How to use a tester pot to get the colour you want

4 min read

Published 12 Aug 2018

Are you drowning in paint charts and finding it hard to choose the perfect colour for your walls?

A tester pot is the answer! Why bother to use a tester pot when you have spent time collecting all those lovely paint charts? Most paint charts are printed versions of the colours which can never show you what they really look like. Some paint manufacturers do use real paints on their colour charts, but the paint squares are too small to be useful, and usually stuck on a white background which will change your perception of the colour. So, the tester pot is the only way to go.

a photo of several paint tester pots

Once you’ve narrowed it down to a few colours and bought your tester pots - what next? Shake the pot and stir before using - the paint inside will have settled in transit or on the shelf in the shop, and you need to make sure that all the pigments are mixed together properly or you won’t see the colour as the manufacturer made it.

Next - don’t paint directly on to the walls - paint your testers on to lining paper so that you can easily move them around your room and see how the colour will look in both the brighter and more shaded areas of the room. There are other good reasons not to paint all your swatches on to the wall too. If you paint the swatches next to each other the colours will influence each other, so you won’t see how the colours really look. The current shade of the walls will also influence the paint swatches, so again you won’t see a true representation of the colours. You'll also have lots of different coloured swatches on the wall until you finally get around to decorating, which will irritate you until they’re covered up! Finally, when you do paint over them, the swatches will show through and it may take an extra coat to cover, so why make work for yourself?

a pink paint tester pot with a brush

I always use lining paper to paint my tester pots on, as the surface won’t absorb too much paint and the background colour is the most neutral you can get, so you can see the true colour of the paint. If you use white paper you will have the same problem of the colour being influenced by the white area around it - look at the picture of the same paint on lining paper and then on white paper to see what I mean.

Use an A3 sized piece of lining paper (if you don’t have lining paper, the inside of a cereal box will work), as you then have a large area covered in the paint colour, which will really help you to see it properly and decide if it’s the one for you.

Use two coats - you’re likely to use two on your walls so this way you’ll get a truer reflection of the colour.

Write the names of the colours on the back of the lining paper in pencil so you can identify the colours afterwards - there’s nothing worse than finally choosing a colour and then not being able to remember if it was Vanilla White or White Mist!

pink paint on lining paper next to the same pink paint of white paper

Use blue tack to put your lining paper swatches on the walls, as you can remove them without damaging your walls. Another advantage of using blue tack is that you can easily move the swatches around the room so see how they look in different areas of your room, as some are more in shadow than others and this will affect how the colour looks. You can also move the paint next to the other items in the room which it will need to coordinate with, such as your sofa, curtains and rug.

I’d suggest leaving the swatches up for a few days so you can see how the colours will look in different lighting throughout the day. The paint will look very different in the morning sunlight when compared with evening light and with your lamps lit.

the pink paint with a selection of coordinating fabrics

Once you have decided on the colour that you love, you now have a portable piece of paint you can take with you on those trips to shops and showrooms to finish off your room. Your paint swatch will help you see how the colour works with other items you are planning to buy such as cushions, lampshades throws. So, when it comes to decorating, the tester pot really is your best friend.

Click here to see this paint colour in a recent project of mine

the pink paint colour on the walls, in a finished bedroom project

Welcome to my design blog, where you'll see posts about anything from my current interiors obsession, to the latest fabric and wallpaper collections, and 'how to' guides for all things interiors related. I love colour and pattern, architecture and old buildings, and I especially love the moment when you see something so beautiful it makes you take a sharp intake of breath. Happy reading, and if you have any questions, or would like to chat about anything interiors related, please use the contact form to get in touch. Thank you, Louise

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