area in just a few clicks.
  • The color database is searchable by name or color #, which is very useful if you’re looking for a specific Benjamin Moore color.

 

7 free online tools to test paint color before you buy - My Colortopia Color My Room

My Colortopia | Color My Room

  • For interiors only — use stock photos or upload your own.
  • Begin by choosing a Glidden color palette (either recommended or one you create on your own).
  • Manually outline the sections you want to paint.
  • The vertical image I used was sized oddly (far taller than my screen) but the horizontal image was better.

 

7 free online tools to test paint color before you buy - Glidden Room Visualizer

Glidden Room Visualizer

  • For interiors only — use stock photos or upload your own.
  • Marking the painting area uses surface markers and masks which then try to auto-detect the correct areas. This was pretty simple, and also fairly accurate.
  • Easily accessible complimentary color suggestions based on your paint color selection.
  • The overall palette felt more limited, like there were fewer shades and options.
  • Companion website allows you to choose a paint color from a photo

 

7 free online tools to test paint color before you buy - Behr Color Smart

Behr Color Smart

  • For both interior and exterior — use stock photos or upload your own.
  • Crops photos to horizontal, so it’s best to use a photo that is horizontal to begin with.
  • Choose a color and then click “test paint color” where you can chose their photos or your own
  • Browse color palettes and then tell them more gray/green or whatever shade, plus recommended color palettes based on the color you choose
  • Easy to add more paint colors to test on the same room
  • Auto-detect to define wall space is easy to use
  • Slider tool easily helps determine how much shading to take in on the walls.
  • Library to see your chosen color in a variety of rooms and settings
  • Companion mobile apps allow you to choose a paint color from a photo

 

7 free online tools to test paint color before you buy - Olympic Paint Color Visualizer

Olympic Paint Color Visualizer

  • For both interior and exterior — use (limited) stock photos or upload your own.
  • To select walls, you set several types of markers/barriers and then it auto-detects. Very simple but also very effective.
  • Helpful pointers and tips pop up as you go through the process.
  • Companion mobile app lets you choose a paint color from a photo.

 

7 free online tools to test paint color before you buy - Valspar Virtual Painter

Valspar Virtual Painter

  • For both interior and exterior — use stock photos or upload your own.
  • Login required to use the virtual painter tool.
  • To define a wall, you select a point with “average brightness” and it auto-detects from that. Mine were still pretty rough around the edges.
  • Use a roller to fill in the main auto-detected section, and then there are several smaller digital brushes for detail work, plus “tape” and an eraser to refine the area.

 

PPG Paint Color Visualizer.bmp

PPG Paint Color Visualizer

(added 6/6/15: I found this one as I was searching for other tools!)

  • Very easy to use
  • Designate painted sections and “mask” not painted sections
  • My very quick wall selection turned out really well
  • Good selection of colors: browse by color, collection, or trend
  • Also includes a tool to choose paint colors from a photo

Overall Best Online Paint Color Tool

Honestly, there is no real BEST or winner here. They each had features I liked for my purposes and each had its own strong points, from ease of use to color selection. For me, using these for spaces in my own home, the most important factor is how easily I could select and define a wall space. The winners in that respect, based on my brief experiences, were Benjamin Moore (once it worked for me) and Olympic — their tools made it easy for me to get a clean wall shape the most quickly.

But overall — if you have a specific brand you love or a specific branded paint color you want to try, use that online paint tool. If not, any of these will fit your needs nicely.

Want to test paint colors on your phone or tablet? We’ve compared a few different apps here.

See all of the paint color tools we tested here.

Now that you’ve found the perfect paint color, you can use your new virtually painted room to make a mood board, too! Learn how here.

how-to-build-a-mood-board crop

Remodelaholic is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. Please see our full disclosure here.
We love hearing from fellow Remodelaholics, so let us know what you like about this and leave any questions below in the comments. If you've followed a tutorial or been inspired by something you've seen here, we'd love to see pictures! Submit pictures here or by messaging us over on Facebook.

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4 Comments

  1. I have enjoyed your site sooo much. However, the new ad that is on the bottom of the screen and about 1/4 of the way up is so distracting that I don’t know if I can stay on as one of your followers. There is no way to click it off ant it is just AWFUL!!!!!

    1. Hi Frani,
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